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Python 'Fastest-Growing Major Programming Language' Says Stack Overflow

Stack Overflow data indicates the increasing use of Python -- possibly spurred by its data science friendliness -- has driven it to new levels of popularity, making it the "fastest-growing major programming language."

That conclusion comes from the popular coding Q&A site's practice of drawing on years of data -- collected from users seeking help -- to share programming trends and insights in a series of blog posts.

Earlier, the site discovered differences in activity from "high-income" countries and developing countries.

In the latest post, "The Incredible Growth of Python," the site explored that notion further and correlated data from wealthier countries to find they're propelling Python to new popularity heights. While Stack Overflow said it will discuss they "why" aspects of this conclusion later, many developers attribute the language's rise in popularity to its increasing use in data science.

"When we focus on high-income countries, the growth of Python is even larger than it might appear from tools like Stack Overflow Trends, or in other rankings that consider global software development," the post said. Stack Overflow examined site traffic data from the past five years to add to the discourse about programming language popularity, the measurement of which has spawned a number of indices, tools, reports and endless debates.

"The term 'fastest-growing' can be hard to define precisely, but we make the case that Python has a solid claim to being the fastest-growing major programming language," Stack Overflow said.

Python Tops JavaScript, Java
[Click on image for larger view.] Python Tops JavaScript, Java (source: Stack Overflow)

The SO post details all the different factors and techniques affecting its conclusion (such as the seasonal spikes of Java, used in many academic courses) and finds Python's popularity hike is impressive even in non-wealthy countries. "Outside of high-income countries Python is still the fastest growing major programming language," the post said.

Stack Overflow said it didn't want to contribute to a "language war" and emphasized it's not making any qualitative judgments, merely publishing data because "we believe it's worth understanding what languages make up the developer ecosystem, and how that ecosystem might be changing."

"This post demonstrated that Python has shown a surprising growth in the last five years, especially within high-income countries," it concluded. "In our next post, we'll start to explore the 'why'. We'll segment the growth by country and by industry, and examine what other technologies tend to be used alongside Python (to estimate, for example, how much of the growth has been due to increased usage of Python for Web development versus for data science)."

However, many readers commenting on the post already attributed Python's popularity to its affinity for data science analytics.

"The 'why' for Python (and to a large extent R) is fairly obvious: The rise of Data Science/ML/Deep Learning," one commenter said. "Deep Learning frameworks available with Python APIs, in addition to Spark for 'Big Data', combined with the ease of picking up Python and a couple decades worth of scientific packages coming from academia and industry have made Python an incredibly productive and versatile Swiss Army Knife."

Similar sentiments were found in Hacker News discussions.

"Predicting it now. A large part of the 'why' is going to be because of the jump in data science," said one comment. "Python is an incredibly kind language to new comers in the sense that it allows you to just get started. A lot of people are making bigger jumps into data science (purely anecdotal) in the sense that they are programming more around it. Scraping data, cleaning data, etc. is also really easy with Python."

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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