Programming Languages

This Week in Programming: Have Language Rankings Leveled Off?

17 Nov 2018 6:00am, by

Last month, we highlighted an article in TechCrunch that noted the various faults with modern language ranking attempts, asking “What the heck is going on with measures of programming language popularity?” The article went on to pick apart both the TIOBE Index and the rival “PYPL Index” before settling on GitHub’s annual reports, which it declared “basically a perfect match for [the author’s] own experience,” with the only caveat being that they would account only for open source projects.

Of all the language ranking attempts out there, I also find myself most drawn to those based on GitHub’s numbers, though fault could easily be found with any singular attempt. I, too, was once a college student taking classes like “Statistical Analysis” and “Research Methods” and know only too well how basically every way of observing phenomena not only involves shaping that phenomena but also comes with a number of inherent flaws based on whatever method of observation you might choose.

Nonetheless, with all that said, we have this year’s “State of the Octoverse: top programming languages of 2018” just put out to tell us which way the winds are blowing. And by winds, I might actually mean still air, because it felt to me like the overarching theme of the numbers was one of quiet stasis for the year past, at least when it comes to those languages deemed the cream of the crop. One of the first graphics offered in the post shows the top languages according to the number of repositories created and we see that everything seems to be flowing along, just as it has for the last decade:

While GitHub points to a “steady uptick” for JavaScript after 2011, it looks like this list of languages hasn’t changed much over time. When we look at the top languages according to the number of contributors, we see a similar story, with the top four languages mirrored.

In this chart, of course, we see that Ruby is on a steady decline, while Typescript is on a steady rise. The only surprise to be seen here is that C, after a brief uptick in popularity, has taken a bit of a nosedive over the past year. Either way, seven of 10 languages have the same exact ranking. It would seem, at least for now, that language popularity has leveled off. Of course, that’s not to account for all those also-rans in the periphery that are clawing their way up the charts.

Finally, beyond the language rankings themselves, GitHub offers a wonderful analysis of just what it is that makes a particular language popular in 2018, boiling it down to three key characteristics: thread safety, interoperability, and being open source. Take from it what you will and, in the meantime, check out this wonderful video that succinctly explains how computers count things that are very difficult to count.

This Week in Programming

  • GoLang Turns Nine: Go, the open source programming language backed by Google, is celebrating nine years this week since “the day we open-sourced our initial sketch of Go” and calling the year past “a breakout year for the Go language and community.” In the project’s annual retrospective, readers get a rose-colored summary of Golang’s recent history, making sure to not dwell over any time spent arguing about version control systems or anything of the sort. Instead, the post refers to the numerous surveys that rank Golang as among the most loved and revered. For example, Stack Overflow’s 2018 Developer Survey puts Go in both the top five most loved and top five most wanted languages, while HackerRank’s 2018 Developer Survey says nearly 40 percent of developers have Go as their next language to learn. ActiveState’s 2018 Developer Survey, meanwhile, has 36 percent of users responding they were “Extremely Satisfied” using Go and 61 percent responding “Very Satisfied” or better. The project has seen massive community growth as well, touting the more than 20 Go conferences and 300 Go-related meetups that have sprung up in the five years since the first conferences were held. Finally, after a quick summary of Go 2, which doesn’t address any of the skirmishes along the way (of course), the retrospective notes a “major milestone” for the project — “for the first time, we had more contributions coming from the community than the Go team.”
  • Amazon Offers No-Cost OpenJDK: A couple months back, we shared with you a warning not to fall for the JDK bait and switch, since Oracle had “updated the license terms on which [they] offer the Oracle JDK,” making the previously free product not-so-free. The solution, of course, was to download, instead, the OpenJDK and now Amazon has introduced Amazon Corretto, a no-cost distribution of OpenJDK with Long-Term Support. According to the announcement, the company “will distribute security updates to Corretto 8 at no cost until at least June 2023, and to Corretto 11 until at least August 2024.” A report in The Register notes that the company already uses the distribution internally and is “making the software available to its customers for use in the cloud, or to anyone who wants to use it on premises or locally, on various platforms, including Amazon Linux 2, Microsoft Windows, and macOS, and as a Docker image. It is doing this because Oracle earlier this year announced that it will no longer offer free long-term support for OpenJDK after January 2019, a decision that followed from a shift in the Java development cadence and from Oracle’s apparent desire to focus on paying customers rather than freeloaders.”

Feature image via Pixabay.


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