Top programming languages for developers: JavaScript rules, but Python overtakes Java

Programming languages continue to change. Here's what developers are using and which coding languages they want to learn.

JavaScript is still by far the most widely used programming language among developers, and Python has cemented its spot in second place ahead of Java, according to a large survey by developer tooling maker JetBrains. 

According to JetBrains' survey of developers, JavaScript was used by 69% of all respondents in the past 12 months, and 39% nominated it as their primary programming language. 

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JetBrains, a Czech-based tech company, is the maker of the official Android app programming language, Kotlin, and tools like the Java tool IntelliJ IDEA. Its State of Developer Ecosystem 2021 Report is based on answers from 31,743 developers, most of whom are professional and employed. 

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The survey found that Python is more popular than Java overall. A total of 52% reported using Python this year, compared to 49% who said they used Java. Last year it was 55% to Java and 54% to Python. However, Java is more popular than Python as a main language, with 32% reporting Java versus 29% for Python. 

The top languages that developers want to learn through 2022 include Python, Microsoft's JavaScript superset, TypeScript, and Google-made Go.

The top 10 languages in descending order are: JavaScript, HTML/CSS, SQL, Python, Java, Shell scripting language, PHP, TypeScript, C++, and C#. 

The remaining languages in the top 20 include C, Go, Kotlin, Dart, GraphQL, Swift, Ruby, Rust, Groovy, and MATLAB. 

The five fastest-growing languages are Python, TypeScript, Kotlin, SQL, and Go.

An interesting but not surprising figure is that 80% of developers now work from home, compared to 70% of developers working in the office prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

JetBrains took a special look at developer trends in big data. Most developers don't use a specific big data platform, but the one platform that did stand out is Google Colab, which is used by 19% of respondents.  

Asked where their big data is hosted, 36% reported internal servers, while 26% reported it is hosted locally. AWS dominated with a 21% share of external providers, followed by Google Cloud at 8% and Azure at 5%. 

Unsurprisingly, Python dominated among big data developers that use Apache Spark analytics engine, with 66% citing Python as the language they use with Spark, followed by Java at 34% and Scala at 11%.  

JetBrains found a correlation between usage of Jupyter notebooks and Apache Beam with developers who use Google Cloud. Apache Spark and Apache Kafka are more commonly used among AWS developers. 

The survey looked at the most popular tools and systems for each language. For C, the most popular IDE is Microsoft's Visual Studio Code. On build systems, the most popular is CMake, followed by Makfiles. By far, the most popular compiler is GCC, with 82% of C users nominating it as their compiler, followed by Clang at 34%. 

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For C# developers, GCC came out on top too, but Visual Studio was the top IDE, followed by JetBrains Rider, while Windows was the dominant development environment. GCC was also the top choice for C++ developers.

Most respondents (75%) attended university while 74% gained a bachelor degree, 13% completed a masters, and 5% went on to further postgraduate studies. Just over half (54%) studied computer science, while 22% student software engineering. 

The top 5 languages learned: Java, followed by C, Python, C++, and JavaScript. 

JetBrains also asked which massive open online course platforms are the most popular. The top choice was Udemy, followed by Coursera, edX, Pluralsight, Udacity, Codecademy, Khan Academy, DataCamp and Canvas.