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Redmonk Language Rankings Sees Rapid Rise for Kotlin and Swift

| by Tim Hodkinson Follow 11 Followers on Mar 30, 2018. Estimated reading time: 3 minutes |

Industry analyst company Redmonk has published the Q1 2018 results of their quarterly programming language rankings. There is probably little to surprise people in the top ranking languages, with JavaScript, Java, Python, PHP and C# ranking first to fifth. Python’s position above PHP and C# is also echoed in the Stack Overflow 2018 Developer Survey. C++, CSS, Ruby, and C take the next four spots, then in joint tenth place are Swift and Objective-C.

Swift's position is noteworthy, particularly when analysed over time. Swift has risen from 18th in the rankings from its release in 2015 to its current status as equal to Objective-C, perhaps an indication of the swing in development on the Apple platform. "...it’s difficult to view this run as anything but a changing of the guard,"  Stephen O'Grady suggests.

...Apple’s support for Objective C and the consequent opportunities it created via the iOS platform have kept the language in a high profile role almost as long as we’ve been doing these rankings. Even as Swift grew at an incredible rate, Objective C’s history kept it out in front of its replacement. Eventually, however, the trajectories had to intersect, and this quarter’s run is the first occasion in which this has happened. In a world in which it’s incredibly difficult to break into the Top 25 of language rankings, let alone the Top 10, Swift managed the chore in less than four years. It remains a growth phenomenon, even if its ability to penetrate the server side has not met expectations.

The methodology used to obtain the rankings was to combine the amount of code being written in the languages with the amount of discussion about them over the previous three month period. The data is obtained by counting the number of pull requests in Github (based on the base repository language) and the number of tags on Stack Overflow mentioning that language.

Redmonk makes no claims that these rankings are broadly representative of general usage. They pitch them more as an examination of the correlation between two populations that they believe is predictive of current and future use.

Redmonk has also published a view of the data over the time period beginning late 2012, which shows some interesting trends. Perhaps most striking is how little change there has been in both the content and rank of the top ten languages, with the only new entrant in the last six years being Swift.

Apart from a slight decline from fifth to eighth for Ruby, the other top ten languages have mostly remained in the same positions.

As with the TIOBE index we reported on last year, it is outside the top ten that some of the interesting data resides. Similar to Swift, Kotlin has seen a rapid rise in popularity. The language has gone from 65th up to 46th in Q3 of 2017 and now 27th in the latest rankings, prompting Stephen O'Grady at Redmonk to describe it as "one of the fastest growing languages in the world at present."  Speaking on the InfoQ podcast at the end of 2017, our editor-in-chief Charles Humble suggested that:

Kotlin got ‘blessed’ as an officially supported language for Android at google.io and I think that has really helped the language get a bit of momentum.  The fact that it looks quite similar to Swift probably doesn’t do it any harm either; if you are developing with Swift for iOS and then Kotlin for Android, the two languages feeling very similar doesn’t do you any harm.

Kotlin Lead Language Designer Andrey Breslav expressed similar sentiments when we interviewed him just after Google made their announcement.

Rust has continued to climb steadily reaching 23 in these rankings, and Scala has continued to decline. On Scala, O'Grady states:

It’s unclear what the causative factors are here, and it’s important to note that a #14 ranking is still extremely high. That said, it will be interesting to see how much of the available oxygen for Scala is consumed by Kotlin as the latter continues to rocket up these rankings.

Finally, Perl has seen a rapid decline in the last couple of years, slipping from 12th to 18th. TypeScript has moved up three places in the last quarter, perhaps driven by Angular. The same period has seen Scala fall two places, the continuation of a trend from the last three quarters. O'Grady sees this as indicative of what the future holds for the language

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