C# vs Python: How do the two programming languages compare?

C# vs Python

C# vs Python: two solid, widely-used languages for backend development. But which is the better option?

Here’s the issue:

Ask an enthusiastic Python developer which is better? Python comes out on top.

Ask an experienced C# developer which is better? C# comes out on top.

To be clear – this isn’t because developers are self-serving and want you to hire them at all costs. Coders love their languages! They love them for a variety of reasons, which may or may not make them a good fit for your project – features, syntax, enjoyment, ‘elegance’…you get the idea.

That’s why we’ve put together this side-by-side comparison of the two languages, so you can figure out what works best from your perspective.

There is no objective ‘best’ here – both languages are great choices in the right context. It’s all about figuring out which would be a better option for your project. That’s exactly what we’ll focus on in the C# Python comparison below.

C# vs Python: Similarities and Differences

It’s always useful to have a quick overview of two options before you delve into deeper, grittIer comparisons. So, starting from the top:

  • Python is a backend development language created in 1991 as a successor to ABC. It has been open source largely from the beginning.
  • C# is also a backend development language. Created by Microsoft as a modern, updated version of C++, it is C-based in syntax. It became open source in 2014.

Both Python and C# are object-oriented programming languages (also known as ‘OOP languages’). This means that their approach is based around data and objects rather than processes and logic (‘procedural programming’) – although you can use Python for procedural programming if you want to. This offers several advantages to both of them:

  • Easier troubleshooting, thanks to encapsulation – objects are self-contained so it’s easy to know where to look when you experience issues. 
  • Reuse of code via classes and subclasses.
  • Being able to approach software creation as a series of smaller problems/tasks to solve, rather than building from the top down – which works particularly well with Agile methodology.

The Key Differences

Broadly speaking, there are two major differences between Python and C#. 

Firstly, Python is an interpreted language. This means it doesn’t need to be compiled to run, whereas C# is a compiled language that needs to be compiled every time you run or test it. 

Secondly, Python is a dynamically typed language, whereas C# is statically typed. To get technical (get used to it, plenty more of this stuff coming below), statically typed languages need predefined variables at compile stage. Dynamically typed languages do not.  

Below, we take a look at how the basics of these two languages affect their performance in:

  • Popularity
  • Speed
  • Performance
  • Cost
  • Application
  • Tools

C# vs Python: Popularity

“What’s everyone else using?” isn’t a question that will define which language you use straight off the bat. Equally, it doesn’t hurt to see where the market’s moving.

…and that’s very slightly in the direction of Python at the moment. According to the 2021 Stack Overflow Developer Survey, Python is the third most commonly-used programming language overall (climbing from fourth place the previous year), behind JavaScript and HTML. C# sits in eighth place.

That makes Python the most popular exclusively backend development language, and C# the fifth. Given some of Python’s popularity will be due to its data processing strengths rather than its use as a web development tool, that puts them in a similar position – though we still think Python has the edge here.

The relatively high ranking of both means you won’t struggle to find developers for either language – a major positive, whichever option you choose.

C# vs Python: Speed

How fast you can take your project from back-of-napkin pipedream to fully-featured, releasable product can be a huge factor in how successful it is.

If you’re starting from scratch, both languages are easy to learn and have a gentle learning curve. If you have experience with other C-based languages, like C++ or Java, you’ll be flying with C# in no time.

If you’re not, or you’re hiring experienced developers, Python typically offers a faster development speed because:

  • Python’s syntax is simpler than C#’s. You can print ‘Hello, world’ in just two lines of Python, whereas C# needs at least 10 for the same result.
  • Because Python is dynamically typed, it figures out your variables at runtime. When coding in C#, you have to take the time to define them before running your code.
  • Python is easier and quicker to debug because it doesn’t have a compile step – it can run immediately. In C# you need to compile code each time you test it, which adds time

On top of this, Python offers better readability. You can write clear, elegant and readable code in C#, but as it doesn’t need any indentation you can end up with a mass of lines and curly brackets.

Python, on the other hand, has indentation and white space built into its structure to delineate blocks of code. For code to run, it needs to be readable. If it looks a mess, it probably won’t work. This allows developers to read, debug and upgrade code more quickly as it’s simply easier to follow.

C# vs Python: Performance

Good news: both Python and C# offer great performance. If you’re looking at a basic web build and not much more, both languages are more than adequate for the job at hand.

However, let’s say you’ve got more extensive needs here. Perhaps you need to manage a huge load of concurrent users, need to run some powerful backend processes…or both at once! Which option works better?

This is where C# really shines.

