Survey: Developers turning to less-troublesome JavaScript variants

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CoffeeScript's climb in language index means developers want more choices beyond JavaScript

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CoffeeScript, a preprocessor that takes code and compiles it to JavaScript, is creeping forward in a prominent language popularity index -- a sign that developers want alternatives to JavaScript.

This month’s Tiobe Index of language popularity has CoffeeScript entering its top 100 languages for the first time, ranked 64th, albeit with a rating of less than 1 percent, like most of the languages featured in the index. Tiobe’s index gauges language popularity based on a formula assessing searches on specific languages in a variety of search engines.

“The surge for CoffeeScript was expected already some time ago,” said Paul Jansen, managing director of Tiobe, in an email. “Now that everybody is forced to use JavaScript and it is very easy to shoot yourself in the foot with JavaScript, [the] industry is looking for alternatives. These are Dart, CoffeeScript, TypeScript, and many others.”

JavaScript, ranked seventh in this month’s index, is a staple of Web development. Dart is ranked close behind CoffeeScript at 66th place. TypeScript does not register on this month’s index. But that could change soon, given a recent partnership between Google and Microsoft that heavily leverages TypeScript, which is Microsoft’s answer to JavaScript.

This month’s index also has F#, Microsoft’s functional programming language, reaching an all-time-high ranking of 11th place, with a share of 0.29 percent. It was ranked 12th in last month’s index and was seen as on its way to the top 10 a year ago. That still has not happened. But interest nonetheless is growing in functional languages such as F# and Scala. “F# has the luck that it is part of Microsoft's Visual Studio ecosystem, so it is easier to accept as a solution by industry,” Jansen said.

Elsewhere in the index, C is tops again, with a 16.64 rating, followed by Java (15.58 percent), Objective-C (6.69 percent), C++ (6.64 percent), and C# (4.92 percent). The alternative PyPL Popularity of Language Index, which assesses searches on language tutorials in Google, has Java in its top spot with a 24.3 percent share, followed by PHP (11.4 percent), Python (10.7 percent), C# (8.8 percent), and C ++ (8 percent).

The two indexes part ways when it comes to Apple’s Swift language, introduced last June. PyPL has it in 11th place, with a 2.7 percent share, while Tiobe ranks it 23rd, with a rating of 0.82 percent. It was ranked 16th in the Tiobe index last July. Still, Jansen sees good things for it. “Usually if one of the big software companies announce a new programming language it will hit the top 20 the first few months [due to hype]. After that, it will drop and then the most important phase starts: adoption,” he said. “This is a very gradual process. The fact that Swift is at position 23 is a good sign. This means that adoption is taken place and we can expect Swift to be back in the top 20 soon.”

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