RedMonk: JavaScript Remains No. 1 Programming Language

Despite a change in methodology, the latest biannual RedMonk Programming Language Ranking shows JavaScript is holding on to its No. 1 spot.

With a focus on providing insights into future adoption trends, the RedMonk report weighs rankings from the GitHub code repository to gauge traction in code usage, while also collecting data from the Stack Overflow programming forum site to glean discussion-based metrics.

The January 2017 report is the first from the company that reflects a change in methodology having to do with the GitHub rankings, but that change didn't seem to have much effect on JavaScript and other perennial top performers.

"Updated process or no, JavaScript and Java retain their respective positions atop our rankings," RedMonk's Stephen O'Grady said in a blog post Friday. "The lack of movement in JavaScript is particularly notable given that some argued that measuring by repo overweighted JavaScript's actual significance versus a metric like pull requests, the basis for the new query. PHP has dropped a spot for the first time in the history of our rankings, but remains enormously popular even at the number four spot.

"Out of all of the languages in the top ten, on the other hand, Python benefitted the most from the change in our GitHub ranking process: where the average movement was one spot, Python jumped three spots, hence its leapfrogging of PHP. Outside of that, the only really notable movement in the top ten was Ruby dropping from five to seven."

Here's the plot of the latest report:

The RedMonk Programming Language Rankings: January 2017
[Click on image for larger view.] The RedMonk Programming Language Rankings: January 2017 (source: RedMonk)

And here's the comparison (reflecting several ties) of the January 2017 report to the January 2016 report:

Rank January 2017 January 2016
1 JavaScript JavaScript
2 Java Java
3 Python PHP
4 PHP Python
5 C# C#
6 C++ C++
7 CSS Ruby
8 Ruby CSS
9 C C
10 Objective-C Objective-C
11 Scala Shell
12 Shell Perl
13 Swift R
14  R Scala
15 Go Go
16 Perl Haskell
17 TypeScript Swift
18 PowerShell Matlab
19 Haskell Clojure
20 Clojure Groovy
21 CoffeeScript Visual Basic
21 Lua  
23 Matlab  

RedMonk advises that numerical rankings -- provided just for general interest -- aren't as important as the different "tiers" of languages, reflected in the rough groupings shown on the plot.

Whether measured in numerical rankings or tiers, however, JavaScript has reigned in the No. 1 spot on the RedMonk ranking since it began in 2010, based on research done by Drew Conway.

JavaScript's popular dominance has also been reflected in other indices and reports as the programming language has matured from its early days as a lowly Web scripting language to a modern jack-of-all-trades tool, being used on the server side with frameworks like Node.js, and even being targeted at hybrid mobile app development, and later native mobile app development with tools such as React Native.

In January, for example, it was named the "Application & Data Tool of the Year" for 2016 by StackShare Inc., which runs a developer-only community that tracks software tools.

It also garnered "programming language of the year" honors for 2014 by the TIOBE Index.

While JavaScript continues to top the RedMonk rankings, the company noticed few positional changes in its latest report. However, it did note that R, popular for data science and Big Data analytics, stopped its steady rise, which saw it move from No. 15 to No. 13 to No. 12 before falling to No. 14 in the January ranking.

Swift is also continuing its meteoric rise as it subsumes Objective-C as the primary language tool for iOS coders.

"On the opposite end of the R, Swift was a major beneficiary of the new GitHub process, jumping eight spots from 24 to 16 on our GitHub rankings," O'Grady said. "While the language appears to be entering something of a trough of disillusionment from a market perception standpoint, with major hype giving way to skepticism in many quarters, its statistical performance according to the observable metrics we track remains strong. Swift has reached a Top 15 ranking faster than any other language we have tracked since we've been performing these rankings."

About the Author

David Ramel is an editor and writer for Converge360.