Apple's Swift cracks RedMonk's top 15 in record time

Rust, Go, and PowerShell also gather steam in the analyst firm's biannual language rankings

Apple's Swift cracks RedMonk's top 15 in record time
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Swift, Apple's successor language to Objective-C, has made great strides in the latest biannual RedMonk Programming Language Rankings, moving up to a tie for 11th spot, after placing 17th in the mid-year 2016 rankings.

Released last Friday, the rankings also show Microsoft's TypeScript, Google's Go, and Mozilla Rust making progress. The rankings are based on a recently retweaked formula that assesses code usage in GitHub and language discussions in Stack Overflow.

Finishing from first to fifth were JavaScript, Java, Python, PHP and, tied for fifth, C# and C++. These were the same spots these languages held in the June 2016 rankings (although Ruby, which had tied for fifth last time around, slipped to a seventh-place tie with CSS). But it was beyond the top names where RedMonk cited significant movement.

Swift placed 11th in the current rankings, tied with Scala and Shell and behind Objective-C, which came in 10th place. "Swift has reached a Top 15 ranking faster than any other language we have tracked since we've been performing these rankings," RedMonk Principal Analyst Stephen O'Grady said. "Its strong performance from a GitHub perspective suggests that the wider, multiplatform approach taken by the language is paying benefits."

Despite Swift's climb, RedMonk still sees the language entering "something of a trough of disillusionment," from a market standpoint, with hype giving way to skepticism in many quarters. Still, Swift remains a "language to watch," O'Grady said. Swift's good fortunes in the RedMonk rankings follows similar placement in another language popularity ranking, the Tiobe index, where it placed 10th in this month's index.

TypeScript, Microsoft's typed superset of JavaScript, jumped 17 points in RedMonk's GitHub rankings and cracked the top 20 in the overall rankings, vaulting nine spots to 17th place. RedMonk suspects the language's good fortunes of late were tied to the Angular framework, which was rewritten in TypeScript.

Go, which benefited from the updated ranking model, jumped four spots in the GitHub portion of the ranking system. Overall, it tied for 15th place with Perl, the same spot as in the June 2016 rankings, but it was leapfrogged by Swift. "To some extent, this isn't a surprise, as Go had neither the built-in draw of iOS mobile app development nor is it generally positioned as a front- and back-end language as Swift increasingly is," O'Grady said. But 15th place still was impressive for an infrastructure runtime, said O'Grady.

Rust, meanwhile, jumped from 47th place to 26th. "This comes two quarters after the language not only stalled, but actually gave up ground in our last rankings," O'Grady said, noting that Rust perhaps is becoming the mainstream language that many had expected it to be. Also faring well in the latest rankings was Microsoft's PowerShell, which broke into the top 20 in the 18th spot, equaling TypeScript's improvement in the GitHub portion of the rankings. "While we can't prove causation, it is interesting to note that this dramatic improvement from PowerShell comes one quarter after it was released as open source software," O'Grady pointed out.

In detailing the latest changes to the formula, O'Grady said RedMonk needed to adjust its query due to shifts in the GitHub Archive table structure and GitHub's API. RedMonk ended up basing its GitHub assessment on pull requests instead of repos. "While this means we couldn't replicate the rankings as they were before, the results were generally correlated with our past runs and were the best method available," O'Grady said. "On the positive side, it also eliminates the most common complaint regarding the rankings historically: that measurements by repo might overestimate a given language's importance -- JavaScript, most frequently."

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