Programming languages: Java still rules over Python and JavaScript as primary language

But Python is the language that most developers are learning these days.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Java, JavaScript and Python are invariably the three most popular programming languages in several indexes, but their exact order varies depending on how the ranking is calculated. Lately most have placed JavaScript and Python ahead of or equal to Java. 

But a new survey from Czech IDE maker JetBrains has found that Java, historically the most popular programming language, is still the top main language used by developers.

"Java is the most popular primary programming language," declares JetBrains in its State of Developer Ecosystem 2020 report

SEE: Programming languages and developer career resources (TechRepublic on Flipboard)

JetBrains makes the popular IntelliJ IDEA Java IDE, which is also the foundation for Google's Android Studio, as well as Kotlin, a programming language that Google officially supports for Android development, and the widely used PyCharm IDE

JetBrains' survey of almost 20,000 developers found on the other hand that JavaScript is the most used overall programming language. 

JetBrains asked developers to pick up to three languages they consider their primary programming language. In this context, JavaScript comes out on top (39%), followed Java (37%), and Python (31%). 

JetBrains analyst Sichkarenko Anastassiya explained the apparent discrepancy by saying each languages' position – first, second or third – was assigned a weighting to produce an overall popularity ranking. 

The company also told The Register that Java's superior ranking as a primary language comes down to lots of developers using JavaScript as part of a project, but its use falls when considering where developers spend most of their time. 

JetBrains also notes that Python, whose popularity has surged due to the growth of machine learning, has overtaken Java in terms of languages used in the past year. Python is also the 'most-studied' language, with almost a third of respondents starting or continuing Python education last year. 

Use of Microsoft-created TypeScript, a language for large JavaScript codebases, has also grown significantly and is now the primary language for 12% of developers, up from 1% in 2017. 

Its growth in JetBrains' survey lines up with other programming language popularity rankings and is also reflected in native support in the new Deno runtime, a potential successor to the widely-used Node.js JavaScript runtime.      

The top three languages developers plan to adopt include Google's system programming language Go, JetBrains' Kotlin, which Google supports for Android development, and Python. 

Rust – a system programming language created at Mozilla that Microsoft is embracing for code written in C and C++ – is fourth on the list of planned languages, followed by TypeScript, Apple's Swift, and Google's Dart.   

Among desktop application developers, Windows is the top target (86%), followed by Linux (68%), and macOS (38%).

SEE: Programming languages: Developers reveal what they love and loathe, and what pays best

JetBrains says two-thirds of developers use native tools to develop apps for Android and iOS, while half of all developers use cross-platform frameworks like Facebook's React Native, Microsoft's Xamarin, and Google's UI framework Flutter. 

The order of mobile cross-platform frameworks hasn't changed much from last year's survey. React Native remains the most popular cross-platform framework (42%), followed by Flutter (39%), with Ionic and Cordova tying in third place (18% each). 

JetBrains notes that shares of shares of Cordova, Ionic, and Xamarin have declined slightly over the past year. 


Go, Kotlin, Python are the top three languages developers are planning to adopt or migrate to.

Image: JetBrains

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