Microsoft's TypeScript makes programming languages top 10 but Java, JavaScript and Python still rule

Java, JavaScript and Python still rule the roost, but TypeScript has momentum.

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Microsoft's increasingly popular JavaScript 'superset' has hit the top 10 for the first time in developer analyst RedMonk's influential programming language popularity rankings.    

RedMonk released its June 2019 programming language rankings on Thursday. The ranking is based on its analysis of developer chatter on coder knowledge-sharing site, Stack Overflow, and the number of projects in a language on Microsoft-owned open source code-hosting repository Github. 

TypeScript jumped to 12th place in RedMonk's March rankings, up from 17th spot a year ago and 26th three years ago. Microsoft released TypeScript seven years ago catering to JavaScript developers who maintain large JavaScript apps. The JavaScript superset was climbing up the ranks almost as fast as Apple-created Swift – the fastest growing language RedMonk has seen since it began ranking languages in 2010.

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RedMonk makes no claim that its rankings reflect how widely a language is used, but trends, such as TypeScript's rise, can suggest future adoption or abandonment of a given language. In March, RedMonk analyst Stephen O'Grady said "TypeScript's trajectory is significant and sustainable". 

In the June quarterly report, TypeScript was the only major mover among the top 10 list, with other rankings at the top remaining static, with the exception of C++ rising one spot to tie at 5th with C#. 

TypeScript meanwhile leapfrogged Objective-C and Swift, which was ranked 11th in the earlier report. Apple released Swift as a successor to Objective-C in 2014. 

O'Grady thinks TypeScript may have surpassed Objective-C and Swift due to competition between the two languages, but he added that TypeScript's rise was "no fluke". 

"The ubiquity of JavaScript coupled with the optional safety offered by TypeScript has proven to be a winning combination, and vaulted it directly into rare territory," writes O'Grady. 

"It will be interesting to see if it can sustain this rank, or if like Swift before it, this is a temporary gain. Either way, TypeScript is a language that many are betting on moving forward."

RedMonk co-founder James Governor reckons TypeScript is exploding among developers because it taps an appetite among an already massive population of JavaScript developers seeking "type safety".          

TypeScript is classified as a "strongly typed" language along with C++ and Java, compared with JavaScript. Some developers have speculated it could even be a replacement for Java. The language is used by dozens of software projects and firms

Interestingly, for UK online sports betting giant, Bet365, it was Google's Chromium clampdown on Adobe Flash in 2016 that prompted it to rebuild its site using TypeScript after having success using it to build a mobile site. The Google developers behind Angular are also big fans of TypeScript.   

Developers of the Node.js JavaScript package manager npm were surprised to find in its survey of 33,000 npm users that half were using TypeScript in some fashion, while a third were writing TypeScript "some or most of the time".

MIT-hatched programming language Julia continues its "glacial" ascent, rising from 33rd spot in the first 2019 report to 32nd in this report. Despite its growth, Julia remains behind "low visibility" languages, including Dart, Elixer, Lua and Matlab. While O'Grady marked Julia as 'one to watch' when it rose to 36th last year, today he noted there's nothing about its movement to "preclude a continued ascent, or even an acceleration of this." 

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One to definitely keep an eye on in the coming year is the Mozilla-created Rust, which Microsoft just announced it was exploring as an alternative to C and C++ because it was a more modern "memory-safe" language that could help prevent developers from slipping in code that could become memory-corruption vulnerabilities. 

Rust is up two places in RedMonk's ranking to 21st this quarter, just behind popular Android developer language, Kotlin. O'Grady said Rust's rise was a "remarkable accomplishment given Rust's low level, safety-oriented nature."

"It's one thing to pick up JavaScript or even TypeScript quickly; fluency and competency in Rust is, by comparison, more difficult to achieve," he writes. "For a systems language to continue its upward trajectory in this fashion suggests that some combination of the design, the language's community and market demand is combining to have it outperform its natural expectations.

The top 10 languages in RedMonk's June report are led by JavaScript, followed by Java, Python, PHP, C++, C#, CSS, Ruby, C and TypeScript. 

The remaining top 20 languages are Swift, Objective-C, Scala, Shell, R, PowerShell, Perl, Haskell and Kotlin.