Python top programming language in new survey – what happened to JavaScript?

Python top programming language in new survey – what happened to JavaScript?

A new programming language survey from IEEE Spectrum places Python as the top language, followed by Java, C++ and C. 

This is the 10th annual survey from the professional organization’s publication, and the compilers state that “Python doesn’t just remain No 1 …. but it widens its lead.” JavaScript is fifth in the ranking, followed by C# and SQL.

The popularity of Python is not in doubt, and the language has likely benefited from the industry’s current obsession with AI, but why is it that other surveys such as the Redmonk Programming Language Rankings or the JetBrains State of Developer Ecosystem or the Stack Overflow survey of around 90,000 developers place JavaScript top and Python in second place?

IEEE Spectrum uses eight metrics to measure language popularity: Google searches; Stack Overflow questions; the IEEE digital library; the IEEE job site; the US job site CareerBuilder; GitHub repositories; programming books published; and Discord servers. A weighting is applied to each metric, though this is subjective and not stated.

Such surveys are indicative of trends, particularly when repeated annually using the same metrics, but do not necessarily answer the question of which is the most popular programming language.

The Stack Overflow survey, the biggest of its kind, shows JavaScript used by 63.61 percent of respondents, with HTML/CSS second at 52.97 percent, Python third (49.28 percent), and SQL fourth (48.66 percent). Given that these are developers stating what languages they use it may be a more reliable guide to popularity. Some aspects are problematic though, such as that it is hardly like for like. Python and JavaScript both qualify as general-purpose languages, but HTML/CSS and SQL do not. 

IEEE Spectrum falls into the same trap; and in fact its job statistics show that SQL is in even higher demand than Python. However, this might be because jobs for all kinds of developer roles may well mention SQL as a required skill, simply because it is hard to escape – no matter what programming language is used. JavaScript is similarly hard to avoid completely for those doing web development.

Whether it is first or second though, the rise of Python is remarkable, particularly since its performance is relatively poor (though improving). Adoption in education is one of the reasons, as noted by IEEE Spectrum, added to the wide use of Python for machine learning, thanks to the likes of Tensorflow and PyTorch. Further, developers like the language. According to Stack Overflow’s survey, 65 percent actively want to use Python, and in this it is ahead of most mainstream languages, such as JavaScript, Java, C, C++ and C#, though behind the much-loved Rust at nearly 85 percent.