Top 10 Most Popular Programming Languages

What is "popular"?

So you want to know which are the most popular programming languages. However, there’s something else you have to take out of the way first – how do we define popularity? On one hand, we could list these languages by how much they appear on job postings, or perhaps by how many colleges have them in their curriculum. Maybe we can do so by how large their repositories are.

For this article, we are going to focus on how often language tutorials are searched on Google. Why this metric? Because the good folks at GitHub use it to calculate the PYPL index (Popularity of Programming Language) month after month. It’s one of the most reliable metrics and it encompasses both the interest of expert programmers as well as newcomers to the field. 

Now, without further ado – drum rolls, please – here are the most popular programming languages according to that metric:

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TypeScript

Share: 1.94 % of searches

Just beating MatLab by a few decimals, TypeScript is the number 10 on our list. It’s an open-source language developed and maintained by Microsoft that is a strict, typed superset of JavaScript 

What that means is that TypeScript starts with the JavaScript that so many are familiar with and adds additional features that aim to make a developer’s job easier. For example, Typescript introduces the possibility of adding static typing to your code. This has two very important benefits: it makes the debugging process a lot easier and it helps with the predictions of IDEs. If you like JavaScript but you think that it’s a pain to write code or you are worried that your code might get blocked by a browser, TypeScript will be perfect for you. 

Swift

Share: 2.35 % of searches

The distant cousin of objective-C, Swift was introduced to the world by Apple back in 2014 and it has been the go-to programming language (alongside its cousin) for iOS, iPadOS, WatchOs, macOS and tvOS, since then. 

Apple touts Swift as the safe programming language, as in, it has been systematically designed to avoid bugs. It achieves this by using a strict syntax (which is often described as restrictive) as well as doing away with the clutter of more complex programming languages.

Another interesting perk is that much like what you can do in Visual Studio, you can run your Swift code in a playground and see what each part is doing before building a prototype app. 

If you are interested in developing for the Apple ecosystem, Swift is the language for you.

Objective-C

Share: 2.6 % of searches

Swift might be the new kid on the block, but Objective-c is still going strong. It might be slower than its cousin but years of use and refinement brought its fair share of perks to it. Much like TypeScript, Objective-C is a superset of the C language, so it’s an easier place to start for C developers that want to develop for the Apple ecosystem.

Objective-C is more stable than its cousin, has a bigger share of libraries, and has easier integration with C++. Of course, the tradeoff is that it’s a lot harder to code with it and, contrary to what happens with Swift, Objective-C hasn’t seen major revisions since 2017.

R

Share: 4.18 % of searches

It may seem odd to put R in the same league as other more robust programming languages, but the fact is that while it may not be multi-purpose like the rest of this list, it’s still one of the most important programming languages for academia, data science, economy, and science. 

R is a derivative of S and it’s a programming language designed for statistics and data analysis. It has a small but rabid community of developers who are constantly updating and developing new libraries for R. If there is a scientific or statistics test, chances are that there is a package for it in R.

PHP

Share: 5.78 % of searches

Before you say anything, yes, I’m cheating. PHP is a scripting language, nevertheless, it’s still one of the more popular tools in web development. Yahoo, Facebook, Wikipedia, Tumblr, and many other popular websites use PHP.

The reasons are manifold: the learning curve is gentle, it’s supported by almost every single web host, it has built-in web-service and MySQL support, and it’s very easy to integrate with HTML. Keep in mind that being popular doesn’t mean that it’s generally loved. Many developers hold the belief the PHP is a mess, a “fractal of bad choices”, and think that its general adoption is underserved.  

C/C++

Share: 5.88 % of searches

C and C++ aren’t the same, but they share enough similarities as to usually get bundled together. Both are low-level multi-purpose languages with a bias towards system programming, both share similar syntax, and use some of the same keywords.

C is a function-driven language and C++ is object-oriented. C might be 40 years old but still sees use when designing operating systems and other software that requires memory handling and efficiency. On the other hand, C++ sees a lot of use in robust software that requires processing power. For example, most video game engines are built with C++.

C#

Share: 6.54 % of searches

Developed by Anders Hejlsberg and Microsoft in 2000, C# (pronounced see sharp) is one of the most friendly multi-purpose programming languages on the market. It’s one of the first programming languages designed for the Common Language Infrastructure. That means that, at least in theory, a software made in C# can run on different computer platforms with no rewriting required.

The main design goal was to create an encompassing language adapted to modern software engineering principles such as durability, automatic garbage collection, strong type checking, and programmer productivity. Microsoft is a strong supporter of C#. That’s why it has so much support with the .NET framework.

JavaScript

Share: 8.17 % of searches

Another big name that often gets criticized for being overly complex and messy, JavaScript is a high-level multipurpose programming language that is one of the core technologies behind the internet. JavaScript is responsible for the majority of client-side page behavior of interactive websites.

Perhaps the most famous example of how powerful JavaScript can be comes from media giant Netflix. After migrating from React to Node.js, the loading times on the frontend of the service decreased by over 50%. If a developer is interested in web applications and web development in general, JavaScript is a great place to start. 

Java

Share: 16.9 % of searches

If not the first, Java is by far the most famous multipurpose software development, cross-platform programming language. That means that, as long as you have Java installed, you can run a Java application – regardless of your operating system. 

Over 3 Billion devices worldwide are using Java. Every single Android-based device uses Java to some degree or another, and while users may not see it first hand, almost every interaction we have with technology involves Java in some way.

Python

Share: 31.59 % of searches

And finally, the 500-pound gorilla of programming languages, Python. It’s everywhere, it’s famous, and it’s by far the most recommended multipurpose language for beginners. Python is far from perfect, though. It’s slow, and multiprocessing is a pain, but in return, it’s incredibly versatile without losing simplicity.

Python’s exponential growth has been nothing short of impressive and the number of libraries available rivals those of more traditional programming languages. It might not be the programming language you would use for an operating system or create the next Grand Theft Auto, but for small projects and data science, it’s hard to argue against it.

And So Much More…

Just because these languages are some of the most popular, doesn’t mean there are the only ones developers should focus on. Just as a quick example, it’s almost criminal that I left Rust out of this list. 

Popularity is an important metric, but it’s not the only metric, even “dead” programming languages like COBOL are still actively used in very specific fields. Instead of choosing what’s hot right now, it’s better to do research on which languages are commonly used in the areas one would like to focus on. 

Having said that, for newcomers, odds are that every job interview under the sun will probably test their prowess in at least a few of these languages. So, having a passing understanding of their syntax is highly recommended.

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