Upwork, a website for freelance developers, has released its list of fastest-growing skills for the fourth quarter of 2016. Interestingly enough, Swift is the most in-demand language, while language processing commands the top spot as the most desirable technology.
Swift sits at number two on the overall list, and is one of two named languages in the top 20. The only other language is R, which sits in the 17th spot.
If you’re looking for reasons as to why Swift has taken over, Upwork thinks the Apple Watch should be given the credit, writing: “The holiday period caused noticeable spikes in growth for several skills on the list. Sales for the Apple Watch, which is developed using Swift, were at a record high during the holidays.”
It seems a bit of a reach to pin it all on the Apple Watch and watchOS, but Upwork has a point about the popularity of Apple products late last year, when Apple reported its best-ever initial demand for a MacBook Pro. Swift also ranks high on TIOBE’s list of popular languages, and is finally starting to eclipse Objective-C among iOS and macOS developers. Apple also has tvOS for the Apple TV.
Natural language processing tops the Upwork list, which suggests more services are interested in digging into Alexa-style conversational platforms. This doesn’t necessarily mean those who are hiring freelancers to work on natural language processing want to build a unique platform along the lines of the Amazon Echo or Google Home; just that they want a developer who can weave kits and frameworks (such as Nuance) into existing products.
Tableau is third on the list, suggesting hiring companies want someone who can parse their data. Amazon Marketplace and Stripe round out the top five, hinting that commerce was a focus late last year. Perhaps merchants are getting wise to the fact that those companies with good digital experiences see more sales.
Upwork’s list is dynamic, though; in Q3 2016, Swift ranked ninth. Machine learning, currently 12th on the list, sat at the top of the heap that quarter. Tableau was more stable, dropping only one spot (second to third). The catch-all “Android development” fell off the list entirely.
Still, the list is a good barometer for trends and worth consideration for all developers who examine where to devote their efforts. For freelancers, it’s a solid examination of what employers are looking for; even with its ebb and flow, some disciplines (like Swift) stay relevant.