Java and JavaScript Top Latest RedMonk Language Rankings; Kotlin Gets a Spotlight

The latest Programming Language Rankings from the industry watchers at RedMonk offered few surprises this time around. JavaScript topped the list, with Java coming in second. Both languages have held the top spots since Drew Conway and John Myles White began the work from which these rankings grew in 2010, noted RedMonk analyst Stephen O'Grady. Python, PHP, and C# ranked third, fourth, and fifth, respectively.

But in this report, Kotlin, a language that didn't make the Top 20, was given special attention in its discussion section.

"Generally speaking, we don't spend much time discussing languages ranked #46 on our board," O'Grady wrote. "When Google chooses one to be a fully supported language on the most popular mobile platform in the world, however, we make exceptions."

As we reported in May, the statically typed language created and then open sourced by JetBrains will be shipping out of the box in Android Studio 3.0, and Google is joining with the language's creator to form a non-profit foundation to guide its future development.

Kotlin, which targets the JVM, Android and JavaScript, and also compiles to native code, jumped a mere four spots since the January rankings were released (up from No. 50), but O'Grady notes that Kotlin had only 15 days to benefit from its new role as Google's alternative to Swift.

"Two things are interesting about the Kotlin numbers," he wrote. "First, the jump it made to get to #50. Kotlin spent the 2016 calendar year way down at #65 on our rankings; all of a sudden in January, it jumped 15 spots to #50. If you look at the Stack Overflow chart from our look at the language, it's clear that the 'low key buzz' Steve Yegge referred to was real and measurable (and, as an aside, will likely have us looking more closely at anomalous results down the rankings more closely in future). If we date not from Android's decision, then, but from the early unannounced interest in the language, we're looking at a 19-point jump."

Kotlin's 19-point jump was a rare event in the history of the RedMonk rankings, and might actually understate it popularity. This quarter's rankings are the second based on "a new and stable process for collecting the base metrics," which the RedMonk analysts described in the January report. The sources of those metrics, however, continue to be the language rankings from GitHub and Stack Overflow. "The idea is not to offer a statistically valid representation of current usage, but rather to correlate language discussion (Stack Overflow) and usage (GitHub) in an effort to extract insights into potential future adoption trends," the report states.

"Our GitHub rankings placed Kotlin 39th, but on Stack Overflow the language came in in 60th place," O'Grady wrote. "This is suggestive of people exploring and writing in Kotlin behind the scenes, but not discussing it much in public. It seems safe to assume that that ratio will change with Android developers worldwide increasingly looking at Kotlin for their applications moving forward."

So, the big question isn't whether Kotlin will rise in the rankings, but how fast how high.

"Are we looking at a Rust trajectory?" O'Grady writes. "A Go trajectory? Or, most exciting to advocates, one that looks like Swift? Kotlin's already moving, but our January rankings should be fascinating to watch for Android's new first-tier language alone."

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].