Because Python is an interpreted language, its performance is limited by the interpreter you’re using (which is usually CPython or PyPy). As a compiled language, C# converts directly into machine code that a processor can execute. No interpreter needed.

In some cases, this means that C# code can run up to 44 times faster than Python. And whilst you can speed up Python’s performance significantly with PyPy’s JIT compiler, C# still holds its lead here.

C# vs Python: Application

Different languages work in different circumstances. Picking the right tool for the job is as essential in development as it is elsewhere.

Both C# and Python will easily have you covered for basic web and application development. Neither has built-in mobile capacity, but there are frameworks available in both languages for this (Xamarin for C#, Kivy or BeeWare for Python).

If this is all your project needs, simply pick your favourite of the two. It’s a nice position to be in.

There are, however, two cases which we can think of where choosing one over the other might be appropriate.

C#’s performance advantages make it ideal for game development, where you’ll potentially need to cope with large numbers of concurrent users whilst running powerful processes in the background. C# is the most popular programming language for gaming, many key tools are based around it as a result (such as the Unity gaming engine).

Meanwhile, Python is the go-to language for AI and machine learning development, because of the number of toolkits, libraries and frameworks available to support this. Numpy, SciPy, TensorFlow, PyTorch, Keras and more are invaluable when it comes to AI development – you’ll find that Python takes you further, faster than any other language in this area.

C# vs Python: Cost

Good news: both C# and Python are open source. This means you don’t need to pay any licensing costs to use them.

Even better, C# and Python developers demand a similar sort of salary. In Stack Overflow’s 2021 Developer Survey, they sit squarely in the middle of the ‘top-paying technologies’ table, with the median salary for Python reported as $59,454 and C#’s as $58,368. That’s a fairly insignificant difference of just over $1,000.

Despite this, you may end up paying a little more overall for a C# project because:

  • Project timelines can be longer due to programming speed.
  • As it was originally a Microsoft product and was only made open source fairly recently, you may still need to pay for some tools. For example, Microsoft’s IDE for C languages is Visual Studio, which charges for enterprise licenses.
  • As it has been open source for longer, Python has a rich online support community. C#’s isn’t as extensive, so you might need to opt for Microsoft’s paid-for support package.

Remember: cheaper doesn’t necessarily mean better!

If C# suits your objectives, it’s far better to invest than to make do with something that isn’t quite right. And, by many accounts you will decent value out of investment in C# infrastructure – developers are pretty fond of Visual Studio as a tool, and paid-for, on-demand support is never something to be sniffed at.

C# vs Python: Development Frameworks and Tools

Because of its origins as a Microsoft-licensed product, C# does have a more specialized toolset that developers will need to get to grips with. This includes Visual Studio .NET, Far, Redgate .NET Reflector, IIS and many plugins besides.

Python’s development tools are simpler and more generic – think Vim/Emacs used with a range of standard Unix tools. The learning curve is much quicker for Python, simply because it is more likely that developers have used these tools elsewhere.

Another area where Python really stands out is the range of development frameworks available. A development framework can reduce time to market significantly with a host of inbuilt features designed to reduce the amount of code needed to complete your project.

C# is limited to ASP.NET (Windows only) and ASP.NET Core (multi-platform), with Xamarin for mobile development, potentially because it only went open source fairly recently. There hasn’t been as much for enthusiasts to build their own tools around C#, and for them to become widely used.

Whilst the .NET frameworks are powerful tools, they don’t match the range of frameworks that Python offers. To name a few, Python lets you take advantage of:

  • Flask and Bottle if you need a lightweight framework
  • Hug and CherryPy for API development
  • Tornado for asynch programming
  • TensorFlow for AI development and machine learning
  • Kivy and BeeWare for mobile development

Overall, C# has a more limited and more specialized range of tools. If your developers are unfamiliar with them, this adds unwelcome time onto the development process. Python’s access to generic tools and a wider range of frameworks allow for faster development and easier specification.

Take it from the experts…

If you’re coming to the conclusion that Python is the language for you, but don’t have the technical expertise to build anything yourself, you’re in the right place.

You could hire a full-time developer in-house, of course. But that takes time. What if you want to get going right away?

At Tivix, we’re big Python nerds, and love using it to build all sorts of projects for our clients, including the UN, Zoetis and Tesla (we’re not shy of dropping names).

As a third-party development agency, we have access to a global network of talent that we use to scale a team of experts quickly as soon as we’re involved, so we can hit the ground running and get you to market quicker.

If you think we’d be a good fit for your project, we’d love to hear from you. Give us a shout here and we’ll be in touch to talk all things technical.