Wait – maybe JavaScript IS the top programming language

The ubiquitous language that’s the “glue” of web pages tops some recent rankings of programming languages

javascript-600x450_0.jpgImage credit: flickr/Dmitry Baranovskiy
Based on Stack Overflow data, JavaScript is #1 among programming languages

In June, JavaScript broke into the top 10 of the Tiobe Programming Community Index, a monthly ranking of the popularity of programming languages. JavaScript came in at number 10 (up from 11 a year earlier), while C took the top spot. Tiobe editors expressed surprise that JavaScript isn't ranked higher, given that it’s the "glue of client-side web page programming” and has been expanded into a server-side language. 

It turns out that, depending on how you rank programming languages, JavaScript may indeed be ranked higher and may even be the top language these days. The Tiobe index is based on search queries from a number of major sites, like Google, Bing, Yahoo, Amazon and Wikipedia. Other rankings, though, that go beyond search terms, do have JavaScript ranked higher. 

In April of 2012 a poll on HackerNews which garnered almost 14,000 votes ranked JavaScript the number three programming language, after Python and Ruby (C was fourth). Respondents seem to have a love/hate relationship with JavaScript, but even the haters can’t deny its usefulness.

I am in a love affair with this weird little language. The amount of time it takes to whip up a five-cent program with javascript without even leaving my browser, heck without even leaving this tab is just astounding to me even after all these years.


I hate Javascript, but it is hard to beat it in the browser.


Other rankings have mined public sources of data to rank programming languages. In January of 2013, RedMonk did an analysis of data from GitHub and Stack Overflow, with the former indicating languages actually being used by developers and the latter providing data on what languages programmers are asking questions about. Based on those data, JavaScript was ranked as the top programming language, followed by Java, PHP, Python and Ruby (C was ranked eighth).

Just last week the Dodgy Coder studied programming language trends over the last three years using Stack Overflow data as well. Ranking languages based on the number of times they were tagged in questions posted, JavaScript again came out on top in June 2013 (followed by Java and PHP; C was way down at 17). He ran this analysis for each month going back to January of 2010 and found JavaScript to be one of the languages that’s been trending up over time. He also found questions tagged with jQuery, Android, HTML, CSS and JSON to be trending upward, reinforcing the notion that programming for web-based applications is becoming increasingly dominant. 

Obviously, there’s no one definitive way to rank programming languages. There are lots of approaches to take beyond those methods mentioned here (e.g., count lines of code?). No matter how you slice it, though, it’s hard to deny that JavaScript’s ubiquitousness in the browser world ensures that it will be a major player amongst programming languages for the foreseeable future.

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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