Language Communities; Who leads the way?

The choice of programming language matters deeply to developers because they want to keep their skills up-to-date and marketable. Languages are a beloved subject of debate and the kernels of some of the strongest developer communities. They matter to toolmakers, too, because they want to make sure they provide the most useful SDKs.

size of programming language communities in 2023

It can be challenging to accurately assess how widely a programming language is used. The indices available from sources like Tiobe, Redmonk, Github’s State of the Octoverse, and Stack Overflow’s annual survey are great but offer mostly relative comparisons between languages, providing no sense for the absolute size of each community. These may also be biased geographically or skewed toward certain fields of software development or open-source developers.  ​

The estimates presented here look at software developers using each programming language globally and across all kinds of programmers. They are based on two pieces of data. First is SlashData’s  independent estimate of the global number of software developers, which was published for the first time in 2017. According to it, as of Q1 2023, there are 35.6 million active software developers worldwide. Second is the large-scale, low-bias Developer Nation Global survey which reaches tens of thousands of developers every six months. In these surveys, devleopers are  consistently asked about their use of programming languages across 13 areas of development. This gives a rich and reliable source of information about who uses each language and in which context. 

JavaScript remains the most widely used language. 

For the 12th survey in a row, JavaScript continues to take the top spot for programming languages, with 20M active developers worldwide. Notably, JavaScript is still experiencing growth, with a further 2.6M developers joining the community in the last 12 months. JavaScript’s lead is unlikely to be challenged in the near future, as its community has almost 3M more developers than the next closest languages. Moreover, JavaScript’s popularity extends across all software sectors, with at least 20% of developers using it in their projects. 

“Close to eight million developers joined the Java community in the last two years.”

In 2020, Python unseated Java as the second most popular programming language, but in Q1 2023, Java returned to just matching Python, with both languages now counting just over 17M developers. Java is one of the most important general-purpose languages, and although it is over two decades old, it has seen incredible growth over the last two years, gaining close to 8M users. This corresponds to the highest growth in absolute terms across all languages. Java’s growth is not only supported by traditional sectors such as cloud and mobile but also by its rising adoption among AR/VR developers, in part due to Android’s popularity as an AR/VR platform. 

Despite Java catching up, Python keeps adding new developers. However, in the last 12 months, only 1.3M developers joined the Python community, compared to the massive 5.6M developers who joined between Q1 2021 and Q1 2022. A major driver of Python’s growth was the rise of data science and machine learning, where 70% of developers involved were using Python in Q1 2022. However, this has decreased to 60% in Q1 2023, with other languages, such as Rust, Java, and Mathematica, receiving small increases and likely reducing Python’s growth. ​

The group of major, well-established languages is completed with C/C++ (13.3M), C# (11.2M), and PHP (8.8M). PHP has seen the second-slowest growth rate over the last 12 months, growing just 11% and adding 0.9M developers to its community. PHP is a common choice for backend and web developers but has seen decreasing popularity. 

PHP was used by almost 30% of all developers in Q3 2020 but by 25% of all developers in Q1 2023. This decrease in popularity is particularly apparent amongst web developers, for whom it has gone from the second most popular language in Q3 2021 (34%) to the fourth most popular language (25%) in Q1 2023, behind JavaScript, Python, and Java. Despite PHP 8 addressing many of the concerns developers had expressed about PHP, perceptions of it being insecure or outdated may persist.​

C and C++ are core languages in embedded and IoT projects, for both on-device and application-level coding, but also in desktop development, a sector that accounts for almost 45% of all developers. On the other hand, C# has maintained its position as one of the most popular languages for games and desktop applications. Overall, C/C++ added 2.3M net new developers in the last year, while C# added 1.4M over the same period. 

ranking of programming languages

Kotlin’s growth is beginning to slow

In previous editions of this report, Kotlin and Rust were identified as two of the fastest-growing language communities. If Kotlin’s growth continues, it will soon overtake PHP and join the ranks of the most popular languages. Kotlin’s growth has been largely attributed to Google’s decision in 2019 to make it the preferred language for Android development. It is currently used by 19% of mobile developers and is the third most popular language in the space. However, Kotlin may be showing signs of slowing its exceptional growth. Kotlin now has a community of more than 5.3M developers and has added more than 2.5M developers in the last two years. However, in the last year, there has only been an increase of 0.5M developers. Kotlin’s explosive growth may have resulted from a high demand for developers with Kotlin experience to fill a market need that may be approaching a level of market saturation. Despite Google’s preference for Kotlin, the inertia of Java means that it is still the most popular language for mobile development and still experiences immense growth.

