C++ vs. JavaScript: The Main Differences Explained

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The C++ vs. JavaScript debate is interesting because popularity is almost the only thing that these two programming languages have in common. In practice, they’re used for very different purposes. As such, understanding the differences between the two helps you to decide which language to learn.

This article digs into those differences. But first, let’s explain the basics of each language.

What Is C++?

C++ was born out of one man’s desire to create an extension of the popular C programming language that allowed the utilization of classes. Bjarne Stroustrup’s efforts resulted in the creation of an object-oriented evolution of C that can be used for a wide variety of programming tasks.

With C++, coders can create programs intended to run directly alongside hardware. Even though the language has existed for nearly 40 years, it’s still commonly used in the creation of operating systems, video games, and other hardware-adjacent applications.

Interestingly, the language is also often used to write compilers, which includes some of the engines that interpret JavaScript.

What Is JavaScript?

Created in 1995, JavaScript is a dynamic-type scripting language initially used to incorporate animations and interactive elements into webpages. Since its release, JavaScript has joined HTML and CSS as one of the three main languages used for web development.

Approximately 97% of websites use JavaScript in some form, which has led to all major browsers incorporating JavaScript interpreters.

Beyond its browser-based uses, JavaScript is increasingly used in mobile app development and for website backends. For example, it’s commonly used to create mobile apps for Android, though Kotlin has recently taken its mantle as Google’s preferred technology for this task.

C++ vs. JavaScript: The Key Differences

This initial introduction hints at some of the differences in the C++ vs. JavaScript battle. Let’s dig a little deeper into those differences to help you decide between the two.

The Language Level

C++ is considered an intermediate high-level programming language. That means it’s only a few steps up from pure machine code. Any code created in C++ is compiled into the binary files your system needs to execute the program.

On a practical level, this usually means that C++ code is longer than JavaScript and requires more programming expertise on the part of the coder.

JavaScript is a high-level language that more closely resembles typical human speech patterns than C++. This makes it easier to code in and usually means you can accomplish tasks using JavaScript in fewer lines of code than C++. Being a high-level language also makes JavaScript easier to set up than C++.

Normally, a key difference between intermediate and high-level programming languages is how they’re compiled. As mentioned, intermediate languages have a single compiling step that turns the code into machine code.

With high-level languages, this is usually a two-step process that requires more time, as the code must be turned into an intermediate language before being compiled into machine code.

That’s not the case with JavaScript because it doesn’t have any traditional compilation steps. Instead, JavaScript gets turned into virtual machine code by a browser as soon as the application or web page using it is loaded.

Uses

As mentioned earlier, JavaScript is somewhat limited in its usage. It’s predominantly used for websites, web applications, and mobile app development. But in the latter case, some mobile app platforms prefer the use of their own proprietary languages over JavaScript.

C++ is much more flexible, meaning it can be used to create a wider variety of software. It’s typically used for any programs that need to communicate directly with a system’s hardware. The result is that C++ is used in everything from databases and operating systems to video games, financial technology, and compilers.

While JavaScript is easier to code in, you can do a lot more with C++.

C++ vs. JavaScript

Integrations

Though both JavaScript and C++ have a wealth of resources available to help people learn how to use the languages, JavaScript comes out on top when it comes to integrations.

As one of the web’s core programming languages, JavaScript has a huge volume of pre-made integrations that you can build into your code. Again, this often makes programming in JavaScript faster than coding in C++.

That isn’t to say you won’t find any pre-existing code when working with C++. The language’s age means there is a wealth of resources available and a dedicated community that can offer help when you’re stuck. However, you’re more likely to need to create customized code in C++ than you are in JavaScript.

Static vs. Dynamic Typing

How you code represents one of the biggest differences to consider in the C++ vs. JavaScript debate. As a dynamic-type language, JavaScript allows variables to change type when running.

You don’t have to worry as much about whether one of your variables is an integer or string when coding in JavaScript. This fact contributes to JavaScript being the faster language to code in, but can sometimes produce odd results.

Variables are a big issue when coding in C++. You have to declare every variable in your code as you type, allowing you to call on each variable when it’s needed. Declaring variables requires extra lines of code and means you have to keep track of more information.

Speed of Execution

Earlier, we mentioned differences in compiling between C++ and JavaScript. C++ is compiled traditionally, with the code you write being compiled into machine code for a system to run it. JavaScript is an interpreted language, which means it’s interpreted and compiled into machine code at run time.

While this cuts the manual compiling step when coding in JavaScript, the need for interpretation slows down execution time.

The result is that JavaScript executes slower than C++.

While this may seem like a major issue, bear in mind that these languages have very different purposes. JavaScript predominantly focuses on interactive elements, which execute quickly regardless of scope. C++ often handles complex calculations, which would take a significant amount of time to execute in JavaScript.

But seeing as JavaScript rarely requires the execution of such calculations, you may see little practical difference in execution due to these usage differences.

Syntax

As a multi-paradigm language, JavaScript supports functional, imperative, and event-driven programming styles. Combine this with an array of application programming interfaces (APIs) and you get a language that can easily handle text, expressions, dates, and arrays.

However, inputs and outputs, such as those related to graphics and storage, are handled by whatever engine runs the code.

C++ is an object-oriented language that more closely resembles machine code. While this makes it rigid in the sense of how you write your code, C++ is more versatile in terms of what you can do. Just know that even a small mistake, such as missing a semicolon, will disrupt C++ code.

On the plus side, this rigidity means C++ is the ideal language to learn if you want to understand the fundamentals of programming. Once you know C++, you should be able to pick up other programming languages, including JavaScript, more easily.

Resource Requirements on the Backend

Though JavaScript and C++ have very different applications, they can both be used for backend, or server-side, applications. The back end of an application helps a server to process whatever you do on the front end, which could be a webpage or a program’s graphical user interface (GUI).

JavaScript handles backend requests using the Express.js or Node.js commands. This allows programmers to create frontends and backends using JavaScript, allowing for easier integrations.

On the surface, that makes it seem like JavaScript is always the best backend choice for applications with JavaScript frontends.

In practice, that choice comes down to how resource-intensive an application’s backend is. Most backends need to handle thousands of requests simultaneously, which is where JavaScript starts struggling.

As mentioned, it takes longer for JavaScript to be interpreted and compiled than for C++. While this isn’t an issue for the simple frontends and animations made using JavaScript, it becomes a major challenge with backends.

Generally speaking, C++ is the better choice for backend development because it’s more predictable and has fewer resource requirements. This allows C++ to make complex calculations at a much faster pace than JavaScript, which is important for any scenario where the application needs to process what a user is doing in real time.

Video games are a good example, as user inputs need to be processed in milliseconds.

C++ vs. JavaScript – Making Your Choice

Settling your C++ vs. JavaScript battle comes down to what you intend to create.

If your work focuses on web development and mobile application creation, JavaScript is essential. It’s one of the pillars of the internet, meaning you need to know it if you hope to create websites with anything more than the bare basics of functionality. JavaScript’s ease of use also makes it a handy introductory language for novice programmers.

As an intermediate language, C++ takes a lot longer to learn. It also requires more actual coding to create runnable programs. That complexity comes with the benefit of being able to do much more with C++ than with JavaScript.

Though you won’t use C++ to create websites or similar applications, you can use it to create almost anything else. It’s particularly important for programs that need to execute calculations quickly.

Finally, C++ gives you a grounding in programming fundamentals that you won’t receive from JavaScript.

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