Python Edges Out Java in Annual Usage Survey

The Java programming language continued to be the most popular primary programming language among developers during the past 12 months, according to a new survey, but Python topped the list of most used languages overall during that period.

Published by software development toolmaker JetBrains, "The State of the Developer Ecosystem 2020" assembled the survey responses of 19,696 developers from 18 countries. This year's report includes new sections covering the R language, Microservices, Testing, Big Data, and "developer lifestyles." This year's survey also employed a new methodology, said JetBrains marketing analyst Anastassiya Sichkarenko in a blog post, which made it possible to query the nearly 20,000 developers.

Python also emerged as the most studied language among survey respondents, with 30% reporting that they have started or continued to learn the language in the past year. The Go language, which was came in at 8% in 2017, is now in the toolboxes of 19% of respondents. Typescript has progressed from being used by 12% of respondents and being the primary language for 1% in 2017, to 28% and 12%, respectively during the past 12 months.

One reason for the rising popularity of Python, which has been rising to the top of virtually every tech trend list for the past two years, is that it has become the go-to language for AI, ML, and natural language programming (NLP) development, thanks in no small part to the dozen or so libraries and development tools that support it, from TensorFlow to Pytorch. And simple syntax and readability promote rapid testing of complex algorithms, and make the language accessible to non-programmers.

The survey also found that, despite the availability of newer versions, Java 8 continues to be the most widely used version of the venerable programming language. About 75% of survey respondents reported using it. Java 11 is becoming more popular: usage among survey respondents grew by 10% over last year. The newer versions of Java (v12 and v13) are quickly finding their audiences, the survey found. Both regularly used by 10% or more of the developers the company surveyed.

The JetBrains survey also found that:

  1. Websites are the most common type of application developers worked on over the year, with 70% involved in back-end development.
  2. The list of primary programming languages also include JavaScript and HTML/CSS.
  3. TypeScript is steadily gaining users; 28% of respondents reported using it during the past year, up from 12% in 2017, and 12% said it was their primary language, which is a huge jump from the 1% reported in 2017.
  4. Windows is the top operating system for development environments (60%), followed by Linux (50%), and macOS (44%).
  5. 58% of survey respondents reported that programming is also their hobby, along with playing video games, listening to music, and reading.

Prague-based JetBrains is the creator of the popular IntelliJ IDEA software development environment, and the chief commercial supporter of the statically typed Kotlin language. The company currently makes more than two dozen tool and IDEs.

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].