How Programming Languages Differ Around the World

Do developers and tech pros in developing countries use the same programming languages and technologies as their colleagues in places like the United States?

Stack Overflow decided to crunch the data and find out. Drawing from site visits and tags it traced back to 64 countries, it came to the conclusion that developers in different countries do indeed rely on different programming languages, depending on their goals.

“This is important context when we’re using Stack Overflow data to learn about the developer ecosystem,” read Stack Overflow’s note accompanying the data. “An American tech recruiter interested in the future of the industry will need a different set of answers than an Indian student wondering what language to learn, or an investor looking to understand tech companies in Kenya.”

The analysis isn’t an attempt to directly correlate the use of certain languages with a country’s average income: rather, their use is driven by a “mixture of economic and social factors,” including level of education and age of the local software industry, that ultimately align with a country’s wealth.

After crunching the data, Stack Overflow pulled out some interesting insights. Among them: Python and R, which are staple data-science technologies, are used far more often in developed countries. “This suggests that part of the income gap in these two languages may be due to their role in science and academic research,” the note continued. “It makes sense these would be more common in wealthier industrialized nations, where scientific research makes up a larger portion of the economy and programmers are more likely to have advanced degrees.”

Those in higher-income countries also tend to use C/C++ more, while PHP is “notably associated with lower-income countries.” CogeIgniter, a PHP open-source framework, is “most disproportionately visited” from users in Southeast Asia’s developing nations, possibly due to a proliferation of local firms that outsource Web-building work.

The most-used technologies in high-income nations included, in descending order, Java, Python, JavaScript, C#, HTML, Android, jQuery, and PHP; in the rest of the world, the top-ranked included (also in descending order) JavaScript, Java, Android, C#, PHP, jQuery, HTML, and Python. So no stark differences here, but there’s nonetheless enough variation to keep things interesting.

There’s much more available at Stack Overflow’s blog, including some neat visualizations. If you work in an international context (or desire to), it’s well worth a look.

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