Hello, reader! Let‘s compare Python and JavaScript

We‘ll learn the key similarities and differences between these popular programming languages. By the end, you‘ll understand the unique strengths of Python and JavaScript to inform decisions about which language to use for future projects.

Overview

We‘ll cover the histories of Python and JavaScript, their primary use cases, under-the-hood technical comparisons, performance, community support, and growth trends. You‘ll see code examples illustrating syntax styles and get data-backed insights on language adoption.

History

First, a quick history lesson…

Python

Python was created in 1991 by Guido van Rossum as a general purpose programming language. Rossum‘s goal was to design a structured, readable language that emphasized developer productivity and rapid application development.

The first few lines of Python code written by Guido van Rossum in December 1989:

# Python first lines written in December 1989
import sys
print(sys.copyright)
print(sys.version)

Since those humble beginnings, Python has become one of the most widely used high-level programming languages. Its growth accelerated as popular machine learning libraries like TensorFlow, Keras, and PyTorch (all written in Python) emerged.

Major companies now using Python:

  • YouTube
  • Dropbox
  • IBM
  • Google
  • Facebook
  • NASA
  • Reddit
  • Spotify

From scientific computing to web services, Python plays a crucial role across industries.

JavaScript

JavaScript was created in 1995 by Brendan Eich while he was an engineer at Netscape. The initial purpose was building interactive web pages that responded to user actions without requiring full page reloads.

This early JavaScript code embedded directly in an HTML page to display an alert message:

<html>
<head>
<script type="text/javascript">
    alert("Hello, world!");
</script>
</head>
</body>
</html>

Since all major web browsers now have built-in JavaScript engines, it has firmly cemented its role as the scripting language of the web. JavaScript usage grew exponentially thanks to front-end web application frameworks like React, Angular and Vue.js.

High-profile companies utilizing JavaScript:

  • Netflix
  • Walmart
  • Facebook
  • Google
  • Microsoft
  • Uber
  • PayPal

JavaScript keeps finding its way into new environments like mobile, desktop, IoT, and game development thanks to cross-platform runtimes like Node.js and Electron.

Primary Use Cases

Now you know a bit of the history. Let‘s contrast the main applications where Python and JavaScript excel:

Python

As a general purpose language, Python delivers exceptional value as an all-in-one scripting solution. But a few sweet spots stand out that leverage Python‘s strengths:

  • Scientific Computing and Data Analysis – With numeric-specific libraries like NumPy, SciPy, and Pandas, Python provides specialized data structures, analysis methods, and visualization options out of the box. Python is the #1 choice for data scientists and AI/ML engineers.

  • Backend Web Development – Python web frameworks like Django and Flask produce clean, pragmatic code to build scalable web backends. The syntax reads like English, so developers can conceptually map application components and workflows.

  • Scripting and Task Automation – Python plays nicely with the operating system and APIs. Scripts handle everything from simple file operations to calling complex business analytics – perfect for gluing disparate systems.

JavaScript

While no longer constrained to the browser, JavaScript still uniquely brings scripts to life on the web:

  • Frontend Web Development – Interactive single page applications rely on JavaScript to manipulate DOM elements, handle user events, fetch data asynchronously, and pass data to/from backend APIs.

  • Mobile App Development – Using cross-platform JavaScript frameworks like React Native, developers can write native iOS and Android apps entirely in JavaScript and reuse code between platforms.

  • Desktop App Development – Technologies like Electron (used by Microsoft Teams, Slack, Visual Studio Code, etc.) bundle a browser engine to allow building desktop apps with web languages like JavaScript, HTML and CSS.

I think you‘ll agree that both languages occupy very unique niches. Now let‘s contrast their technical approaches…

Syntax and Structure

Despite some syntactic similarities on the surface, Python and JavaScript take quite different approaches:

Dynamic vs Static Typing

Python uses dynamic typing, meaning the data type of variables is set automatically when code is executed based on value rather than an explicit type declaration.

my_var = 5 # Integer 
my_var = "Hello" # Now a string

But JavaScript enforces static typing so developers must manually specify data types for function arguments, class properties, etc.

let myVar; // Type not known yet
myVar = 5; // Number
myVar = "Hello"; // Error! Type is set.

Indentation and Braces

As noted earlier, Python uses indentation rather than braces to denote code blocks:

if x > 5:
  print(x)

JavaScript instead relies on curly braces:

if (x > 5) {
  console.log(x); 
}

So Python code sticks to a very consistent structure enforced by whitespace, while JavaScript offers more stylistic flexibility.

Compiled vs Interpreted

JavaScript executes as compiled byte code by the JavaScript engine, meaning the source code is transformed into a faster machine-readable format before execution. This provides significant performance benefits.

Python interprets source code line-by-line each time it runs, making debugging easier but with potential slowdowns for large programs.

Modern Python implementations use hybrid just-in-time (JIT) compilation for frequently executed paths to regain some lost performance.

Summarizing Syntax and Structure

PythonJavaScript
Dynamic typingStatic typing
Indentation-based code blocksBraces define blocks
Interpreted (now with some JIT compiling)Compiled to byte code
Significant whitespaceFlexible styling options

These examples demonstrate very different language philosophies – Python favors strict consistency and readability while JavaScript offers more liberty and performance.

Now let‘s move on to speed…

Performance Benchmarks

While performance depends heavily on application structure, we can make some general observations about Python vs JavaScript from benchmarks:

Source: Benchmarksgame

Key takeaways:

  • JavaScript edges out Python in math/CPU-intensive tests like spectral norm thanks to the V8 compiler
  • For data formatting/IO tasks like JSON parsing, Python holds a healthy lead
  • But for most common use cases, real-world performance is likely comparable

So while microbenchmarks provide insights into each language‘s strengths, don‘t expect massive gaps for typical applications. Database access, network I/O, and framework overhead usually dominate.

Okay, we‘ve covered a lot of nitty gritty details. Let‘s shift gears to community and support…

Ecosystem and Growth Trends

Developer community size, learning resources, and external libraries are crucial for being productive with any language:

 PythonJavaScript
GitHub Repositories2.6 million+3.7 million+
StackOverflow Questions1+ million1.5+ million
3rd Party Libraries130,000+838,000+
Package Managerspip/condanpm/yarn
**Global Software Engineer Familiarity ***46%67%

*Source: StackOverflow Developer Survey

The data shows both languages have massive global followings and content pools to drawn from. JavaScript has traditionally dominated web development, but Python is gaining tremendous enterprise traction.

Indeed, Python boast a very bright future according to analyst projections:

Source: SlashData State of the Developer Nation 17th Edition

The SlashData survey of over 23,000 developers places Python in the lead for "languagues worth learning" and "languages used in the past year". JavaScript remains firmly entrenched for web development (not pictured) but Python adoption is rapidly accelerating.

Wrapping Up

We‘ve covered a ton of ground comparing Python vs JavaScript! Let‘s recap…

  • Python – Leading back end language for science, analytics, automation tasks
  • JavaScript – Runs the modern interactive web and expands via cross-compilers
  • Syntax and tooling – Python values consistency; JS offers more liberties
  • Performance – JavaScript speeds ahead in compilers; Python fastest for data tasks
  • Ecosystem – Both have huge communities; Python developer growth skyrocketing

Rather than a pure Python vs JavaScript debate, combine their strengths where it makes sense. Need a scalable server app with analytical capabilities? Python has your back. To deliver next-level web experiences? JavaScript all the way.

The future looks very bright for both languages powering innovation and driving developer productivity. Thanks for learning with me – now you have the insights to pick the right language for your next programming adventure!

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