What is Python? The popular, scalable programming language, explained

Coworker explaining something on computer to other coworkers in office
Python is a popular coding language for software and web developers. Maskot/Getty Images
  • Python is a programming language known for its far-reaching applicability that goes beyond web development coding.
  • Python can be a good coding language for new or novice coders because of its readability and use of the English language.
  • Although it’s an accessible program to learn and use, Python can be scaled up and implemented for vast, complex tasks, including compiling massive amounts of data and executing machine learning algorithms.
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Python is a programming language that boasts some of the best versatility among its fellow coding counterparts, including Ruby and Swift.

In fact, you can even use Python to expedite tedious tasks in the JavaScript-based game, “Minecraft.”

But if you’re confused about what Python is exactly and why it’s so beloved by coders, from startup business owners to Redditors, here’s your beginner’s guide to Python, including who uses it, and why it’s so often a preferred programming language.

What is Python?

Python is a multipurpose programming language, and it has applicability pretty much anywhere that uses data, mathematical computation, or lines of code. That means unlike Java, for instance, Python isn’t confined to being used for web development.

Like most programming languages, Python works in tandem with an interpreter that executes the finalized lines of codes. There are lots of free resources to learn the Python coding language, which, with its basis in English syntax, is considered one of the least fussy and most straightforward coding languages to learn and read.

One quick side note about Python: The serpentine namesake isn’t an abbreviation or acronym, but rather, simply the result of Python creator Guido van Rossum being an avid Monty Python fan.

How Python is used

For anyone from corporate software engineers to casual coders, Python is a viable, accessible programming language.

Python can be used for small tasks, like powering a simple Reddit moderator bot, or executing extremely complex code, like analyzing massive amounts of financial data for a hedge fund.

Software developer coding on computer at desk at home
Python can be used for a variety of coding purposes beyond simple web development. 5432action/Getty Images

Python’s scalability is a huge part of its appeal: A Python-based application can maintain its same coding lingo even if a small garage-based startup flourishes into a high-rise corporate headquarters.

Here’s a sliver of the different ways Python goes beyond a basic web development tool:

  • Data sciences: This field makes up a sizable user base of Python for both its computing and compiling of data libraries.
  • Machine learning: Python’s code can implement machine learning, which helps refine algorithm-based tech from voice recognition to content recommendation.
  • Data mining: Python’s nimbleness and scalability also makes it an attractive program to process and mine big data, which has seen a lot of mileage in the finance sector.

Advantages of Python

There are drawbacks to Python – for instance, its computing is often slower due its line-by-line execution style. However, its advantages make it an attractive coding choice.

Here are a few of the big advantages of Python:

  • Popularity and access: Python has a huge community to support it, which helps maintain its accessibility to any skill level – it’s also free and open-source software.
  • Simple syntax: The Python coding language has an easy-to-learn syntax and uses English words.
  • Readability: Lines of code written in Python are also easy to read. For instance, Python uses a nice, clean break in the form of a new line of code to complete a command, rather than semicolons or parentheses.
  • Scalability: You can start a program in Python without having to worry about the arduous task of rewriting or adapting code for other platforms as you scale up.

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