There are tons of programming languages out there, but just a few of them are designed for really specific cases. I’m talking about something like R, which is designed for statistical computing and graphics or Faust which is a functional programming language for implementing signal processing algorithms. But the most of them can be used for many purposes, even if they aren’t designed for this. Theoretically you can also design a (Tcl/Tk, or other GUI depended) Window-based application with just PHP! Of course, this isn’t the best solution to handle such programs, but it IS possible!

Below you will find a list of programming languages which are designed or capable as Backend environment for your webserver. And as mentioned above, not all of them are basically designed to be a Backend Server Language at all. Spoiler: JavaScript, for example.

 

#5 – ASP.NET and ASP.NET Core

Microsoft introduced ASP.NET back in 2002 as successor to ASP (or Classic ASP), but both aren’t programming languages! You can describe it as a “bundle” of “packages” to develop dynamic websites, using “real” languages. Classic ASP allows just to use “VBScript” while ASP.NET allows different languages depending on the implementation, but the most used ones are C# and VB.NET (both are developed by Microsoft!). The successor allows also to write object-oriented code AND using all tools and possibilities which the .NET Framework provides. The latest version of ASP.NET is 4.7.1, a new major release was announced in 2015, but canceled as ASP.NET Core appeared 2016 as “new successor”…

What the hack is ASP.NET Core? The ASP.NET Core “bundles” the ASP.NET “bundle” as well as other packages such as ASP.NET MVC, ASP.NET WebAPI and ASP.NET WebPages into one complete application framework. So again: It still isn’t a own language, it is a complete backend system to build extensive Web Applications, using the .NET known and famous tools and scripts.

But it may isn’t the best “system” to start with, because the required languages are a bit more complex to learn (compared to other languages) and runs ONLY on Microsoft own operating systems. Okay, theoretically you can use ASP.NET vNext, which runs on Linux and MacOS, but it isn’t the best implementation and may doesn’t contain all features and functions, although it is developed by Microsoft itself! I’m not really into ASP.NET and really cannot either advise against nor recommend it, but it is used by 13,8 % on the servers out there (according to the German wikipedia), so a reason enough to show it to you!

 

#4 – Ruby and Perl

Perl is the “old-fashion” way to build up a complete website, it has been used before PHP simplified the whole thing. However, this language gets still used today, in the most cases next to PHP or Python within a LAMP environment (such as XAMPP). If you already familiar with PHP, you won’t have any troubles learning Perl too. The language is also not so difficult for beginners to learn and start with. However the language core already offers many possibilities and ways, but if that isn’t enough for you Perl offers also a big and comprehensive Perl Archive Network. This network contains over 25.000 modules and packages, ready to use.

Ruby has become really famous with the Web Framework Ruby on Rails. The backend environment, which you can also just call Rails, offers many modules and package to provide a default environment for your website. But you can also use community-driven modules and scripts, next to the official MVC Framework, Database systems and other interfaces. Ruby, as language itself, takes some getting used to, because it looks like Python, mixed up with something like LUA, but uses unusual conventions. It isn’t really hard to learn, compared with any Compiler language (Java, C, C++), but it isn’t the easiest interpreter language either.

Both languages can be used object-orientated, functional as well as procedural. Perl and Ruby are also still developed with an active community, but the last one offers a few more community-written tutorials and explanations, at least because of the Rails framework. In turn: Perl offers more modules, even if many of them are deprecated or obsolete. Ruby get also highly used on Silicon Valley (the big internet companies).

 

#3 – PHP

PHP is the most famous and most widespread backend programming language worldwide. It was used by Facebook, after they switched to their PHP Extension / Dialect “Hack”, and is currently also used by hundreds of known and famous companies. The MediaWiki System, known from Wikipedia, is written in PHP and also the backend system from tumblr, WordPress.com, DailyMotion, Slack, Etsy, Flickr, Yahoo, … But with great glory also comes great attention, and many voices cut through the atmosphere behind PHP.

I’m sorry, what I wanted to say is, that PHP is one of the most hatred languages, especially in forums and “special” programming community websites. So, you need a thick coat (as we say in Austria), if you choose PHP as your language to learn! You think I’m exaggerating? No, not at all! I’m really recommend you to SEARCH before you try to asking anything about this language. There are also many websites and the official PHP documentation (with helpful comments of the community) which should answer the most questions. But if you REALLY need help, ask your question directly on StackOverflow.com and nowhere else (Stack Overflows Community is really helpful and friendly, in the most cases)!

I may will publish an own article about PHP itself, and why it gets hated so much. The only thing you currently need to know is, that PHP is really easy to learn and competitive. It is inspired by Perl and allows also object-orientated, functional as well as procedural programming paradigm. It also has thousands of packages, extensions and systems and – in my case – I really like the official documentation. It is clear, and the user comments supplement necessary and important informations.

 

#2 – JavaScript

You may know JavaScript from the Frontend browser environment, but CommonJS already solved this chain and brought JavaScript also to the backend. This has been done by Kevin Dangoor, engineer at Mozilla, back in 2009 with the initially name “ServerJS”. The most famous CommonJS server environment is called Node.js, as well as the React edition “Next.js” and the VueJS edition “Nuxt.js”, which sounds really hilarious (“Nuxt”). We’ve also gained some experience here, because our own Web Application (less.pytes.net – A WebCompiler for Less) uses Node.JS as Backend API system. The known JavaScript benchmarking tool jsperf.com is also written for Node.JS (and hosted on zeit.co).

It is really recommendable if you want to design a dynamic web application, because it is really fast due to the own technology behind. Using one of the CommonJS Frameworks behind allows you also to use new JavaScript functions and features (from the ECMAScript 2015 / ES 6 standard) as well as many community-developed and core libraries and systems. Node.JS supports also to implement own C/C++ written Add-Ons, for example!

JavaScript itself it also really easy to learn, so it is a really good point to start, even if you don’t know anything about this language. The Internet itself also offers many websites and pages for you to get into this language as fast as possible. The best documentation can be found on MDN and w3schools.com.

 

#1 – Python

The “Hacker” language is also perfect capable for dynamic websites, and one project shows the full power of Python used on servers. Django is a high-level Python Web framework, which offers many tools and utilities to build up a fast and extensive Website and Web Application together with all kinds of databases of course. The development started in 2003 and the first version was published in 2005 and it still gets developed (the new major version gets released in December 2019). It is really easy to use and really special too, because the templating engine was popular enough to get ported to Ruby (Liquid), Perl (Template::Swig), PHP / JavaScript (Twig) and Erlang (ErlyDTL). But there are also some – still maintained – alternatives to Django like TurboGears and Web2Py.

Many websites are using Python, because the language itself is really easy to learn, rich in custom / community packages and really well documented. The internet itself also offers hundreds of tutorials, instructions, explanations and manuals. It is a really good language to start with, not even for websites. You can also design Desktop Applications and Mobile Apps using Python as main language. So if you still searching for a programming language, Python is may one of the best choices you can take!