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Programming Language Communities - An update

SlashData
We help technology firms understand software developer audiences & measure the ROI of their developer strategy.
・3 min read

The choice of programming language matters deeply to developers because they want to keep their skills up to date and marketable. Languages are a beloved subject of debate and the kernels of some of the strongest developer communities. They matter to toolmakers too, because they want to make sure they provide the most useful SDKs.

It can be hard to assess how widely used a programming language is. The indices available from players like Tiobe, Redmonk, Stack Overflow's yearly survey, or GitHub's Octoverse are great, but offer mostly relative comparisons between languages, providing no sense of the absolute size of each community. They may also be biased geographically or skewed towards certain fields of software development or open-source developers.

programming language communities javascript python

The estimates we present here look at active software developers using each programming language; across the globe and across all kinds of programmers. They are based on two pieces of data. First, our independent estimate of the global number of software developers, which we published for the first time in 2017. We estimate that in mid-2020 there were 21.3M active software developers in the world. Second, our large-scale, low-bias surveys which reach tens of thousands of developers every six months. In the surveys, we consistently ask developers about their use of programming languages across ten areas of development, giving us rich and reliable information about who uses each language and in which context.

Nearly 5M developers joined the JavaScript community in the last three years

JavaScript is the most popular programming language by a wide margin, with 12.4M developers globally using it. Notably, the JavaScript community has been growing in size consistently for the past three years. Between Q2 2017 and Q3 2020, nearly 5M developers joined the community - by far the highest growth in absolute terms across all languages. 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.

For the second half-year period in a row, Python is the most widely adopted language behind JavaScript. Python now counts 9M users, after adding 2.2M net new developers in the past year alone, outranking Java at the beginning of 2020. The rise of data science and machine learning (ML) is a clear factor in its popularity. An impressive 77% of ML developers and data scientists currently use Python. For perspective, only 22% use R, the other language often associated with data science.
Java, with over 8M active users worldwide, is the cornerstone of the mobile app ecosystem - Android - as well as one of the most important general-purpose languages. Its adoption may have remained stable in the past six months but, in the overall picture, the Java community has gained 1.6M developers since mid-2017, which corresponds to a 24% growth.

You can see all highlights from the language communities on the State of the Developer Nation free report.

Interested in more than languages? The new State of the Developer Nation offers free insights on:

  1. Developers’ extra needs due to COVID-19
  2. Programming language communities – an update
  3. Why do developers adopt or reject cloud technologies?
  4. Who is into DevOps?
  5. What do developers value in open source?
  6. Emerging Technologies

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