September 13, 2012, 11:17 AM — Redmonk has updated its semi-annual ranking of programming languages, and while there wasn't a lot of movement among the usual leaders in the list, languages like Visual Basic and CoffeeScript have shot up in their popularity since the rankings were first introduced in 2010.
It's a little hard to definitively rank programming languages; you could count the number of projects using each language, and rank those with the most projects as being the most popular. Or you could measure the size of a language's 'community,' and use that as a marker for its popularity.
Redmonk uses a method originally developed by developer Drew Conway, which ranks using a little bit of both methods.
"To do this, [Conway] compared the traction of the languages on both GitHub and StackOverflow, communities that are both popular with developers and yet have somewhat distinct communities. GitHub’s rankings are based on GitHub’s own stacking of the individual languages, while the languages on StackOverflow are ranked according to the volume of tags associated with each language," explained [Redmonk analyst Stephen O'Grady.
Comparing the original rankings to the most recent results sees some interesting trends in the past two years. Clojure, Emacs Lisp, ActionScript, Lua, and Perl have all dropped at least three places in the ranks, with all but Perl and ActionScript dropping out of the Top 20 list altogether.
The success stories are just as dramatic: besides Java, ASP rose two places, and C# and Visual Basic rose five steps in rank. Meanwhile, Assembly rose six places and CoffeeScript was the big mover on this list, leaping up 18 places since 2010. VB, Assembly, and CoffeeScript also joined the Top 20 with this positive movement.
O'Grady noted the disparity between the two biggest language movers.
So what languages are (still) in the Top 5?
O'Grady cautions reading too much into the rankings, per se. They should serve as one datapoint in looking at the programming language landscape.
"While not strictly representative, they do confirm one of the more important developer trends observed within the past decade: fragmentation," O'Grady concluded. "As with so many areas of technology today, the programming language landscape is wildly diverse, with multiple languages being employed simultaneously by individual developers, often on the same project."
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