You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Programming language popularity: JavaScript leads – 5 million new developers since 2017

ZDNet logo ZDNet 10/21/2020 Liam Tung
a man sitting in front of a computer: Programmer working in a software develop company office. © Getty Images/iStockphoto

Programmer working in a software develop company office.

a screenshot of a cell phone © Provided by ZDNet
To all JavaScript developers: Microsoft just bought npm
Watch Now

JavaScript remains by far the most popular programming language with developers, followed by Python and then Java, according to analyst firm SlashData's latest survey of developers. 

The company's State of the Developer Nation Q3 2020 survey includes responses from more than 17,000 developers in 159 countries, covering the most popular programming languages, developer attitudes to open-source software, adoption of DevOps practices, and usage of popular cloud technologies, such as containers and orchestration tools like Kubernetes.   

According to SlashData, JavaScript, which includes CoffeeScript and Microsoft's TypeScript in the survey, is by far the most popular language, with 12.4 million developers using it worldwide.

SEE: Hiring Kit: Python developer (TechRepublic Premium)    

It estimates five million developers have joined the JavaScript community since 2017, consolidating its position as the world's most popular programming language. 

"Even in software sectors where JavaScript is least popular, like data science or AR/VR, over a fifth of developers use it in their projects," SlashData notes. 

Despite weaknesses in web, mobile and desktop app development, Python has gained 2.2 million net new developers over the past year thanks to machine learning, data science and IoT app – or anything without a user interface. 

Peter Wang, CEO of Anaconda, the maker of the Anaconda Python distribution for data science, told ZDNet in a recent interview it was "kind of a miracle that Python is even on the radar, much less ranked in the top three languages", given its low adoption for mobile and application development. 

"On the web, the frontend is always JavaScript or a derivative. And on mobile, Python is barely used at all," he noted.  

Nonetheless, Python's developer population now stands at an estimated nine million users – or roughly 800,000 more than the estimated 8.2 million Java developers. 

Python's popularity overtook Java at the beginning of 2020, according to SlashData. This observation is consistent with several programming language popularity rankings. 

Developer analyst RedMonk's observed the switch in its June 2020 ranking, while Java hit an "all-time low" in Tiobe's October 2020 popularity rankings and looks set to be overtaken by Python for second place. JavaScript and Python were also more popular than Java in Stack Overflow's 2020 developer survey

But Oracle argues 25-year-old Java is still hugely popular, used by over 69% of full-time developers worldwide with 51 billion active Java Virtual Machines (JVMs) deployed globally. And SlashData notes that the Java community gained 1.6 million developers since mid-2017, despite not growing in the past six months. 

Languages with developers numbering between six million and 6.3 million include C and C++, PHP, and C#. In the next group of languages with between 2.3 million and 2.8 million developers are Google-endorsed Android app-development language Kotlin and Apple's Swift. Swift overtook Kotlin in early 2020, according to SlashData. 

Meanwhile, Go, Ruby, Objective C, Rust and Lua have developer user bases numbering between 0.8 million and 1.5 million. 

The numbers are based on SlashData's mid-2020 estimate of 21.3 million active software developers in the world.  

According to SlashData, 60% of backend developers use containers, making it the most popular cloud technology, ahead of the 45% using database-as-a-service from the likes of AWS, Oracle, IBM, Google and MongoDB.  

Around 57% of backend developers who are using a containerized application orchestration tool choose Kubernetes.

Interestingly for DevOps adoption, SlashData found that 35% of developers don't consider themselves to be engaged in the area, yet 40% of respondents say they practice continuous integration (CI) and 37% say they use continuous delivery or deployment (CD) – both being fundamental aspects of DevOps. 

SEE: 10 ways to prevent developer burnout (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

However, SlashData reckons the "full automation of the software release process – and therefore true commitment to the DevOps culture – is far from a reality".  

"While more than half (52%) of developers use CI or CD to streamline parts of their workflow, only 25% use both practices to automate all steps between integrating code changes into a central repository through to production deployment," it notes. 

"As it turns out, developers are still skeptical about fully automated CI/CD pipelines. This is evident by the fact that nearly 40% of them manually give the green light for code deployments to be promoted to production."

table: JavaScript, including CoffeeScript and Microsoft's TypeScript, is by far the most popular language, with 12.4 million developers using it worldwide. Image: SlashData © Provided by ZDNet JavaScript, including CoffeeScript and Microsoft's TypeScript, is by far the most popular language, with 12.4 million developers using it worldwide. Image: SlashData

More on programming language JavaScript

  • Microsoft: Learn JavaScript programming language for free with our new course  
  • TypeScript creator: How the programming language beat Microsoft's open-source fears  
  • JavaScript programming language developers: This is Kite's new free AI code-completion tool  
  • Microsoft: VS Code update gets new features with programming language TypeScript 4.0
  • Microsoft's TypeScript 4.0 programming language arrives: It's a big milestone
  • Microsoft to developers: These are our biggest and best open-source projects
  • Microsoft: This new update makes VS Code friendlier for Java programming language jobs
  • Microsoft VS Code turns 5: How GitHub, open source, Google made it a hit, reveals creator
  • JavaScript creator Eich: My take on 20 years of the world's top programming language
  • Microsoft lead engineer: Programming language TypeScript took off thanks to Google's Angular
  • Deno 1.0: Node.js makers have new JavaScript runtime for TypeScript programming language
  • Programming language TypeScript 3.9 cuts compile times by up to 40%, says Microsoft
  • JavaScript programming language developers: This is Kite's new free AI code-completion tool
  • Programming languages: Kotlin rises fastest but JavaScript lures millions more developers
  • New programming language rankings: Python now as popular as Java, as TypeScript climbs
  • These are the top JavaScript libraries and frameworks
  • Programming languages: Why JavaScript developers are choosing TypeScript
  • Who built Microsoft TypeScript and why
  • AdChoices
    AdChoices

    More from ZDNet

    image beaconimage beaconimage beacon