Proliferation of Computing Languages

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

There is a proliferation of computer languages today like never before. In this page, i list some of them.

In the following, i try to list some of the languagess that are created after 2000, or become very active after 2000.

Lisp family or similar:

ML Family:

ML/OCaml derived Proof systems in industrial use:

〔➤see State of Theorem Proving Systems 2008

Modern Functional languages:

Perl family or derivative:

On Java Virtual Machine:

C derivatives:

2D graphics related.


Some Random Thoughts

Following are some random comments on comp languages.

Listing Criterion and Popularity

In the above, i tried to not list implementations. (➢ for example: huge number of Scheme implemented in JVM with fluffs here and there; also ➢ for example: JPython, JRuby, and quite a lot more.) Also, i tried to avoid minor derivatives or variations. Also, i tried to avoid languages that's one-man's fancy with little following.

In the above, i tried to list only “new” languages that are born or seen with high activity or awareness after 2000. But without this criterion, there are quite a few staples that still have significant user base. ⁖ APL, Fortran, Cobol, Forth, Logo (many variants), Pascal (Ada, Modula, Delphi). And others that are today top 10 most popular languages: C++, Visual Basic.

The user base of the languages differ by some magnitude. Some, such as for example PHP, C#, are within the top 10 most popular language with active users. Some others, are niche but still with sizable user base, such as LSL, Erlang, Mathematica. Others are niche but robust and industrial (counting academia), such as Coq (a proof system), Processing, PLT Scheme, AutoLISP. Few are mostly academic followed with handful of researchers or experimenters, Qi, Arc, Mercury, Q, Concurrent Clean are probably examples.

For those of you developers of Java, Perl, Python for example, it would be fruitful to spend a hour or 2 to look at the Wikipedia articles about these, or their home pages. Wikipedia has several pages that is a listing of comp languages, of which you can read about perhaps over 2 hundreds of languages.

Why The List

I was prompted to have a scan at these new language because recently i wrote a article titled Fundamental Problems of Lisp, which mentioned my impression of a proliferation of languages (and all sorts of computing tools and applications). Quote:

10 years ago, in the dot com days (≈1998), where Java, JavaScript, Perl are screaming the rounds. It was my opinion, that lisp will inevitably become popular in the future, simply due to its inherent superior design, simplicity, flexibility, power, whatever its existing problems may be. Now i don't think that'll ever happen as is. Because, due to the tremendous technological advances, in particular in communication (i.e. the internet and its consequences, ➢ for example: Wikipedia, YouTube, YouPorn, social networks sites, blogs, Instant chat, etc) computer languages are proliferating like never before. (➢ for example: Erlang, OCaml, Haskell, PHP, Ruby, c#, f#, perl6, arc, newLISP, Scala, Groovy, Goo, Nice, E, Q, Qz, Mercury, Scratch, Flash, Processing, …, helped by the abundance of tools, libraries, parsers, existence of infrastructures) New languages, basically will have all the advantages of lisps or lisp's fundamental concepts or principles. I see that, perhaps in the next decade, as communication technologies further hurl us forward, the proliferation of languages will reduce to a trend of consolidation (➢ for example: fueled by virtual machines such as Microsoft's .NET.).

Creating a language is Easy

In general, creating a language is relatively easy to do in comparison to equivalent-sized programing tasks in the industry (such as, for example, writing robust signal processing lib, a web server (➢ for example: video web server), a web app framework, a game engine … etc.). Computing tasks typically have a goal, where all sorts of complexities and nit-gritty detail arise in the coding process. Creating a language often is simply based on a individual's creativity that doesn't have much fixed constraints, much as in painting or sculpting. Many languages that have become popular, in fact arose this way. Popularly known examples includes Perl, Python, Ruby, Perl6, Arc. Creating a language requires the skill of writing a compiler though, which isn't trivial, but today with mega proliferation of tools, even the need for compiler writing skill is reduced. (➢ for example: Arc, various languages on JVM. (10 years ago, writing a parser is mostly not required due to existing tools such as lex/yacc))

Some language are created to solve a immediate problem or need. Mathematica, Adobe Flash's ActionScript, Emacs Lisp, LSL would be good examples. Some are created as computer science research byproducts, usually using or resulting a new computing model. Lisp, Prolog, SmallTalk, Haskell, Qi, Concurrent Clean, are of this type.

