While this month’s lists of the top programming languages uniformly list Java in the top spot, that’s not the only detail of interest to developers. Which language has gained the most users over the past five years? And which are tottering on the edge of obsolescence?
According to PYPL, which pulls its raw data for analysis from Google Trends, Python has grown the most over the past five years—up 5 percent since roughly 2010. Over the same period, PHP also declined by 5 percent. Since PYPL looks at how often language tutorials are searched on Google, its data is a good indicator of how many developers are (or aren’t) learning a language, presumably because they see it as valuable to their careers.
Python’s growth is even more notable when you consider the language is 25 years old, an eternity in the tech industry. That being said, its continuing popularity rests on a few key attributes: It’s easy to learn, runs on a variety of platforms, serves as an exemplary general-purpose language, and boasts a robust community devoted to regularly improving its features.
Just because PYPL shows PHP losing market-share over the long term doesn’t mean that language is in danger of imminent collapse; over the past year or so, the PHP community has concentrated on making the language more pleasant to use, whether by improving features such as package management, or boosting overall performance. Plus, PHP is still used on hundreds of millions of Websites, according to data from Netcraft.
Indeed, if there’s any language on these analysts’ lists that risks doom, it’s Objective-C, Apple’s longtime language for programming iOS and Mac OS X apps, and its growing obsolescence is by design. Its replacement, Swift, has, well, swiftly climbed the TIOBE, RedMonk, PYPL, and other rankings over the past year.
For developers and other tech pros, these lists come in useful when deciding which languages to pursue. Ones near the top of the rankings are in wide use, usually making them worth your valuable learning time. Ones further down the lists, on the other hand, are either specialized languages in limited use (but still valuable, particularly to those who’ve mastered them) or fading away. Plan appropriately.