Programming languages: JavaScript top for web and cloud development while Python rules data science

JavaScript is leading the programming language pack, with Python following in second and C# falling to fourth place, according to a SlashData report.

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JavaScript has added five million new developer users since 2017, according to a new survey.

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A global survey of 17,000 developers suggests that JavaScript remains the world's most popular programming language "by a wide margin," with 12.4 million active users worldwide.

SlashData's State of the Developer Nation Q3 2020 report includes responses from software developers across 159 countries and assesses both the popularity of various programming languages and where they're used, based on its own estimate of the 21.3 million active software developers worldwide.

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According to the report, nearly five million developers have joined the JavaScript community since 2017, with the programming language dominating in web and cloud applications. Least popular was its use in VR/AR applications, and within data science. However, SlashData found that even in applications where JavaScript was least popular, it was still used by more than a fifth of developers in these fields.

For the second half-year period in a row, Python was found to be the second most popular programming language in terms of the number of active software developers, with 9.0 million users. According to SlashData, Python added 2.2 million developers in 2019 alone, driven by the rise of data science and machine-learning technology, where the language is most commonly used.

According to the report, 77% of machine-learning developers and data scientists use Python, compared to 22% that use R, the other language often associated with data science.

Python's rapid rise in popularity saw it outrank Java at the beginning of 2020, SlashData found. Despite this, Java's continued popularity for cloud and mobile app development meant it added 1.7 million users in the past three years, with the programming language now boasting 8.0 million active users worldwide.

C/C++, PHP and C# followed in close succession, with C/C++ at 6.3 million, PHP at 6.1 million and C# at 6.0 million. However, C# was found to have lost the most ground since 2017 after falling into fourth place.

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Source: SlashData

"The fact that C# lost three places in the ranking of language communities during the last three years is mostly explained by its slower growth compared to C/C++ and PHP," said the report.

"C# may be sustaining its dominance in the game and AR/VR developer ecosystems, but it seems to be losing its edge in desktop development – possibly due to the emergence of cross-platform tools based on web technologies."

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Next came Apple's programming language, Swift, with 2.4 million users, and Android's Kotlin with 2.3 million. Swift overtook Kotlin in the first half of 2020, SlashData said.

The more niche languages – Go, Ruby, Rust, and Lua – are still much smaller, with up to 1.5 million active software developers each.

SlashData's researchers also looked at developers' reasons for adopting or rejecting cloud technologies. It found that 60% of backend developers used containers, making it the most popular cloud technology, compared to the 45% using database-as-a-service (DBaaS) and 32% using cloud platform-as-a-service (PaaS).

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Pricing and support were found to be the most influential factors in developer's choices, the report found. Around three in ten of these developers selected ease and speed of development (32%), integration with other systems (31%), community (30%), and pricing (29%) as reasons for adoption.

Interestingly, when looking at developers' engagement with DevOps, only 65% reported being engaged in the field. "This signals that there is a large portion of the developer population that have already adopted DevOps practices but do not necessarily self-identify with the term," SlashData concluded.

Finally, SlashData's report looked at what developers value in open-source technology.

Nearly half (48%) of developers said they appreciated collaborating and interacting with the open-source community, while 44% cited the continuous support open-source software received, even when a technology was abandoned by the originator.

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