I’ve always been curious about the popularity of the most commonly used programming languages, but haven’t been able to find a reliable (non-biased) source.
I decided to take matters into my own hands and use the Google trends tool to see the frequency with which five of the most commonly used server-side programming languages have been referenced worldwide in the past twelve months (ranging from April 25 2012 to April 25 2013.)
Why Conduct My Own Study?
There are countless sites, each claiming that certain languages are more popular than others. I find that the results are so inconclusive/arbitrary that usually I suspect the writer’s own bias is likely clouding the results.
Even worse, many articles I see like to compare server-side, client-side, and even database languages. In my opinion this is a non-valid comparison along the lines of comparing apples to oranges… it just doesn’t make any sense.
For example, how can one compare ASP.NET, JQuery, and T-SQL popularity? These languages exist for wildly different programming purposes and should only be compared with others of their kind (for example, compare JQuery, YUI, and Dojo).
So in searching for the truth about how popular the five major programming languages are I decided to take matters into my own hands.
But How Can One Judge Popularity?
It seemed to me that the search frequency for each language in Google would be a good non-biased metric which I could use to check language popularity out for myself. This would reflect how many people world-wide are actively looking into each of the major languages.
To judge search volume I used the Google Trends tool. You can find this at: http://www.google.ca/trends/explore. Also to get the most accurate view into current language popularity I decided to limit the trends results to 12 months, and to confine the results to the category: computers and electronics/programming.
The Languages I Selected for Analysis.
The server-side languages I was interested in were Java, PHP, C#, C++, and VB.
As you can see in the screen capture from Google Trends above, l I found that since these languages are all mature, they have changed little in popularity over the past 12 months. In fact even when I extrapolated the results to popularity since 2004, each language’s search popularity has remained relatively static apart from a constant downward trend for Java.
Google Trends scores each language out of 100. The language results were as follows:
- Java: 73/100
- PHP / C#: 20/100
- C++: 13/100
- VB: 4/100
Detailed Results for Java
Java was by far the most popular language that was searched for, coming in at an impressive Google score of 73/100. As you can see in the results below, searches for Java were most popular in India followed by Sao Paulo in Brazil, New York, Paris, and London.
Results for PHP and C#: A Tie!
PHP and C# came in at a tie in second place. Both scored far below Java in terms of popularity, coming in at a Google score of 20/100. In past results PHP has come in as more popular than C#, but it seems that in 2012-2013 C# has caught up in popularity with PHP.
PHP was most popular in several cities in India followed by Jakarta Indonesia, Paris, and London.
C# was also popular in several cities in India as well as Tel Aviv, Sao Paulo in Brazil, London, Istanbul, and New York.
C++ was the third most popular programming language coming in with a Google popularity score of 13/100. C++ programming is popular in several cities in India as well as Moscow and London.
Finally VB came in last place with a popularity score of 4/100. Several cities in India work with VB as well as Manila in the Philippines and several separately listed districts of Tokyo as well as Osaka.
Comparing Google Trends with the Tiobe Index
For related results check out the Tiobe community index, which assigns a popularity score to the major programming languages currently in active use. Their chart is at: http://www.tiobe.com/index.php/content/paperinfo/tpci/index.html .
The Tiobe popularity results are fairly similar to my results above. However, they do show C# as being one point more popular than PHP whereas Google Trends indicated they were equal.
Furthermore, the Tiobe index states that C is as popular as Java while Objective-C is below C++ but above C#.
I did not include C or Objective-C in my searches since Google Trends only let me search by my five most favorite languages, but this is useful information to know.
Here is a screen capture showing the Tiobe index results: