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February 21st, 2016

JavaScript Dominates As The No. 1 Most Used Programming Language

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Again.

We have said it before and we will say it again … JavaScript is eating the world. An established favorite in the developer community, the programming language has become the one to beat.

Developer research company RedMonk’s bi-annual rankings table merely confirms this.

JavaScript sat at the top of the tree when RedMonk last released its rankings in September 2015 and it sits there today. The default programming language of the Web has been a long-time presence in the table and looks unlikely to relinquish its ranking any time soon.

If anyone needed further proof that the programming language is crushing the competition, then a straw poll of attendees at DeveloperWeek in San Francisco would have given the required answers. Almost every panel praised JavaScript, so much so that fans of other programming language were hard to find.

“JavaScript has had an incredible run,” said Meteor CEO Geoff Schmidt in his talk on the democratization of app development. “When you think about the languages that have had an outcome like JavaScript … it started out in the 90s as a way to make things blink on a webpage and here we are at a conference dedicated to it.”

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One Language To Rule Them All

The reason for JavaScript’s dominance is quite simple, RedMonk said. JavaScript is easy to use and developers want to build apps with the best tool for the job. The same logic can be applied to Java, which maintains its place behind JavaScript thanks to a “steady, robust performance,” said report author Stephen O’Grady.

redmonk_january

The rest of the top ten is … exactly the same as it was in September 2015. None of the eight programming languages that look up at JavaScript and Java have moved at all and the table has a familiar look;

  1. JavaScript
  2. Java
  3. PHP
  4. Python
  5. C#
  6. C++
  7. Ruby
  8. CSS
  9. C
  10. Objective-C

Note: C#, C++ and Ruby were all tied again at No.5 in the RedMonk rankings.

Developers are, by nature, creatures of habit and will stick with tried and tested means of production if it gets the job done. According to O’Grady, this is a scenario that is unlikely to change any time soon.

“Just as JavaScript and Java’s positions have remained unchanged, the rest of the Top 10 has remained similarly static,” said O’Grady in a blog post. “This has become the expectation rather than a surprise. As with businesses, the larger a language becomes, the more difficult it is to outperform from a growth perspective.”

In the long term any changes will be gradual, especially as programming language fragmentation has slowed down. The two languages that could disrupt the status quo—Google’s Go and Apple’s Swift—are still in the bottom half of the top 20, but O’Grady said they have some work to do if they are going to break into the top 10.

Swift has moved up one place from September to number 17, although RedMonk’s data snapshot was taken before Apple open sourced the language. The effects of this decision won’t be known until the next quarter, said O’Grady.

Breaking In Is Not Easy

Go’s position is unchanged and remains a candidate for wider adoption in the near future. Both Go and Swift have been on the radar for some time. O’Grady said that these languages are knocking on the door of so-called Tier 1 languages and while movement up the table is glacial, they could be on the cusp of greatness.

See also: The Average Programmer: 28.9 Years Old And Writes JavaScript

In his assessment of the overall results of the bi-annual report, O’Grady said that four languages outside the top 20 were worthy of mention—Elixir, Julia, Rust and Typescript.

Elixir moved six places from #60 to #54 and made a notable jump, according to the report. Julia—described by O’Grady as a tortoise among hares—crawled one place from #52 to #51, while Rust is apparently close to an adoption tipping point. TypeScript (a superset of JavaScript) is “quietly moving up the ranks,” and sits at #33. It is not going to explode in the next quarter but is one to watch, O’Grady said.

“We are regularly asked why we don’t run the language rankings more regularly – every quarter or even on a monthly basis,” said O’Grady. “The answer is that there isn’t enough movement in the data to justify it; programming languages are popular enough and the switching costs are sufficient to mean that significantly shifting adoption is a slow, gradual process. For every language except Swift, anyway.”

Lead image: “The Real JavaScript Robot” by Flickr user Ben Alman, Creative Commons (no changes made).

  • Walter Nyland

    “Developers are, by nature, creatures of habit and will stick with tried and tested means of production if it gets the job done.”

    More likely that there might be something in a language itself that might keep developers using it, rather than being “creatures of habit”?