Some are created by corporations from scratch for one reasons or another. ➢ for example: Java, JavaScript, AppleScript, Dylan, C#. The reason is mostly to make money by creating a language that solves perceived problems or need, as innovation. The problem may or may not actually exist. (C# is a language created primarily to overrun Java. Java was created first as a language for embedded devices, then Sun Microsystems pushed it to ride the internet wave to envision “write once run everywhere” and interactivity in web browser. In hindsight, Java's contribution to the science of computer languages is probably just a social one, mainly in popularizing the concept of a virtual machine and automatic memory management (so-called Garbage Collection), and further popularizing OOP after C++.)

Infinite Number of Syntax and Semantics

Looking at some tens of languages, one might think that there might be some unifying factor, some unifying theory or model, that limits the potential creation to a small set of types, classes, models. With influence from Stephen Wolfram book “A New Kind of Science” 〔➤see Notes on A New Kind of Science〕 , i'd think this is not so. That is to say, different languages are potentially endless, and each can become quite useful or important or with sizable user base. In other words, i think there's no theoretical basis that would govern what languages will be popular due to its technical/mathematical properties. Perhaps another way to phrase this imprecise thought is that, languages will keep proliferating, and even if we don't count languages that created by one-man's fancy, there will still probably be forever birth of languages, and they will all be useful or solve some niche problem, because there is no theoretical or technical reason that sometimes in the future there would be one language that can be fittingly used to solve all computing problems.

Also, the possibilities of language's syntax are basically unlimited, even considering the constraint that they be practical and human readable. So, any joe, can potentially create a new syntax. The syntax of existing languages, when compared to the number of all potentially possible (human readable) syntax, are probably a very small fraction. That is to say, even with so many existing languages today with their wildly differing syntax, we probably are just seeing a few pixels in a computer screen.

Also note here all languages mentioned here are all plain-text linear ones. Spread sheet and visual programing languages would be example of 2D syntax… but i haven't thought about how they can be classified as syntax. (nor do i fully understand the ontology of syntax )

Just some extempore thoughts.


Pure, Vala, Genie

New programing languages.


Discovered a new programing language. Factor. See: Point Free Programing.

The Fantom Language, and a Scathing Review of Scala

There are endless languages. Just discovered Fantom.

Fantom is a general purpose object-oriented programming language created by Brian and Andy Frank[4] that runs on the Java Runtime Environment (JRE), JavaScript, and the .NET Common Language Runtime (CLR) (.NET support is considered “prototype”[5] status). Its primary design goal is to provide a standard library API[6] that abstracts away the question of whether the code will ultimately run on the JRE or CLR. Like C# and Java, Fantom uses a curly brace syntax. The language supports functional programming through closures and concurrency through the Actor model. Fantom takes a “middle of the road” approach to its type system, blending together aspects of both static and dynamic typing.


Also, there's this scathing review of Scala by someone who seems to be a Java platform expert.

Scala feels like EJB 2, and other thoughts By Stephen Colebourne. @

Ι don't know Java platform well, not having worked in the industry for many years, but i tend to agree with him on his views.

CoffeeScript, Google Dart, Microsoft TypeScript, asm.js

Google created Google Dart. Microsoft created TypeScript. See: TypeScript Will Kill CoffeeScript and Dart❕.

Then, in ≈, asm.js is created. Home page at

It's a subset of JavaScript that will make it run very fast, as in C/C++. It's a subset, so it runs in any browser. The typical application is for games written in C/C++ be compiled into asm.js and run (fast enough) browser. The UNREAL engine has been ported to asm.js.

Here's some blogs about it:


Rust programming language black logo
Rust logo

just learned there's a new lang: Rust, developed by Mozilla Labs. Started in 2010. Quote from Wikipedia:

Rust is an experimental, concurrent, multi-paradigm, compiled programming language developed by Mozilla Labs. It is designed to be practical, supporting pure-functional, concurrent-actor, imperative-procedural, and object-oriented styles.

The lead developer is Graydon Hoare, who began work on the system in 2006; Mozilla became involved in 2009, and officially unveiled the language for the first time at Mozilla Summit 2010. In 2010, work shifted from the initial compiler, written in OCaml, to the self-hosted compiler written in Rust itself. It successfully compiled itself the following year. The self-hosted compiler uses LLVM as its backend.


julia lang logo
julia lang logo

Julia is a new lang for scientific computing. New around 2011:

it's a competitor to number crunchers R, MATLAB, and others.

interestingly, on Julia site, it shows that it's a order faster than all similar scripting language. Julia's speed seems to be close to optimized C code, and is a stated goal of the language design.


