4 major programming languages created by tech giants

Facebook is fed up with PHP. Apple doesn’t like Objective-C. And Mozilla and Google are building their own versions of C. It seems like every major tech company (except Yahoo) is creating its own programming languages to suit its needs.

But while some companies are involving developer communities and using an open approach, Apple has unsurprisingly kept its language under wraps.

What new languages are being written? And why? WebMagazin takes a look at four of the top languages developed by the western world’s biggest tech giants.

Mozilla: Rust

  • Created: 2012
  • Object-oriented: Yes
  • Designed for: Bigger client and server programs

Mozalla’s Rust was developed entirely in the open, making it the only recent language developed by a large tech company to have its own community of contributors (and even its own Reddit community).

With a syntax that’s based on C and C++, the language features familiar functions like if, else, while and for, as well as curly braces for delimiting chunks of code. So why change a working programming language like C?

Beyond the high level of safety and the ability to control memory layout, Rust is specifically optimised for running large internet client and server programs.

Apple: Swift

  • Created: 2014
  • Object-oriented: Yes
  • Designed for: iOS and OS X development
  • Replaces: Objective-C

Apple developers are still cleaning the stains out of their underwear following Apple’s unveiling of its very own programming language at this year’s WWDC.

Swift was essentially Apple’s declaration to the developer world that it no longer wants to use Objective-C, which Swift is largely based on (and which much of Apple’s software uses). Swift takes influences from a host of different programming languages, such as Rust, Objective-C, Python and Ruby.

The language is made to work with Apple’s APIs Cocoa and Cocoa Touch. But it’s also meant to work smoothly with Objective-C, while Apple transitions between the two languages.  

Apple claims Swift will make Apple easier, but its main purpose is likely to consolidate more power for the iOS app ecosystem, while keeping developers loyal to Apple. Apple is known for fiercely defending its developer talent from rival employers.

Facebook: Hack

  • Created: 2014
  • Object-oriented: Yes
  • Designed for: The HipHop Virtual Machine (an improvement on PHP)
  • Replaces: PHP

PHP just doesn’t cut it anymore – at least for Facebook. The social media giant has been working on upgrades and improvements for a while now with its HipHop program. And in March this year, Facebook even launched its own version of PHP. But why?

As well as several new safety features, the major benefit of Hack is its addition of typecasting (which is allows users to define variables by data types), a feature lacking in PHP. Like Swift and Objective-C, Hack integrates well with PHP and can even be embedded into HTML. And just like Mozilla (but unlike Apple), Facebook is looking to a community of developers to help perfect its version of PHP.

Google: Go

  • Created: 2009
  • Object-oriented: No
  • Designed for: Speed and security

Loosely based on C, Go brought several new possibilities to developers familiar with C, such as type safety and garbage collection.

Go is less well known for its friendly integration with C, arguably because it was not meant to replace Google’s use of C (like Apple with Objective-C). Fast like Python and reliably secure like C and C++, “Go is designed to let you move fast,” Google claims.

Google also created less successful language called Dart, which has struggled to keep up with Go’s popularity, which has been steadily rising since it first appeared in 2009.

Feature image: HTML source code of web page with document title, metadata description and links monitor screenshot diagonal view, small depth of sharpness via Shutterstock / copyright: Alexey V Smirnov

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