Kotlin, Swift Battle Older Languages for Adoption: RedMonk

A number of analyst firms rank programming languages by popularity, and the top tiers of those rankings stay pretty consistent from year to year, always with some combination of Python, Java, JavaScript, PHP, and C# (or C++) taking the first five slots. The real action usually takes place further down the list, where smaller and more specialized languages are either gaining traction or falling into permanent disuse.

In RedMonk’s latest update to its rankings, Kotlin, Scala, Clojure, and Groovy are the languages to watch. Having enjoyed immense publicity and an accompanying rise in the rankings over the past year or so, Kotlin has stalled in 28th place (dropping one rank from RedMonk’s previous listing). “What this means for the future has yet to be determined, and Kotlin’s future remains bright, but its triumphant ascendance will have to wait for another quarter,” read the firm’s breakdown.

Even as Kotlin (temporarily) stalled, Scala, Clojure, and Groovy enjoyed a collective rise—a sign that developers are gravitating toward Java Virtual Machine (JVM) languages in addition to their “regular” Java work. Meanwhile, Java placed second on RedMonk’s list, and it will likely remain immensely popular far into the future; its install base remains massive.

Speaking of install bases and legacy code, Objective-C is managing to hold on despite the ascendance of Swift. Although Apple intended Swift as an outright replacement for Objective-C, and has spent the past few years aggressively pushing it onto developers, the huge number of apps and programs written in Objective-C guarantees it will maintain a significant presence for quite some time to come.

That being said, RedMonk believes that Swift will accelerate past Objective-C—eventually. “While it has yet to break in to the Top 10 and stay there, Swift’s adoption and usage remains robust,” the firm added. “If or when it is ever established as a server side language as IBM and others have attempted to push at times, its ceiling is virtually unlimited.”

RedMonk’s ranking methodology is pretty straightforward: “We extract language rankings from GitHub and Stack Overflow, and combine them for a ranking that attempts to reflect both code (GitHub) and discussion (Stack Overflow) traction.” However, the firm isn’t going for a statistically valid representation of languages’ current usage so much as a correlation between language discussion and usage, “in an effort to extract insights into potential future adoption trends.” (There are also some quirks to its system, such as excluding forked repos from analysis.)

Swift, Kotlin, and other, smaller languages will almost certainly see a rise in adoption over the next several years. The big question is whether any of these languages can overthrow the ones at the very top of the list.

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