For those new to RedMonk’s semi-annual analysis, its methodology is pretty straightforward: it combines the language rankings from GitHub and Stack Overflow, with the output designed to reflect both code usage (from GitHub) and developer discussion (from Stack Overflow). “The idea is not to offer a statistically valid representation of current usage, but rather to correlate language discussion and usage in an effort to extract insights into potential future adoption trends,” the firm cautions in its note accompanying each ranking update.
Although the technology landscape is known for its rapid changes, the languages at the top of RedMonk’s list don’t shift very often. This is due in large part to the enormous blocks of legacy code that dominate the technology landscape (and must be maintained by companies, often at considerable expense). “New language entrants are behind from the day they are released, in other words, which makes displacing the most popular languages a significant and uphill battle,” RedMonk notes.
In RedMonk’s estimation, certain languages qualify as up-and-comers. Chief among them: Swift, which is rapidly overcoming Objective-C, its predecessor, as the primary platform for iOS and macOS development. “Even as Swift grew at an incredible rate, Objective C’s history kept it out in front of its replacement,” the firm explains. “Eventually, however, the trajectories had to intersect, and this quarter’s run is the first occasion in which this has happened.” It took Swift a grand total of four years to land in RedMonk’s top 10, which counts as pretty rapid progress.
While Swift still boasts momentum, things seem to have plateaued for Go, which also enjoyed rapid uptake over the past few years. “While its reputation as a back end language is unquestioned, [Go] lacks the versatility of comparable languages like Java that would grant it access to new markets and thus new growth,” RedMonk suggests.
Other languages to watch: Kotlin (which was recently named a “first class” programming language for Android) and Rust, which is similar to C++ and emphasizes memory safety.
RedMonk’s ranking echoes other programming-language lists produced by firms such as TIOBE. For developers and other tech pros, it’s important to keep focused on the “smaller” languages rapidly climbing the list; it could indicate the languages you’ll end up using a few years from now.