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JavaScript popularity drives TypeScript adoption among devs

More developers choose to work with JavaScript to build web, server-side and mobile applications, while TypeScript has quickly gained traction, according to recent analysis.

JavaScript continues to top the lists of programming languages developers know and use, and TypeScript has also come along for the ride.

JavaScript's popularity continues to outpace Java, Python, and other familiar tier 1 languages, according to the latest rankings of top programming languages by analyst firm RedMonk, in Portland, Maine. In the study, the biggest change is in the increased adoption of TypeScript, a superset of JavaScript, which moved up four notches to the 12th most popular programming language. It follows Swift, a language for iOS development. Swift is the fastest growing language in the history of the firm's rankings.

The language of the web and beyond

There are more than 10 million JavaScript developers worldwide, according to SlashData, a London-based developer research firm.

Web development is the key to JavaScript's popularity. The web is the only universal runtime that works everywhere: desktop, mobile, kiosks, wearables, devices, IoT and more. And JavaScript is the language that makes the web more than just a bunch of static pages.

"JavaScript is the language of the web, and I will always bet on the web," said Ben Simmons, vice president of engineering at Sworkit, creator of a health and fitness app, in Rockville, Md. "You can use [it] across the full stack. Add cross-platform mobile development and strong typing to help make development easier, and using JavaScript is really a no-brainer."

JavaScript also has expanded outside of the browser and into areas such as server-side development with Node.js, mobile development with Ionic and React Native, IoT with Johnny-Five, and artificial intelligence with TensorFlow.js.

Max Lynch, CEO, IonicMax Lynch

"The prevalence of JavaScript has made it so that nearly every modern application uses the language at some point," said Max Lynch, co-founder and CEO at Ionic, a mobile development platform maker in Madison, Wis.

Moreover, the JavaScript world features more reused open source code compared to other ecosystems, which allows for speedier development times. However, that also creates competitive challenges for commercial developers, said Havoc Pennington, co-founder and head of product at Tidelift, a Boston-based marketplace for open source code maintainers.

"With over 1,000 fast-moving dependencies in typical JavaScript applications, commercial users have more work to keep dependencies up to date, keep packages working well together and monitor security and licensing risks," he said.

JavaScript developers remain in high demand among programming language experts. There were more than 165,000 JavaScript jobs posted on Upwork.com in 2018, a platform to hire freelancers, based in Mountain View, Calif. In the fourth quarter, JavaScript job postings ranked seventh out of more than 5,000 skills in the Upwork marketplace.

Meanwhile, a recent survey from HackerRank, a Mountain View, Calif., technology hiring platform that tracks developer skills, showed that JavaScript unseated Java as the most well-known language in 2018, as 73% of developers said they knew JavaScript, an increase from 66% in 2017.

JavaScript popularity pulls TypeScript along

TypeScript's relationship to JavaScript is absolutely a significant factor in its adoption, in that it dramatically expands the targetable footprint for an up and coming new language.
Stephen O'GradyAnalyst, RedMonk

JavaScript's popularity has significantly benefited TypeScript, said Stephen O'Grady, a RedMonk analyst. "TypeScript's relationship to JavaScript is absolutely a significant factor in its adoption, in that it dramatically expands the targetable footprint for an up and coming new language," he said.

TypeScript also has a wide, growing base of projects that have helped propel the language forward in a brief period of time. TypeScript also was the eighth most popular language in HackerRank's 2018 list, right after Java, C, Python, C++, PHP and C#.

Microsoft introduced TypeScript in 2012 to address JavaScript's shortcomings to build large-scale applications. As a superset of JavaScript, TypeScript compiles down to plain JavaScript and can be used anywhere that normal JavaScript runs. As such, it has enjoyed the popularity and ubiquity of both JavaScript and the web.

"The reason developers love it is that it takes the goodness of JavaScript, and adds a bunch of extras that you don't get with vanilla JavaScript," Lynch said. "Things like developer tooling, along with code completion and refactoring to help you write code faster. It also helps catch bugs in development with static type checking, and adds additional language features that aren't yet available in JavaScript."

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