“Rust has more than tripled the size of its community in the past two years”

Rust has more than tripled the size of its community over the past two years and currently has 3.7M users, of which 0.6M joined in the last six months alone. Rust has overtaken Objective C in the last six months and is the 11th most popular language in our survey. Rust has seen increased adoption in IoT, games, and desktop development, where it is desired for its potential to build fast and scalable applications. Rust was designed to handle high levels of concurrency and parallelism. Thus it can handle increasing amounts of work or data without sacrificing performance. Furthermore, Rust has built a loyal community of developers who care about memory safety and security.

Swift currently counts 5.1M developers, adding more than 1.6M net new developers over the past year. This growth continues to stem from Apple making Swift the default programming language across the Apple ecosystem, which has the effect of phasing out the use of Objective C. Despite this, Objective C has also shown strong growth, adding 1.0M developers in the last year alone, resulting in a community of 3.4M developers. This is primarily through its use among IoT developers, who are increasingly turning to it for their on-device code, as well as a growing number of AR/VR developers. Nonetheless, Objective C has fallen behind Rust, whose more modern approach may be more appealing to developers.​

Go and Ruby represent two of the smaller language communities that are important in backend development, but Go has seen substantially more growth over the last two years. Go’s developer community has more than doubled in the last two years, adding 2.3M new developers to its population, which stands at 4.7M developers. Similarly, Ruby has added 1.0M users to its community of 3.0M developers, showing impressive growth but trailing further behind Go. 

“Lua has added almost 1M developers to its community in the past year”

In the past six months, Lua has overtaken Dart to become the 14th most popular programming language. Lua has shown massive growth over the past year, going from 1.4M developers in Q1 2022 to 2.3M in Q3 2023. Lua is an alternative scripting solution for low-level languages, such as C and C++, and has seen more developers in IoT, games, and AR/VR picking it up. This could mark the beginning of Lua’s momentum and see it become increasingly popular, especially as the IoT and AR/VR spaces continue to grow. Dart has seen steady but slow growth over the past two years, predominantly due to the Flutter framework in mobile development filling a useful niche. However, with 13% of mobile developers currently working in Dart, a decrease from 15% in Q1 2022 may see Dart’s growth remain low, and its place within mobile development remain a minority language.


Where does Security sit in Early-Stage Software Development: the Shift Left Approach

The average cost of a security breach in a hybrid cloud environment is estimated at a staggering $3.6 million making it critical for organisations to make software security one of the most important priorities.

Cisco’s most recent report, based on the findings from two SlashData global surveys that targeted enterprise developers, uncovers developers’ exposure to API security exploits, their outlook on security, and how they use automation tools to detect and remediate threats. Here is a detailed preview of the report:

  1. Enterprise developers focus on prioritising security from the early stages of development

There is a significant rise in security threats; in fact, 58% of enterprise developers have had to tackle at least one API exploit in the past year alone. And to make matters worse, nearly half of them have experienced multiple API exploits during that time.

As modern applications increasingly rely on microservices, securing the APIs that connect these services becomes even more crucial. It is also true that juggling multiple APIs can make staying on top of security challenging. That’s why it’s essential to prioritise security from the very beginning of development to avoid wasting time and effort on reworking code and dealing with exploits later on.

Obviously, breaches should be ideally prevented. But if they do occur, organisations must be set up to act swiftly. According to the report, ,only one-third of enterprise developers can resolve API exploits within one day of a breach.

Security in Early-Stage Software

By treating security as a top priority from the start of the development lifecycle, organisations can increase preparedness and avoid costly mistakes down the road.

2. What is the right time to address security concerns?

Shift-left security is all about strategically placing security at the forefront. The cost savings from addressing security concerns early in the development process can be significant compared to dealing with security issues during deployment or after a security breach. In fact, according to the data, many organisations are already putting significant effort into identifying security vulnerabilities during the early stages of development, and as a result, have implemented additional security measures.

How do enterprise developers address security?

Security in Early-Stage Software

3. Relying on automations can account for faster, and frictionless operations

During the surveys, developers were asked whether they use automated approaches to security, such as scanning tools or automated fixes. 

The most likely group of developers to adopt automated security approaches are key decision-makers and team leads who influence, manage, or set the strategy for their teams’ purchase initiatives (90%). 

This probably indicates that many developers still don’t use automation tools for security. However, it’s important for developers to use the best tools when it comes to the production of secure code.

Security in Early-Stage Software

While more than half of enterprise developers are already shifting left, less experienced developers are still behind. Automation appears to be core to the shift-left approach, with two-thirds of developers using automated security tools. 

Nevertheless, automation is not favoured by developers who wish to acquire more experience. This highlights a need for balancing the need for learning with the importance of using the best security tools available.The organisations that are set up to go that way are very likely to reap the fruit of shift-left security.  

Business Community Interviews

Developer Heroes: Meet Rachel a.k.a the Wonder Woman

Who? Developer hero: Rachel Bilski

Where? Brighton, UK.

