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Let’s look at RedMonk’s ranking first:
- Java (-1)
- C# (+2)
- Python (-1)
- C++ (+1)
- Ruby (-2)
- CSS (new)
- Shell (-2)
- Scala (-1)
- R (+1)
- Matlab (+3)
- Clojure (+5)
- CoffeeScript (-1)
- Visual Basic (+1)
- Groovy (-2)
The numbers in parentheses indicate the change in position compared to the last ranking. RedMonk analyzed the GitHub Archive using Google BiQuery to generate this ranking. It is interesting to note that previous lists were based on GitHub’s own rankings, which are no longer available.
Living mostly in the Windows administration world, of course, the first thing I noticed is that PowerShell doesn’t even appear in RedMonk's list, whereas some languages I have never heard of seem to be amazingly popular. This somehow appeared highly unlikely to me considering how the biggest software company on the planet has been pushing PowerShell in the last few years.
So I did a quick analysis myself to find out how trustworthy the RedMonk ranking is. I used Google’s Keyword Planner, which tells you how many searches Google counted for a certain keyword in one month. This is a well-known method for determining the popularity of a certain topic.
The problem with this method, with regard to programming languages, is that some names of the languages have multiple meanings. For instance, the name of the programming language Java was derived from the island of Indonesia. However, I believe the number of searches for this second meaning of “Java” is negligible.
For one, Google’s keyword tool makes suggestions for other search terms, and none of them indicated that the name of the island plays an important role in the number searches for “Java.” Second, the keyword “Sumatra” (another big Indonesian island) has 8,100 monthly searches, whereas "Java" has 550,000. Deducting these 8,100 searches wouldn’t have an effect on the ranking. I put those names of programming languages with multiple meanings in parentheses.
- (Java) 550,000
- (Python) 40,500
- PHP 33,100
- (Perl) 22,200
- Matlab 22,200
- HTML5 20,200 (14,800 for HTML5 and 5,400 for HTML 5)
- (Ruby) 14,800
- Visual Basic 12,100
- C# 12,100
- PowerShell 8,100
- Objective-C 3,600
- (Groovy) 3,600
- (Haskell) 3,600
- CoffeeScript 2,900
- VBScript 2,400
- Clojure 1,900
Notice that I had to omit languages such as C, C++, and R because Google’s Keyword tool doesn’t allow searching for just one letter or because the term was too ambiguous (Shell, Scala). I also replaced CSS with HTML5 because I think that makes more sense, and I added VBScript to the list because I am sure some Windows admins still use this scripting language. Some programming languages share a place because the Keyword Planner rounds the number of searches.
You’ll also notice that PowerShell is more popular than some of the unfamiliar languages at the end of the list. However, I find it quite interesting that Visual Basic is still more popular than PowerShell. Visual Basic was once my favorite programming language, and I always preferred it over VBScript to automate Windows administration tasks until I switched to C#.
Anyway, I think that drawing conclusions from the popularity in GitHub to the general popularity of a programming language is questionable, to say the least. GitHub is not really that popular in the Windows world, and Windows still belongs to the most popular operating systems. I guess many Windows IT pros have never even heard of GitHub.
Programming languages that are popular in the open source world also benefit from such an analysis, because open source programmers engage themselves more in online communities than do closed source developers.
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Another thing one has to take into account is that, on the Web, some programming languages are more popular than others simply because they are mostly used by web developers. This why my ranking here also has to be treated with some reservation.