JavaScript vs Python – Which Should I Learn in 2022?

If you’re looking to learn how to program, Python and JavaScript are obvious choices – but which one would be most useful to you?

Python and JavaScript are probably the most popular programming languages at the moment, and both have a lot of tutorials to follow.

If you don’t have a specific task or problem you wish to solve, it can be difficult to decide which programming language to learn. While the fundamentals are the same regardless of language, the applications are different.

Fortunately, JavaScript and Python can be used for just about any programming task – there is no wrong choice – but there is one place where JavaScript can be used, and Python cannot – read on to find out more.

What is Python?

Python is a general-purpose programming language that is designed to be easy to read and easy to learn.

It’s been in development since the 1990s where it was created for use in University science departments.

It has built-in functions for many common programming tasks, meaning less code has to be written, and more focus can be given to the purpose and structure of an application.

Thousands of third-party packages, each adding its own functionality to Python, are available via the PyPi package system. These packages add things like graphics, graphing, analytics, and database support to Python, allowing you to focus on building your projects rather than wrestling with some of the more complex concepts required to implement those features.

What’s it Good For?

Everything and anything. Python is general-purpose and can be used to build any kind of application. Games, data analytics, desktop applications, app backends – all can be built quickly and easily on the Python platform.

Python does have one major weakness when compared to JavaScript – it doesn’t run in a web browser. I’ll cover that further along.

Who Uses Python?

Python is particularly popular with data scientists who want a simple language for querying their data – so that they can focus on the data rather than the nuances of the language.

It’s also immensely popular with beginners due to its simple syntax and readability. There are thousands of books and tutorials to help you get started

Python is used everywhere and has been used to build some of the products developed by:

  • Google
  • Spotify
  • Netflix
  • Reddit

So you’re in good company if you choose to learn it.

What is JavaScript?

Don’t confuse JavaScript with Java!

JavaScript was developed in the mid-1990s for the Netscape web browser. It was intended to be used to add interactive elements to web pages – things like buttons that make a click sound when clicked, pop-up overlays, drop-down menus, and spinning text.

It rapidly grew to be used to power all sorts of browser-based tools, from games to email clients to full office application suites.

Over time it has been developed into a full-featured programming language, which can even be run outside the web browser and can now be used to develop desktop and mobile applications which run independently of a web browser.

Node.js

JavaScript was not designed for hosting web servers and running API backends. It was intended only for running inside a browser to add functionality to web pages.

Node.JS turned this on its head – changing JavaScript from a client-side language for making interactive web page elements to a fully-fledged programming environment.

It’s the same JavaScript language with the same syntax, just running in a different place.

The Node.js runtime allows JavaScript code to be run outside of a web browser.

What’s it Good For?

Like Python, JavaScript can be used to build just about anything. It is, however, more web-focused, and the syntax isn’t as clean and readable as Python.

JavaScript is most at home in web browsers, where it powers all of the interactivity and animations you see while browsing the web. Without it, web pages would be static, devoid of games, video streaming, and ads.

Who Uses JavaScript?

Web developers the world over. It can also be used to develop desktop and mobile apps and web backends thanks to Node.js. It really is ubiquitous.

Which One Should I Choose?

This entirely depends on what you want to do.

If you’re looking to learn about programming, processing and analyzing data, building a desktop application, or scripting your workflow, Python is a good choice for something you can pick up and run with – giving you powerful tools to focus on your data rather than the tools you’re using to work with it.

If you’re looking to build websites or cross-platform applications, JavaScript (and Node.js) should have your attention. The syntax is a bit harder to read, things get a bit confusing with things like TypeScript and different JavaScript engines being thrown into the mix, but as Python doesn’t run in a web browser, JavaScript is the only choice for these use cases.

Running in the Browser & Cross-Platform App Development

As JavaScript runs in web browsers, it has become a popular way to build cross-platform applications which will run on any modern operating system (iOS, Android, Windows, Linux, macOS) which has a modern web browser.

If you’re interested in mobile app development and web development, JavaScript is the best programming language to learn as it can be used in both scenarios.

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I'm Brad, and I'm nearing 20 years of experience with Linux. I've worked in just about every IT role there is before taking the leap into software development. Currently, I'm building desktop and web-based solutions with NodeJS and PHP hosted on Linux infrastructure. Visit my blog or find me on Twitter to see what I'm up to.

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