Python’s on the Rise… While PHP Falls

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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.

3 Responses to “Python’s on the Rise… While PHP Falls”

  1. yardpenalty

    What does it matter which language people are searching on Google? It still doesn’t equate to jobs! That is all any programmer really cares about. I wish I had the million dollar idea so I could just write code for myself! Maybe some day, but for now it would be nice to actually put my education and hard work to use.

  2. I agree with YardPenalty.
    I’d say the rise in people searching for Python is likely related to an increase of the use of the language as a teaching aid in college and possibly related to an increase in enrollment. Those are just guesses though, I haven’t researched it at all. I would say analytics from Dice job postings would give you a better idea of what languages are on the rise in a professional context, which I think is what most people are interested in reading about.

  3. Nidhin David

    The best way to analyse this is to take a look at the popular repos as well as the web servers. If the no: of websites deployed in python has increased and no: of sites deployed in PHP has decreased, then Its meaningful to say this.
    But there are different kinds of people who use programming languages like professionals who code to create, students who code to learn, DIY who code to have fun. All these fields will show interest in different languages. So its hard to conclude.