Can C++ Be Used for Web Development?

If you asked a developer whether you could use C++ in web development, they probably laughed. C++ programs can be notoriously resource-hungry, and if you run a website, you want to keep those resource-hungry apps to a minimum. However, things have changed slightly as browser technology has improved but it still doesn’t mean C++ is a good candidate for web development.

C++ can be directly used for web development. Some of the largest websites in the world use C++ on their backend but it cannot operate on the front end and so isn’t good to use for web development. C++ can output HTML from the backend to the front end, but you can't run a C++ app right there on your website. Your site user wouldn't be able to use it (in most cases).

According to StackOverflow C++ is the 10th most popular programming language among developers but lags behind massively in terms of what those developers earn. Let’s explore whether C++ can be used for web development and why it is used heavily on the back end.

Can C++ Be Used For Web Development?

C++ code

As we said, C++ can be used on the backend (i.e. server-side things). It works incredibly well there. It is not always the best programming language to use for the backend, but it works. There is a reason why companies like Facebook and Google are using it. C++ has the potential to be flexible, and it can be great at putting together time-critical applications. There are a few downsides to C++, but we won't dive into them here.

On the front end, things become a little bit trickier. If you have C++ running on the backend, you can use it to output the code on your website. That is fine. C++ is great for outputting dynamic HTML and CSS code that has been plucked from a database. However, you don't want your site users to actually be interacting with the C++ code themselves.

There are a couple of issues with this.

  1. It is a major security risk to have your users messing about with a C++ sandbox. It can lead to major memory leaks, and your entire server can be brought down because of it. We can't imagine that many web developers want that to happen.
  2. Most C++ programs require the user to make a download. There is no way o embed C++ programs into a website. Most users do not want to download programs onto their computers, particularly from websites that they don't trust.

Although, of course, if you know your way around C++, you are already going to know why it isn't a great choice for web development, and why it tends to be used is nothing more than the development of software. It simply isn't designed for web development. It can be used in limited circumstances, but there is almost always going to be a better option out there.

Why C++ is not used for web development

C++ is not used for web development because there is no stable framework for C++ web development, and it is unlikely that there will be. Most companies want to make things easier for themselves, and they gravitate toward stable frameworks, and most of them do not use C++ for UI development.

JavaScript remains the primary choice for web development. It is stable, well used, and has a fantastic ecosystem of developers working to make it better. Developing with JavaScript is far easier than choosing a backend language.

If you are planning on getting into backend development for some of the largest companies in the world, having knowledge of C++ is great. However, in most cases, it isn't going to be that useful as it is falling out of favor with newer companies.

As we said, there are some security risks to using C++ in web development, and you have to develop your web app from the ground up. You don't have a framework that you can lean on. However, there is another major reason why C++ tends to be avoided outside of the big companies.

This is hosting. If you are not hosting your web servers, then you can't run C++ apps. Most web hosts do not support it. No web host is going to allow you to upload C++ apps to their servers. Your only option is to run the server yourself. This means purchasing a dedicated server or using a virtual machine. This means that even learning how C++ web development works can be incredibly tricky.

This is unlikely to be something that changes in the near future. Web hosts do not want to have potentially unsafe C++ programs running on their servers, and this is completely understandable.

Is C++ Worth Learning For Web Development?

If your goal is to get into web development, then it is not worth learning C++ for web development. While the largest companies in the world do use C++ on their backend, most companies don't. It is not worth learning a programming language in the hope that one of the largest companies in the world will hire you. It doesn't work out like that.

By all means, C++ is a great programming language to use, but it isn't one that you should be focusing on if you are trying to get into web development.

It should always be these first:

  • JavaScript
  • PHP
  • Ruby
  • Python
  • Java
  • Rust
  • Solidity
  • Go
  • Kotlin
  • NodeJS

Although, NodeJs is somewhat of an exception, and one where learning C++ could come in quite handy. This is because you can write plugins for NodeJS in C++, and they can work pretty well. So, you may find that your C++ knowledge could come in handy there.

If you are into the front-end development of websites, then you will need to learn HTML5 and CSS. No exceptions. It is probably worth knowing these even if you plan to get into backend development. This is because almost everything that you do will be focused on outputting HTML5 and CSS code anyway.

Why Large Companies Use C++ On Their Backend

It is surprisingly easy to find competent C++ developers. For many people, this is one of the first programming languages that is picked up.

C++ is very lightweight and fast too. If you have a lot of users using your site at once, you need something that isn't going to be too resource-hungry, while also ensuring that the users get the optimal browsing experience. C++ is fantastic for this. Although, once again, we do want to point out that many of the other programming languages that are used heavily in a web development environment will also be good at it.

It is also versatile, which means that you can build things that could be tricky with other programming languages.

Conclusion

While C++ can be used for backend web development, it doesn't come anywhere close to being one of the most popular programming languages that you can use online. It is the sole domain of some of the largest companies in the world, mostly because there are no established frameworks for C++ that have any sort of stability.

Still, while you can learn the programming language to get into web development, there are other far bigger priorities.

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