RedMonk Language Rankings Highlight TypeScript, Kotlin, R Growth

Once again, analyst firm RedMonk has updated its ranking of world’s programming languages. This time around, some of those languages have risen or fallen a few ranks—an unusual occurrence, given the list’s usual stability. What’s going on here?

First, a word about RedMonk’s methodology. “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,” the firm states in its introduction to the rankings. “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.”

Indeed, the firm wants readers to view the list as more of a predictor of future use, as opposed to a measure of popularity: “No claims are made here that these rankings are representative of general usage more broadly.”

With all that in mind, here’s the list: 

Roughly half of the languages in the top 20 experienced some kind of movement, which RedMonk attributes to the radical changes gripping technologists during the COVID-19 pandemic: “It’s difficult to attribute this definitively to any higher level macro trends, but the data is consistent with an industry that picked the pace back up in the last two quarters of the year after the initial chaos of lockdowns and so on gave way to livable if extremely suboptimal new routines.”

TypeScript, R, Kotlin and Rust have all risen a rank since the last time RedMonk took the programming ecosystem’s temperature. TypeScript, which is technically a superset of JavaScript, has attracted a good deal of attention from developers due to its speed as well as its interoperability with existing JavaScript codebases. R, a highly specialized language for data science, seems to have fended off Python’s muscular attempt to seize data scientists’ time and attention. Kotlin and Rust, meanwhile, have attracted a good deal of developer buzz over the past while. 

Of all languages, Dart is the one that’s made the most impressive gains. “Two years after the introduction of the Flutter framework, however, Dart is up another three spots to sit just outside of our Top 20 at 21,” RedMonk added. “This jump comes two quarters after Dart had seemingly stalled—along with Kotlin—raising questions of whether it had peaked.”

Languages that have tumbled somewhat in the rankings include Ruby (down two spots) and Go (down one spot). This might come as a surprise to anyone who’s monitored Go’s larger fortunes, especially given how well the language pays—but Go apparently faces some stronger-than-expected headwinds. “It also has not helped Go that Java, a primary competitor for back end application composition, has remained a vital and highly used language instead of fading away after so many years of service,” RedMonk added. “But whether it’s static or in decline, if Go has ambitions to be a true industry force, some change in its path and structure is probably necessary.”

As you decide which languages to learn, keep an eye on lists like RedMonk’s to see where the industry might be going. Up-and-coming languages such as Kotlin are always worth paying attention to, but keep in mind that older languages such as Python and JavaScript remain dominant for a reason.