Software

Fastest growing programming languages in 2018: Why these two upstarts are outpacing the rest

Two languages in particular are winning over developers faster than rivals, according to the latest figures from developer-focused analyst RedMonk.

Python may have been the fastest growing programming language last year, but it's far from the only language to be enjoying a meteoric rise in popularity.

Unsurprisingly, it's two primarily mobile-focused languages that are winning over developers faster than rivals, according to the latest figures from developer-focused analyst RedMonk.

RedMonk analyst Stephen O'Grady said that Swift, Apple's language that supercedes Objective-C for programming iOS and macOS devices, has been growing at an "incredible rate", jumping up 44 places in RedMonk's language rankings in the latter half of 2017.

"In a world in which it's incredibly difficult to break into the Top 25 of language rankings, let alone the Top 10, Swift managed the chore in less than four years," he said, adding that Swift is now as popular as its predecessor Objective-C, a feat he described as the "changing of the guard".

"It remains a growth phenomenon, even if its ability to penetrate the server side has not met expectations."

Another language that almost matched Swift's stellar growth in popularity is Kotlin. Kotlin is a modern alternative to Java that is easy to learn and use, and which shot up from number 46 to 27 in the RedMonk rankings in the back half of 2017.

Kotlin has been described by a Netflix senior software engineer as offering "some of the best features of other languages" combined with "interoperability with Java".

The open source, statically-typed language gained major traction last year, when Google threw its weight behind Kotlin and announced it was an officially supported language on Android.

SEE: Hiring kit: Python developer (Tech Pro Research)

"As we noted in our last run, the combination of Kotlin's attractiveness to Java developers and its elevation to first class citizen on the Android platform seemed to indicate the language was poised for a major jump," said O'Grady.

"Kotlin is one of the fastest growing languages in the world at present, and for good reason. What will be particularly interesting to watch is whether Kotlin can achieve a foothold in mainstream enterprise applications. This would give it an avenue for growth that Swift lacks at present."

Also surging in popularity were Mozilla's language Rust, Microsoft's PowerShell, the data analytics language R and Microsoft's JavaScript superset TypeScript.

O'Grady also noted that Go — the Google-created, devops-focused programming language — had actually dropped one place in the rankings, after holding steady at number 15 for two quarters.

"The trajectory doesn't give much hope that Go will resume its rapid upward climb anytime soon," he said.

"Nor does the language itself; while its reputation as a back end language is unquestioned, it lacks the versatility of comparable languages like Java that would grant it access to new markets and thus new growth."

RedMonk's overall programming language rankings for the first quarter of 2018 were pretty much in line with other round-ups.

1 JavaScript

2 Java

3 Python

4 PHP

5 C#

6 C++

7 CSS

8 Ruby

9 C

10 (Joint) Swift

10 (Joint) Objective-C

12 (Joint) Shell

12 (Joint) R

14 (Joint) TypeScript

14 (Joint) Scala

16 Go

17 PowerShell

18 Perl

19 Haskell

20 Lua

The RedMonk language rankings are compiled based on the number of pull requests for code repositories on the hosting service GitHub and tags on questions on the programming Q&A site StackOverflow. O'Grady said the methodology had changed recently, but not in a way that would have a significant impact on relative rankings.

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Image: RedMonk

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About Nick Heath

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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