Programming languages: What JavaScript developers really want

Microsoft's TypeScript rules the world of JavaScript application development.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer on

JavaScript developers want to have their cake and eat it, too. And why not when you're building browser and native mobile apps with the most popular programming language in the world? 

"Do we want the new shiny, or the old reliable? More than ever, 2020 shows that we won't settle for anything less than both," the authors of the 2020 State of JavaScript report state. Static typing was the feature that developers said was missing from JavaScript, by a big margin, followed by 'standard library' and pattern matching. 

Perhaps the most striking part of this year's survey of over 23,000 JavaScript developers is that Microsoft-built TypeScript is the predominant theme, thanks to its optional type safety features.

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"TypeScript's widespread adoption is taking things to a whole other level by popularizing static typing," the authors said. 

TypeScript emerged in 2012 from Redmond as a superset of JavaScript with a type system that compiles into JavaScript. TypeScript doesn't detract from JavaScript's best features but offers developers an erasable type system that removes types and returns it to JavaScript when code is compiled. 

The authors of the fifth report canvas the responses of 23,765 JavaScript developers from 137 countries, up from from 21,717 developers last year: some 91% of respondents identified as male and a third of them reported an annual income of between $50,000 to $100,000. 

Additionally, 70% of them identified as white, while 13% said they were Asian, and 11% said they were hispanic. Just 3.2% said they were Black or of African descent, and 4% described themselves as Middle Eastern. 

JavaScript had humble beginnings, emerging in 1995 as a "side-kick scripting language" to Java, which was where all the fancy programming tasks was meant to be done in Java applets. These days JavaScript is all over the browser and thanks to node.js JavaScript runtime, it's on the server too, outside the browser. 

SEE: Programming languages: Microsoft TypeScript leaps ahead of C#, PHP and C++ on GitHub

JavaScript and TypeScript follow the ECMAScript standard. According to the survey, TypeScript is the "uncontested leader" in terms of JavaScript flavors, used by 93% of respondents. Elm was once the dominant flavor but now is only used by 63% of developers. PureScript was used by 72%, Reason was used by 71% of developers and ClojureScript was used by 59% of developers. 

Svelet was the most popular front-end framework at 89%, followed by React, Vue.js, and Alpine.js — all of which were used by more than 80% of respondents. Other top frameworks below that level included Preact, LitElement, Stimulus, and Anglar. 

The top backend frameworks were Next.js, Express. Fastify, Nuxt, Nest, Strapi Koa, Gatsby, Hapi, and Meteor. 

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