Evans Data, in Santa Cruz, Calif., conducted a study of more than 430 developers in North America and determined that the use of Visual Basic, "one of the most popular computer languages throughout the last 15 years, is eroding dramatically," Evans said in a news release on the issue.
According to Evans Datas Fall 2006 North American Development Survey, overall, developer use of the Visual Basic family has dropped off by 35 percent since last spring.
Moreover, Evans said, "As expected, developers are finally leaving VB6 and earlier versions; theyre also leaving VB.NET; which is down by 26 percent. This means Java now holds the market penetration lead at 45 percent, followed by C/C++ at 40 percent, and C# at 32 percent."
Microsoft said the Evans study is not necessarily indicative of the Visual Basic situation.
Michael ONeill, developer tools Product Manager at Microsoft, said that because he has not yet seen the Evans report he could not comment on the specifics of the research firms analysis.
Yet, ONeill said Visual Basic is still the worlds most popular programming language used by the broadest pool of developers worldwide, "and Visual Basic and Visual Studio continue to meet the needs of our developers."
Moreover, ONeill said Microsoft has seen solid, worldwide adoption of Visual Basic 2005 among the companys Visual Basic developer base, as well as steadily increasing downloads of Visual Basic Express outside of the traditional Visual Basic community.
In addition, "Office 2007 and Windows Vista provide even more opportunity and flexibility for Visual Basic developers to find creative solutions to programming challenges," ONeill said.
"With the introduction of Microsofts new Interop Forms Toolkit, which enables deeper integration of Visual Basic 2005 technologies within existing Visual Basic 6.0 applications, we are also seeing more Visual Basic 6.0 developers make the move to Visual Basic 2005."
Meanwhile, Microsoft is working on Visual Basic 9.0, which will modernize the development platform to make it more amenable for Web development, and enable developers to use VB as they do many scripting languages, Microsoft developers have said.
"Microsoft has dominated languages since the early 90s, but we are seeing much more parity now," said John Andrews, president, Evans Data.
"The use of scripting languages, as well as Java, appears to have limited VBs future market potential."
Among other findings from the Evans study was that more than 70 percent of the developers surveyed said they plan to do Web-related development in the coming year.
In addition, 80 percent of the developers surveyed said they were creating Rich Internet Applications.
Anne Thomas Manes, an analyst with Burton Group, said that while she has not seen any scientific evidence, if VB usage is going down, developers are probably shifting to C#, PHP, and Ruby.
"The primary reason VB usage might go down is that fewer companies are building desktop applications (VBs primary design center)," Manes said.
"Todays focus is on Web applications. For VB 6.0 developers that found the shift from VB 6.0 (non-object-oriented) to VB.NET (object-oriented) too much for them, they would find PHP and Ruby appealing.
"Other developers that embraced the shift to OO concepts would find C# even more appealing. A small fraction of these developers might shift to Java—especially if they needed to write portable applications."