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I suggested PHP or failing that ASP but he seems set on Python.
I know virtually nothing about Python. Is this something he should learn or is it a dead-end road?
I think it would be well worth learning Python, Ruby, or both, to anyone who is plotting a long-term future in web development.
Of the languages mentioned, the most popular - PHP - is the dead-end language, IMO. It's today's Basic. We *needed* a language to bring back spaghetti-code!
My preference of the two is Ruby. Looked at Python, and don't like all those underscores. ;) In all fairness, haven't scratched the surface of Python, beyond a few hacks to some Karamba widgets.
Both are certainly niches for now, but one of them is likely to ultimately become the most-used language for web development.
Both are so much more rational than the languages that have come before them.
Of all of these, my favorite so far has to have been Perl (with Snobol a strong second - but only within the domain it was intended for - text processing - and for it's timeframe), but my new favorite is Ruby.
In other words: Highly recommended if you don't care what "everybody else" uses, but simply want to get your work done in the most efficient way. I don't use anything else if I can avoid it.
The nice thing about both Python and Ruby is that they were born without a lot of bad habits.
The PHP case is a shame - as a modern language, it didn't have to turn out the way it has. It's had to evolve away from the bad habits of it's youth.
While this is understandable, given PHP's and Ruby's relative history's (I'm not familiar with Python's) and PHP's viral growth, it doesn't excuse it.
PHP started as a hack to templatize one person's web site. Ruby started with a desire to create an ideal, all-purpose programming language. PHP took off quickly before it was ready for prime time. Ruby had the luxury of baking in obscurity for a while while it matured. Most really bad Ruby code is probably written in Japanese, and we are unlikely to encounter it.
Actually, I think Perl6 is becoming more like Ruby and Python
Yes, that is true.
What I meant, though, is that Perl 6 will suffer from legacy code and legacy coding practices from it's dark past.
PHP5 suffers from coding practices left-over from earlier versions. PHP5 isn't all bad - but most PHP code today was written for PHP4.
Better to use a newer language that doesn't have a dark past.
OTOH, Perl has a huge installed base (though not as big as PHP), huge number of good-quality packages, and with Perl6 will be on it's second byte-code interpreter. They're still working on the first one for Ruby.