A lang based on Parsing Expression Grammar, called OMeta, by Alessandro Warth.

OMeta: an Object-Oriented Language for Pattern Matching By Alessandro Warth. @

Tom Novelli provided the following insights and links:

Yeah, that seems promising. there's actually a long history behind it; see for example 〔Pragmatic Parsing in Common Lisp By Henry G Baker, Nimble Computer Corporation. @

I found a copy of Val Schorre's META-II paper from 50 years ago… and some followup work throughout the 1960s (➢ for example: TREE-META)… these guys were in Douglas Englebart's group. Then apparently the military took it over and made it classified, probably ruined it with bureaucracy rather than developing it into awesome top-secret technology, heh ☺


learned about Elm (programming language).

Elm is a functional programming language for declaratively creating web browser based graphical user interfaces. Elm uses the Functional Reactive Programming style and purely functional graphical layout to build user interface without any destructive updates.

Elm was designed by Evan Czaplicki as his thesis in 2012.[2] The first release of Elm came with many examples and an online editor that made it easy to try out in a web browser.[3] Evan Czaplicki now works on Elm at Prezi.[4]

The initial implementation of the Elm compiler targets HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.[5] The set of core tools has continued to expand, now including a REPL,[6] package manager,[7] time-traveling debugger,[8] and installers for Mac and Windows.[9] Elm also has an ecosystem of community created libraries.[10]


haxe logo
haxe logo

Haxe is an open source high-level multi-platform programming language and compiler that can produce applications and source code for many different platforms from a single code-base.[1][2][3][4]

Haxe includes a set of common functionality that is supported across all platforms, such as numeric data types, text, arrays, binary and some common file formats.[2][5] Haxe also includes platform-specific API for Adobe Flash, C++, PHP and other languages.[2][6]

Code written in the Haxe language can be source-to-source compiled into ActionScript 3 code, JavaScript programs, Java, C#, C++ standalone applications, Python, PHP, Apache CGI, and Node.js server-side applications.[2][5][7]

Haxe is also a full-featured ActionScript 3-compatible Adobe Flash compiler, that can compile a SWF file directly from Haxe code.[2][8] Haxe can also compile to Neko applications, built by the same developer.

Major users of Haxe include TiVo, Prezi, Nickelodeon, Disney, Mattel, Hasbro, Coca Cola, Toyota and BBC.[9][10] OpenFL and Flambe are popular Haxe frameworks that enable the creation of multi-platform content from a single codebase.[10] With HTML5 dominating over Adobe Flash in recent years, Haxe, Unity and other cross-platform tools are increasingly necessary to target modern platforms while providing backward compatibility with Adobe Flash Player.[10][11]



hacklang logo

Facebook created a new lang: hacklang. Basically, it's PHP with optional type system, with type inference. Designed to run existing PHP code as much as possible. Already deployed in large scale by Facebook.

I think this is fantastic.

announcement: 〔Hack: a new programming language for HHVM By Julien Verlaguet, Alok Menghrajani. @

home page


egison, pattern matching language.


Swift logo
Swift logo

Swift is a multi-paradigm, compiled programming language created by Apple Inc. for iOS, OS X, and watchOS development. Swift is designed to work with Apple's Cocoa and Cocoa Touch frameworks and the large body of existing Objective-C code written for Apple products. Swift is intended to be more resilient to erroneous code (“safer”) than Objective-C, and also more concise. It is built with the LLVM compiler framework included in Xcode 6, and uses the Objective-C runtime, allowing C, Objective-C, C++ and Swift code to run within a single program.[8]

Swift (programming language)

elixir logo

Elixir is a functional, concurrent, general-purpose programming language that runs on the Erlang virtual machine (BEAM). Elixir builds on top of Erlang to provide distributed, fault-tolerant, soft real-time, non-stop applications but also extends it to support metaprogramming with macros and polymorphism via protocols.[3]

Elixir (programming language)

A Week with Elixir By Joe Armstrong (Creator Of Erlang). @

new language, Kotlin, from JetBrains. Runs on Java Virtual Machine. Similar to Java, but designed to improve java.

Kotlin is a statically-typed programming language that runs on the Java Virtual Machine and also can be compiled to JavaScript source code. Its primary development is from a team of JetBrains programmers based in Saint Petersburg, Russia (the name comes from the Kotlin Island, near St. Petersburg).

While not syntax compatible with Java, Kotlin is designed to interoperate with Java code and is reliant on Java code from the existing Java Class Library, such as the collections framework.