The Future’s Biggest Programming Languages


Ask your average developer to name the most popular programming languages, and they’ll likely rattle off a list that includes JavaScript, PHP, C#, Python, Objective-C, and a handful of others—all easy to name, as they’re the languages that have collectively built the foundations of the IT world.

But what will be the most popular languages next year, or even five years from now? While predicting the future is often a fool’s errand, there are signs a few lesser-known languages could become very big over the next decade.

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RedMonk, a tech-industry analyst firm, uses data from GitHub and Stack Overflow to create rankings of not only the most popular programming languages, but also the up-and-comers. Based on those analytics, it thinks that the R language will make big gains in coming years, thanks in large part to its utility in statistical analysis.

Go, a programming language developed by Google, has likewise leapt up RedMonk’s rankings over the past year. “While the language has its critics, its growth prospects appear secure,” read a posting on RedMonk’s blog. “And should the Android support in 1.4 mature, Go’s path to becoming a Top 10 if not Top 5 language would be clear.”

Julia and Rust both climbed the RedMonk list, as did Swift, which is Apple’s replacement for its popular Objective-C programming language. “Swift’s growth is more obvious on Stack Overflow than GitHub, where the most active Swift repositories are either educational or infrastructure in nature,” read RedMonk’s posting, “but even so the growth has been remarkable.”

Despite the growth in these languages, none are likely to overcome the major ones—JavaScript, C#, and so on—anytime soon. By far the highest-ranking language on a recent Dice list of the fastest-growing tech skills, for example, was Python, while you’d be hard-pressed to find many job postings asking for developers skilled in Julia. But over the long term, these rising languages could assume much greater importance, especially (as in the case of Swift) if they become replacements for an existing, popular language.

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7 Responses to “The Future’s Biggest Programming Languages”

  1. perl is still making me a fair living after about 25 years, and I expect “the duct tape of the internet” to continue to do so for at least another decade – I hope to accept a new offer early next week. I’m seeing a lot of offers of python employment, but most of them will accept perl experience instead. YMMV

    • Totally agree, but I can teach a C programmer Python in a day. The converse is not true. Most of Python is built on C library foundations in any case. When I look at the overhead required to produce a simple “console” program in C of 100 lines, and then look at 3 lines of Python (readable lines) it is staggering what we have achieved with library/reuse and OO methods.

      Perl will remain as it was always intended for people with “real work” to do. It is a long time since I have used vi on a regular basis, but it I don’t want to be “chaff” so I have to know the bindings.

      I know people that only use Python for batch twitter, (OAuth was traumatic for them).

      Javascript will be used for many years thanks to Google and the like, there is a lot of “copy and paste” going on in this space. Essentially I am using code of Google origin most of the time.

      I have 25 years, most of them COBOL, C, C++, SQL, everything else as required, perl, awk, sed etc. for utility work (and to hack/fix Webmin before it stabilised).

      R is only popular because of the rise of analytics, and the insane cost of SAS for what is essentially free (IP free) content.

    • You, of course, are absolutely right. I was quite amused when reading the start of this thread to see C# and Objective-C mentioned with no mention of C at all. Though I’m just guessing, I’d guess that there are at least a couple of orders of magnitude more lines of C written than C# and Objective-C combined.