Python's rise among developers around the world has been documented by several well-known programming-language indexes. But UK developer-focused analyst SlashData has now put a figure on the actual number of developers that use the language.
According to SlashData, there are now 8.2 million developers in the world who code using Python and that population is now larger than those who build in Java, who number 7.6 million. Last September, there were seven million Python developers and 7.1 million Java developers.
Python adoption has been rapid, with SlashData estimating the language gained more than two million new developers in 2018.
"The rise of machine learning is a clear factor in its popularity. A whopping 69 percent of machine-learning developers and data scientists now use Python, compared with 24 percent of them using R," the company notes in its report.
It's not known precisely how many developers there are in the world. However, several firms have estimated the number. One proxy is Microsoft-owned code-hosting site GitHub, which reports having about 36 million users today.
GitHub officials in 2017 estimated there were roughly 20 million developers worldwide, while IDC estimated there were 18.5 million in 2014. Developer analyst Redmonk's 2017 "wild-assed guess" was that the worldwide population of developers was 35 million.
SlashData's numbers are based on a survey of 20,000 developers and the company claims it can uniquely estimate the number of developers who use the most popular languages, compared with Tiobe, RedMonk, and Stack Overflow, which only describe the relative popularity of each language.
Python's eclipse of Java would not be good news for Oracle, which paid $7.4bn for Sun Microsystems in 2009 and cited Java as the "most important software Oracle has ever acquired". The company has since been in a protracted legal war with Google over its use of Java in Android.
Other languages with many millions of active developers include C#, C and C++, which popped up to third place in Tiobe's April 2019 index, thanks to broad compiler support from the likes of GCC, Clang and Microsoft Visual Studio. C# had 6.7 million users while C and C++ had 6.3 million users.
Meanwhile, there were 5.9 million developers who actively use PHP, 3.1 million developers who code in Visual tools, and 2.1 million who use Apple-developed Swift. There were 1.8 million Ruby users, 1.7 million Kotlin users, 1.6 million Objective C users, and 0.9 million Lua users.