Programming language rankings: JavaScript still rules, Python holds off Java

The Python programming language appears to have a firm hold as the second most popular language over Java.

Love it or hate it, JavaScript is the most popular language today, followed by Python and Java, according to developer analyst RedMonk's Q1 2021 language popularity rankings. 

The top 20 in RedMonk's Q1 2021 rankings don't differ much from its July 2020 rankings. However, RedMonk analyst Stephen O'Grady notes that half of the top 20 "experienced a degree of movement, which is very unusual". 

One language that's ascended rapidly in recent years is Python and it hasn't budged from the number two spot — a position it took from Oracle's Java last July after tying with Java in Q1 2020

"Java was extremely hot on Python's heels – and was in fact closer to the number one ranking than to PHP behind it – but Python's ability to defend its new high ranking is notable," writes O'Grady

SEE: Hiring Kit: Python developer (TechRepublic Premium)

But O'Grady reckons JavaScript, based on rising pull requests on GitHub, makes it a "force of nature like no other within the industry", despite the language's detractors.

RedMonk bases its language rankings from GitHub data such as the number of pull requests in various languages and discussions on developer info-sharing site Stack Overflow. RedMonk then combines them for a ranking "that attempts to reflect both code (GitHub) and discussion (Stack Overflow) traction".

TypeScript, Microsoft's superset of JavaScript with a type system that compiles into JavaScript, rose one spot to eighth position.

O'Grady reckons TypeScript has consolidated its place as a top 10 language and is now questioning whether it will rise to fifth or sixth spot. 

Rust, created at Mozilla, also rose one spot to 19th position. Last month, Mozilla handed off Rust to the new Rust Foundation, an independent organization backed by AWS, Huawei, Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla. AWS is looking at Rust for infrastructure programming. Mozilla created it as a memory safe alternative to C and C++. 

SEE: What is Agile software development? Everything you need to know about delivering better code, faster

Google's Go programming language dropped one spot to 16th position, while Kotlin, a language that Google endorses for Android app development, rose one spot to 18th position. 

RedMonk's top 10 for Q1 2021:

  1. JavaScript
  2. Python
  3. Java
  4. PHP
  5. C#
  6. C++
  7. CSS
  8. TypeScript
  9. Ruby
  10. C