What? Web developer, agency-side

The new Developer Economics research survey is live – featuring thousands of developers all over the world! Participate now and let us know what your superpower is.

 Hello! Tell us about your role and what you do:

 I mainly work as a web developer, both front- and back-end. I do a lot of CMS work, with existing CMS platforms, and I also build content management systems from scratch, mainly working with PHP.

What kind of languages do you work with?

In the front-end, I use the standards – HTML, CSS, JavaScript. I also dabble with things like Python, Ruby on Rails. And of course PHP.

How did you get started?

Well the real story is that, when I was 13, I liked going to fan sites for Buffy the Vampire Slayer – so I learned how to build my own fan site through Lissa Explains it All. Which some developers may remember from back in the olden days!

Can we see that site on the Wayback Machine?

Can you see it? No, you cannot! But, the legit explanation of how I became a web developer is that I originally worked games development, then in QA which I didn’t really enjoy, so I moved to web development.

You’re agency-side. How do you think that compares with in-house development?

I like to say in-house is a little more straightforward, only because you get to work on a project for a long time, for years potentially. But in agencies, there’s usually a wider variety of work, and you have to be pretty flexible.  

What are clients asking for right now?

We get a lot of requests for emerging technologies now, but clients are not necessarily sure what to do with them. They’ll say: “we want to do something with VR or AR” or “we want to do 3D, 360 video or 3D worlds” or whatever. We have to guide them through the options.

How helpful do you find developer surveys?

If you’re a developer who works in an agency or a freelance developer, it’s easy to forget about the business side of things. And maybe you’re not a natural sales person. I mean it’s taken me a number of years to become more commercially minded, which helps me get involved in more business-related decisions about the tech we use and why.

Do you think developers sometimes undersell themselves?

Yeah, I would say so.

Have you found any challenges working in a male-dominated industry?

I’ve had both good and bad experiences. I work in a predominantly female developer team, which has been nothing but positive.

I also go to events for women in technology, because I like to talk to other women who are in my field. But, I’ve also experienced some negative things. Not always outright, but you do pick up on – to use a buzzword – microaggressions.

People can be dismissive. You know, sometimes if I go to a meeting with a male colleague, people will talk to him and ignore me even though on a technical front we’re at the same level. Which is another reason why I like to go to women’s groups because they don’t automatically assume you don’t know what you’re talking about.

You think things are changing?

I think some things are changing. There’s a lot more diversity programmes, not just for women but for LGBT groups and other minority groups.  

But, I think that until there’s a bigger culture change… it’s not that women don’t want to go into tech, it’s just they don’t want to go into this tech environment. They don’t want to go somewhere where they’re not wanted.

So where do you go to get tech-related news?

Well, Twitter. But there are also loads of developers on Reddit, though I rarely comment. But I do have a male-sounding handle on Reddit for when I do comment.

Has that actually helped?

Yeah, people take you far more seriously. In fact, a lot of women do the same thing. That’s sadly the way it has to be sometimes!

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What’s going up and what’s going down in the software industry?

There’s been a lot of focus on how people are using messaging applications more at the moment and generalised open social media is a bit more in the decline, which is leading to a lot more of things such as chatbots which are really interesting, and artificial intelligence (or ‘fake’ artificial intelligence) which I personally find really interesting. From finance, to health, to learning, I think it’s a great way to make these products and campaigns more helpful and user-friendly, keeping up with how our use of technology is changing.

And there’s VR of course, that’s had a real surge over the last year or so as the kits become more affordable and more widespread, especially as use in business seems to be increasing.

Personally I think the use of (and requests for) mobile apps has really declined, as people have realised how much can be done with just the web alone, and more things are done using messaging platforms, people are realising you don’t need an app for every little thing – which is great, because it makes the web a little more open, you aren’t locked away in an app for each activity or company. Similarly, a couple of years ago, everyone wanted a Facebook application – you don’t see those anymore at all!

Are you working on the projects you would like to work on?

I am, I get to work on a real variety of projects which is great. I love the power of the web and what we can do with it now, so I love working on the more cutting edge projects we get to do sometimes, but even something as simple as building a website up from scratch – from just an idea and a goal to a fully formed website that helps people find what they need or helps get a message out there is wonderful. I love seeing our projects go from a quickly sketched wireframe to a real website.

I would definitely like to work with more artificial intelligence type stuff though – so I’m hoping we get some projects like that in soon!

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What super power  would you like to have and  what’s your favourite super hero ?

I don’t know!! I guess if I was a superhero I would like to have the ability to consume and understand huge amounts of information at a time…like a computer.

But it’s not a very good superpower.

My favourite superhero is Wonder Woman of course!

If you would like to feature in our Meet the Devs series, let us know.