JavaScript is the top programming language for startups

New data from AngelList shows the top technology choices that startups are making

Picture of a fork in the roadImage credit: flickr/Daniel Oines (license)
Startups face lots of decisions, especially about what technologies to use

I’m always interested in trends in the use of programming languages. Whether it's which new languages are catching on quickly or which ones are considered best for beginners, I always find it fascinating to read and write about such trends. Now comes a new analysis of what languages (and other technologies) startups are using.

Leo Polovets, a former LinkedIn and Google engineer turned VC, recently examined data from AngelList, an online community for startups. Polovets looked at the self-reported use of technologies by startups on the site, such as programming languages, databases and hosting. Polovets doesn’t provide specific usage numbers or percentages; rather, he presents graphs showing the relative use of each technology across three different startup groupings: those with low ("Okay" companies), medium ("Good" companies) and high ("Great" companies) AngelList Signal scores, which he presumed to be a proxy for company quality.

Polovets presents a number of findings, but here are a few that I found interesting:

  • Despite being on the 10th ranked programming language in the latest TIOBE Index, JavaScript is by far the dominant programming language choice for startups across all three groups. This reflects the growing use of JavaScript on GitHub in recent years. For Good and Great companies, Ruby was second, followed by Python. Ruby was also the #2 choice for Okay companies, but PHP was a clear #3 for this group of startups.

  • Ruby on Rails is the top choice for front end technology, particularly for Good and Great companies. HTML5 was the second most popular choice, more so for Okay companies, way ahead of HTML.

  • In terms of database choice, Good and Great companies go with MongoDB first, followed by MySQL. Okay companies, on the other hand go the other way, choosing MySQL first by a wide margin over MongoDB. PostgreSQL is the third most popular choice for all.

  • When it comes to infrastructure and hosting, AWS was the clear top choice for all startups, particularly so for Good and Great companies, followed by Heroku. Microsoft’s Azure was the general #3 choice, but noticeably more popular for Okay companies than those ranked Good or Great.

Without any real numbers attached to these figures it’s hard to know just how significant the findings are. Plus, as Polovets admits, the use of Signal scores as a proxy for company quality isn’t perfect. Still, interesting stuff, in my opinion.

Be sure to read Polovets’ full post for more results.

Read more of Phil Johnson's #Tech blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Phil on Twitter at @itwphiljohnson. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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