Technology September 18, 2015 Last updated September 18th, 2018 5,717 Reads share

Open-Source Programming Languages: A Basic Overview

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Today, many programming languages exist to help developers and programmers develop the applications of their choice. However, most of them are closed and proprietary languages that have several advantages, but come with the obvious drawbacks.

Let us examine some of the open-source programming languages in this article with their features and possible drawbacks.


Python can be described as a first programming language that is easy for people to pick up quickly. Developed in the 80’s by Guido van Rossum, he handed over the language to the non-profit Python Software Foundation. This foundation serves as the administrator of the language. The language is open source and is free to use even for commercial application. Usually used as a scripting language, programmers can easily produce large quantities of readable as well as functional code in a short period.

Features associated with Python:

  • It is an interpreted and object-oriented programming language
  • Similar to PERL, It has gained popularity because of its clear syntax as well as readability
  • It is portable – thus it can be interpreted in a number of operating systems, including Unix based systems, various versions of Microsoft Windows 98, Mac OS, MS Dos and OS/2.
  • The source code is open for modification and reuse
  • Relatively easy learning curve
  • Python has a very simple syntax and is an example of a FLOSS.
  • It is a high level language that does not need compilation to binary
  • It supports procedure-oriented programming as well as object-oriented programming Python has a very powerful but simplistic way of implementing OOP.
  • It can be imbedded in C and C++.


  • Not the best for memory intensive tasks
  • Interpreted language
  • Slow compared to C/C++ or Java
  • There is a lack of true multiprocessor support
  • There have been issues of slower software performance
  • A Lack of prepackaged solutions exists
  • The programming language is relatively obscure
  • There are Documentation gaps
  • Lack of GUI as well as teamwork tools


Ruby is a dynamic as well as open-source, object-oriented programming language. Developed by Yukihoro Matsumoto in the 90’s, it is one of the youngest languages, which is being still widely used. The syntax is easy to read and less complex than many other programming languages. The language is object oriented, but it is also capable of supporting various programming techniques such as procedural, functional, and imperative programming. Thus, it is very flexible in its approach as well.

Some of the features of ruby are:

  • The free format allows writing of programs from any line or column
  • The lowercase letters as well as uppercase letters are distinct
  • The syntax/infrastructure makes using anonymous blocks easy
  • provision of open classes
  • The language Can seamlessly inherit from any of the standard classes
  • Provides for clean object hierarchy that makes meta-programming easy
  • Is capable of writing brief one-liners for system administration tasks

Some of the disadvantages of Ruby are:

  • Smaller community and support
  • Slower processing
  • Lack of regular updates
  • Higher learning curve


PHP is becoming the most popular open source programming language and has made itself to the no.1 position. According to many leading industry leaders, PHP has emerged as the most developer friendly open source language, which explains why various open source packages such as Joomla and Drupal are being built on PHP. Being budget friendly, PHP based solutions are being utilized by entrepreneurs and SME’s as well. Today, many developers are debuting on PHP, giving it a strong boost and strong community base.

Some features of PHP

  • No need to specify data type for variable declaration – an example of a loosely typed language
  • Provides cross platform compatibility
  • Allows predefined variables called super-globals.
  • Predefined error reporting constants are available
  • Supports extended regular expressions
  • Ability to generate dynamic page content
  • Ability to collect form data and even send and receive cookies
  • Allows creating, opening, reading, writing, deleting, and closing files on the server
  • Output not limited to HTML, but also images, PDF files, flash, XHTML, and XML.
  • Runs on various platforms such as windows, Linux, Unix, Mac OS x, etc.
  • Compatible with almost all servers used presently (apache, IIS, etc)

Some of the disadvantages of PHP

  • Language semantics can be changed by global configuration parameters – this can complicate deployment and portability.
  • PHP lacks named parameters
  • PHP is constantly changing – newer updates bring newer problems
  • PHP has an ugly and unpredictable type system
  • Less secure
  • Less modular – hence not suitable for very large projects


According to the PERL website, PERL is a powerful, stable, mature, and portable language, which is highly capable and feature rich. It is veteran in its existence with over 27 years of development. Perl 5 runs on over 100 platforms, which range from portables to mainframes. PERL is suitable for rapid prototyping as well as large-scale development projects.

Further, PERL 5 is a part of the PERL family of languages, which also includes PERL 6. However, PERL 6 is a separate language that has its own development team, but its existence and development will have no significant impact on the development of PERL 5.

Thus, it comes as a dynamic and a dynamically typed, scripting (interpreted) language that is most comparable with PHP as well as python. It is ideally suited for processing and producing text data. It is highly portable, and widely supported. The syntax owes a lot to shell scripting tools that were popular in the past.

Some Features of PERL

  • Simple syntax
  • Easy to learn
  • Can be easily understood by novices as well as expert programmers
  • It is cross platform, hence programs written for one platform can run on different platforms with very little or no alteration.
  • Perl is versatile and has a very comprehensive library of modules.
  • Perl also has a very powerful as well as flexible object-oriented programming syntax
  • It supports multiple platforms including Linux, Microsoft DOS, Windows, Apple Mac, and some mobile platforms as well.

Disadvantages of PERL

  • Stagnation
  • Overcome by Python and Java


Java is one of the web world’s veteran and influential programming languages, which is mostly open source today. It is being used at the heart of many web and non-web applications on all platforms and operating systems, and many devices. It is a deeply featured as well as class based object oriented language. The special status that Java has gained over the years makes it a very valuable system. However, due to its portability and applicability, it can be very difficult to grasp, thus making it difficult to program effectively and efficiently.

Features of Java

  • Easy to learn
  • It is easy to write, compile, and debug compared to other programming languages
  • It is object oriented
  • Allows you to create modular programs and reusable code
  • Ease of portability
  • Platform independent both at the source as well as binary levels

Disadvantages of Java

  • Interpreted language
  • Time consuming – not speed intensive
  • Lack of support for low-level programming
  • Supports GUI control but has less features
  • No garbage control features


Microsoft has continued its commitment to open source. Now, it not only hosts projects at CodePlex Forge, but also supports many open source projects, and even creates their own open source projects. Today ASP.NET MVC, Web API and Web Pages (Razor) are open source projects. The source code ASP.NET MVC, Web API, and Web pages have been released under the Apache 2.0 license. Microsoft continues to fully support ASP.NET. The products are actively developed by the ASP.NET team that is assigned to the Microsoft Open Tech Hub in collaboration with an open source development committee.


  • Rich and robust server and client side controls
  • Support for defining own controls.
  • Fairly rapid deployment
  • Built in security features
  • Flexible and mature framework


  • Developers need to be familiar with HTML and CSS
  • Non availability of drag and drop controls such as web forms
  • Need to know client side code and HTML code
  • Known vulnerabilities


These open source programs should make the workload of the programmers easier in an increasingly open source world. However, the judicious choice of the right programming language will be a boon for the open source community and can save businesses and organizations a huge sum every of money every year.

Images: “tablet with open source software word cloud/


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Ashesh Shah

Ashesh Shah

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