JavaScript, Java lead the way in RedMonk language rankings

When it comes to language usage on GitHub and Stack Overflow, the stalwarts reign

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JavaScript is king when it comes to measuring language usage via GitHub and Stack Overflow.

The RedMonk Programming Language Rankings for this month have JavaScript, Java, and PHP topping the list. Published Wednesday, the rankings are based on an analysis that factors in the number of lines of code pertinent to a particular language in GitHub, as well as tags applicable to a language in Stack Overflow.

"By the narrowest of margins, JavaScript edged Java for the top spot in the rankings, but as always, the difference between the two is so marginal as to be insignificant," said Stephen O'Grady, RedMonk principal analyst and author of the report. "The most important takeaway is that the language frequently written off for dead and the language sometimes touted as the future have shown sustained growth and traction and remain, according to this measure, the most popular offerings."

Rounding out RedMonk's top 10 were Python, C#, C++, Ruby, CSS, C, and Objective-C. In spots 11 to 20 were Perl and Shell (tied for 11th), R, Scala, Haskell, Matlab, Go and Visual Basic (tied for 17th), Clojure and Groovy (tied for 19th).

O'Grady sees trends worth nothing involving several languages, including Go, R, and Swift. "In our last rankings, it was predicted based on its trajectory that Go would become a top 20 language within six to 12 months," he said. "Six months following that, Go can consider that mission accomplished. In this iteration of the rankings, Go leapfrogs Visual Basic, Clojure and Groovy -- and displaces CoffeeScript entirely -- to take number 17 on the list."

R held steady in the 13th spot after four consecutive gains. "Even if R's [growth] does stall at 13, however, it will remain the most popular statistical language by this measure," said O'Grady, "and this in spite of substantial competition from general purpose alternatives like Python."

O'Grady sees Swift, Apple's new language introduced last year, as a "curious" case, jumping from 68th in the last rankings to 22nd now. "From its position far down on the board, Swift now finds itself one spot behind CoffeeScript and just ahead of Lua," he said. "Given this dramatic ascension, it seems reasonable to expect that the Q3 rankings this year will see Swift as a Top 20 language."

CoffeeScript, meanwhile, dropped out of the top 20 languages for the first time in two years. "The 'little language that compiles into JavaScript' positioned itself as a compromise between JavaScript's ubiquity and syntactical eccentricities, but support for it appears to be slowly eroding," noted O'Grady. "How it performs in the third-quarter rankings should provide more insight into whether this is a temporary dip or more permanent decline."

The RedMonk rankings are yet another barometer of programming language popularity. Published twice a year, the rankings differ slightly from the Pypl Popularity Programming Language index, which has Java in its top spot, PHP second, and JavaScript seventh. PyPL looks at searches on language tutorials in Google to compile its report. Another index, Tiobe, looks at language searches on a variety of sites; it has C in its top spot, followed by Java. PHP is sixth and JavaScript seventh. But JavaScript was named Tiobe's language of the year for 2014 showing the biggest gain.

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