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JavaScript Most Popular Language: Stack Overflow Report

According to the latest Stack Overflow developer survey, JavaScript is the most popular programming language and Rust is most loved.

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Stack Overflow, the popular question-and-answer community site for developers, today released the results of its annual developer survey, which indicates, among other things, that JavaScript is the most popular programming language among respondents.

More than 50,000 developers—56,033 to be exact—in 173 countries around the world responded to the survey. Stack Overflow is so popular among developers that every eight seconds, a developer asks a question on the site. In January alone, 46 million people visited Stack Overflow to get help or give help to a fellow developer.

"This is a highly impressive survey and one of its kind," said Al Hilwa, an analyst at IDC. "Stack Overflow has an incredible user base and it is great to see them survey them with such a fairly extensive survey. While I think we can learn a lot from such surveys, we have to realize that there are always limits to what can be intuited. They asked 45 questions, which is at the high-end of the scale of survey length that people—especially developers—are willing to answer."

While the 2016 Stack Overflow survey only reached .4 percent of the estimated 15 million developers worldwide, a large majority of respondents (85.3 percent of full-stack developers) cited JavaScript as the programming language they most commonly use. Meanwhile, 32.2 percent of respondents cited Angular as the most important technology to them and 27.1 cited Node.js—giving JavaScript and JavaScript based technologies three of the top 10 slots among the most popular technologies used by developers. Angular was number five and Node.js came in at number eight.

"Technologies that make it easy to program in multiple locations, like JavaScript, are becoming more important," Shikhir Singh, a senior developer relations manager at Sencha, told eWEEK. "That's one of the great things about JavaScript is that you can code on the front end and the back end. You have technologies like Node that make it so easy to code the back end. And then there are front-ends like Sencha or any of the other ones that are out there. So you can hire developers with more or less one skill set, which is JavaScript today, and they can create some pretty amazing applications."

Singh said a few years ago he viewed JavaScript as a language that had just evolved from scripts, but today it's becoming a very mature language very quickly as the tooling is catching on.

"What's happening is the ramp up in tooling as well as standards with ECMAScript 6 is making it a lot easier to hire one developer to do everything—the back end or the front end," he said. "And that's where a lot of our customers are going."

So the Stack Overflow survey found that JavaScript is the most common programming language used by nearly every developer type—even back-end developers.

The survey also showed that most developers are polyglot programmers, meaning they use more than one programming language on a regular basis. According to the survey, the average developer regularly uses between four and five major programming languages, frameworks and technologies. The most common two-technology combination is JavaScript and SQL. The most common three-technology combination is JavaScript, PHP, and SQL.

Meanwhile, the use of the Swift programming language is exploding, the survey showed. Swift grew faster than any other technology last year, the survey showed.

"We see trends like Swift going up dramatically and Objective-C is going down," Alvaro Oliveira, vice president of talent operations at Toptal, told eWEEK. Toptal provides freelance software engineers and designers to companies in need of development talent. "Swift came along and it just made the entry barrier way lower for developers focused on building iOS apps."

Thomas Murphy, an analyst with Gartner, said he is intrigued by the survey results regarding Swift.

"I find the tremendous interest in Swift funny," Murphy said. "It is 'easy' and dynamic but seems like, wait, I have seen this before. Guess that is the old dude view of the hot new kid. It is a nice, clean C/Java style syntax with the dynamic nature of a Smalltalk/Lisp/Squeak system. What isn't to like? Plus it comes from Apple … and everything from Apple is cool. Rust…same kind of idea. People like dynamic languages that are easy to support the paradigms of highly agile development. I guess that the real heart of this is that language popularity is associated with computing paradigms. VB is client server … who wants to do that? JavaScript is Web application both client and server, and Swift is for iOS and the Apple ecosystem."