GitHub: 3 Features Make Programming Languages Popular

GitHub has identified three features that make a programming language popular in 2018.

The popularity of programming languages is always a hot topic among coders, with several ranking systems -- TIOBE Index, Redmonk, PYPL, IEEE and more -- in place to track that sentiment through a variety of criteria.

Top Programming Languages Used over Time
[Click on image for larger view.] Top Programming Languages Used over Time (source: GitHub).

In GitHub's case, the software development platform/code repository tracks its sprawling ecosystem used by 31 million developers to publish the huge annual Octoverse report, where languages are ranked according to the number of unique contributors to public and private repositories tagged with the appropriate primary language, along with the number of repositories created and tagged with the appropriate primary language.

The company last month published its 2018 Octoverse report that once again confirmed the usual top three languages: JavaScript, Java and Python. Along with total numbers, it also examined the fastest-growing languages, where the top three are: Kotlin, HCL and TypeScript.

Yesterday (Nov. 15), the company revisited the report to further examine programming languages to find out why and where they're popular, coming up with three common features.

Here are those three common features and what GitHub had to say about them:

Thread Safety
With the exception of Python, we’ve seen a rise in static typing, likely because of the security and efficiency it offers individual developers and teams working on larger applications. TypeScript’s optional static typing adds an element of safety, and Kotlin, in particular, offers greater interactivity, all while creating trustworthy, thread-safe programs.
Part of the reason TypeScript has climbed our rankings is because of its ability to coexist and integrate with JavaScript. Rust and Kotlin are also on the rise, both of which find built-in audiences in JavaScript and Java, respectively. Python’s versatility and interoperability are also impressive; for example, developers can directly call Python APIs from Swift.

Interoperability doesn’t only imply that languages have a pre-existing community to use and build on them. It also means that they can transcend and intermingle with different communities. For example, Kotlin was acknowledged as a first-class citizen on the Android platform last year.

Open Source
And, of course, these languages are also open source projects, actively maintained on GitHub. Communities that evolve, answer questions, and create resources for newer languages like Kotlin can help developers start and continue working with them in 2018 and beyond.

To review, here are some other highlights taken from last month's report:

  • Ruby contributors use the [heart] reaction on issue and pull request comments more than contributors to any other programming language—no surprises here.
  • Open source contributors from the Czech Republic are the “chattiest” in the world.
  • Developers from all over the world take holidays off, but the quietest time on GitHub happens around New Year’s Day (January 1).
  • The open source community makes time to contribute. Contributors are working in OS repositories well into the evening.
  • The Microsoft Azure Documentation project topped the fastest-growing list, with a 4.7x change from last year, followed by pytorch and godotengine.
  • In a "coolness" ranking -- based on the number of stars awarded -- the google/dopamine project, described as "a research framework for quickly prototyping reinforcement learning algorithms," was No. 1.
  • Microsoft dominated the organization contribution ranking by a wide margin, with 7,700 contributions made by employees, with Google coming in second at 5,500.
  • The top topics tagged were React, Android and node.js.
  • The fastest-growing topics were hacktoberfest, pytorch and machine.
  • The top language used by contributors was again JavaScript, followed by Java, Python, PHP, C++, C#, TypeScript, Shell and C.
  • The fastest-growing languages were Kotlin, HCL, TypeScript, PowerShell, Rust, CMake, Go, Python, Groovy and SQLPL.

About the Author

David Ramel is an editor and writer for Converge360.