JavaScript keeps its spot atop programming language rankings

Analyst firm Redmonk lists the top 20 programming languages—and they’re surprisingly consistent

JavaScript keeps its spot atop programming language rankings

U.K.-based technology analyst firm RedMonk just released the latest version of its biannual rankings of programming languages, and once again JavaScript tops the list, followed by Java and PHP.

Those are same three languages that topped RedMonk’s list in January. In fact, the entire top 10 remains the same as it was it was six months ago. Perhaps the biggest surprise in Redmonk’s list—compiling the “performance of programming languages relative to one another on GitHub and Stack Overflow”—is that there are so few surprises, at least in the top 10. 

Here is RedMonk’s top 10 (note the three-way tie for fifth place):

1. JavaScript

2. Java

3. PHP

4. Python

5. C#

5. C++

5. Ruby

8. CSS

9. C

10. Objective-C

As RedMonk analyst Stephen O'Grady wrote in his blog post sharing the rankings, “The positions have solidified, and it’s becoming apparent that it will take a serious push—or crisis—to significantly alter the dynamics of the top tier absent minor and statistically irrelevant drifts from quarter to quarter.”

O’Grady suggests this is due to “a predictable period of consolidation” in development tools. To me, though, it’s a sign of a relative level of maturity in the software development infrastructure. As more and more companies build their businesses around software—recently described as making a $1 trillion contribution to the U.S. economy. With that kind of money at stake, it shouldn’t be shocking that change naturally slows down a bit as companies seek to protect their investments in software tools and expertise.

Farther down the list, though, RedMonk’s rankings do show at least a bit of movement since January. Here’s the second half of RedMonk’s top 20 (note the tie for the 20th position, which actually pushes the list to include the top 21):

11. Shell

12. R

13. Perl

14. Scala

15. Go

16. Haskell

17. Swift

18. Matlab

19. Visual Basic

20. Clojure

20. Groovy

Compared to the January listings, R jumped ahead of Perl into the 12 spot, following Microsoft’s acquisition of Revolution Analytics. And Visual Basic moved out of a three-way tie with Clojure and Groovy to own the number 19 position. Woo hoo!

Sure, that’s hardly a dramatic restructuring of programming language popularity, but as noted above, real change takes time, and if you go back deeper into RedMonk’s rankings, you can see slow, ongoing ascents from languages such as Go, Swift and even TypeScript.

Expect that kind of evolutionary change in programming language rankings to continue over time—just not very quickly.

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