11 programming trends to watch

From JavaScript everywhere to everything on the JVM, new tools, techniques, and troubles are changing how developers work

Depending on your perspective and proximity to the bleeding edge, the world of programming evolves either too fast or too slow. But whether you're banging out Cobol or hacking Node.js, one fact remains clear: Programmers must keep an eye on the latest programming trends to remain competitive in ever-shifting job markets.

From JavaScript everywhere to everything on the JVM, the times and the tools are a-changing. So too is the way programmers work, thanks to the rise of frameworks and walled gardens, as well as a shift away from openness. Concerns around bandwidth, energy, and scalability are finding a place at the programming table, as are parallelism and the video card. There's so much happening that you might find yourself thinking of going back to school, if only traditional education wasn't fading from relevance.

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Every so often, our understanding of the ways and means of programming needs to be renewed or replaced just like an operating system or a library. Here we offer a look at 11 recent trends that capture how programming is changing.

Programming trend No. 1: The JVM is not just for Java anymore

A long time ago, Sun created Java and shared the virtual machine with the world. By the time Microsoft created C#, people recognized that the VM didn't have to be limited to one language. Anything that could be transformed into the byte code could use it.

Now, it seems that everyone is building their language to do just that. Leave the job of building a virtual machine to Sun/Oracle, and concentrate your efforts on the syntactic bells and structural whistles, goes the mantra today.

As a result, the list of JVM-dependent languages is long and growing. Ruby lovers like how much better JRuby works under heavy loads. Scala and Cloture allow developers to write code that is more functional and often faster than Java when running on the same JVM.

Even Java-heads like to use the JVM without writing Java. Take the scripting langauge Groovy, which is fully integrated with the JVM and Java API. Write Groovy shorthand, and if you also adopt Grails, you can enjoy Rails-like coding-by-convention. Need to link in Java libraries? Voilà. It's designed to work seamlessly, giving you all the power and stability of Java without the curly brackets.

Programming trend No. 2: JavaScript is not just for JavaScript anymore

The JVM isn't the only cross-platform solution open to all comers. JavaScript, the langauge your kid sister uses to add an alert box to her band's website, is not just for JavaScript coders any longer. The list of languages that cross-compile to run on the fancy, just-in-time JavaScript engines is even longer than the list that runs on the JVM.

Take Google Web Toolkit. You write Java code like you're writing for the Swing framework from the '90s, and the GWT compiler turns it into JavaScript that runs in a browser on a desktop, smartphone, or tablet. There's no need for a Java applet plug-in or JVM on the client because JavaScript in the browser offers machine independence.

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