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Rust and Python top list of most popular development languages

A new Stack Overflow survey of over 100,000 developers indicated Java and JavaScript are not as popular as they had been before. Find out what developers really want to program with.

Java and JavaScript are still in play, but Rust and Python are among the most dear and desired development languages, according to a Stack Overflow survey of over 100,000 developers.

The annual survey, while large, does reflect Stack Overflow users, so the results around Java usage are weighted toward a much more active base of Android developers, rather than the back-end Java developers who are less active on the site.

What love means

The survey results correlated metrics of usage, love, dread and want indirectly by asking developers questions about the programming languages they use currently and the ones they want to try in the coming year. "By asking these two questions, we get some interesting dynamics of what is going on in the tech ecosystem," said Stack Overflow data scientist Dr. Julia Silge, who analyzed the data. The most popular development languages include JavaScript, Java and HTML for apps and SQL for databases.

Some of the least popular languages include Visual Basic 6, COBOL and Visual Basic .NET.

The number of developers who want to continue to use their current language reflects their "love" for it. Rust and Python are among the most popular development languages. Almost 80% of developers who use Rust want to continue, making it the most loved language, but those numbers do reflect a relatively small user base.

In contrast, "dreaded" languages are those that developers hope to not use next year. Some of the least popular languages include Visual Basic 6, COBOL and Visual Basic .NET. "These are languages that are not only not considered cool, but considered by developers as not pleasant to use," Silge said.

"Wanted" languages represent what developers are eager to try in the next year. These languages tend to have a lot of name recognition, are usually pleasant to use, are associated with high salaries and are useful for solving interesting problems. The most popular development languages developers hope to work with include Python and Go.

Favorite languages
Stack Overflow surveyed over 100,000 developers about the most popular development languages.

Data gets a boost

The survey also looked at frameworks. Machine learning was an object of interest this year, with Google's TensorFlow and Facebook's PyTorch at or near the top of the list for most loved frameworks. Other popular frameworks target web development and include React, Node.js and .NET Core.

The most beloved database was Redis, a key-value store. Silge, who uses Redis herself, said it is simple, reliable and fast. However, MongoDB is the most wanted, indicating that more people have heard about it. That said, survey respondents also named MongoDB as something they weren't inclined to continue to use. "Niche technologies, like Redis, are loved because they solve the problem they were designed for incredibly well," Silge said. "Developers tend to love things that are simple, powerful and well-implemented."

Less love for Java

The surveyed developers didn't feel quite as much love for Java, particularly when compared with JavaScript. And while Java itself was rated as popular, most who took the survey develop Android apps. This group of developers also tended to use Eclipse and IntelliJ for their IDE and Android Studio and Firebase as part of their app-dev tooling.

In the U.S., the most popular development languages with the best paychecks were Erlang, Scala, OCaml, Clojure and Go. None of these would be a programmer's first language, Silge explained, so proficiency in them is harder to find. "These are languages experienced developers are coming to as second, third or fourth languages to solve specific problems," she said. Scala, as one example, is often adopted as a functional language for solving big data problems, and those types of jobs offer higher salaries. "If you are a Java programmer and learn Scala, that would be a good move, but you would also need to be in a situation in a current job or a new job where you could make use of those skills," she said.

This was last published in March 2018

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If your survey included COBOL, why didn't it include similar-era languages, like PL/I, FORTRAN, Pascal, LISP, and so on?

Some of these languages, for example PL/I and Pascal, were very useful languages, easy to use, with established APIs to various DB systems and communication protocols.

Or was this survey realyy just meant to address more current languages (so then why COBOL?)?

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The survey was conducted by Stack Overflow, and so represents languages they felt were significant for their user base, and is a reflection of languages that are currently widely used. It is important to keep in mind that the survey was based on Stack Overflow users, and represents the collective bias of their use base. 
COBOL was probably included because it is still widely used for maintaining legacy systems, and more people comment on it on Stack Overflow than the other languages. 
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