Programming Language Trends In 2020

Published Feb 11, 2020

kiuwan teamWRITTEN BY THE KIUWAN TEAM
Experienced developers, cyber-security experts, ALM consultants, DevOps gurus and some other dangerous species.

High-level programming languages have gone a long way since the invention of Short Code in 1949. New languages are being created all the time, sometimes as a joke, but most times to deal with specific problems that existing ones cannot solve. Although nearly everyone has heard at least once of Java, PHP or C#, there are many more obscure languages that never became trendy or popular, like LOLCODE or Whitespace. 

In this blog post, we will have a look at the current trends regarding programming languages, what the Stack Overflow survey shows us, and how their results compare to the languages being used by the Kiuwan customers.

Programming language trends banner with pac man imagery

From COBOL to Angular

“We need to include this data in the copy, modify the data division, and then launch the JCL chain again:” this could be a normal conversation nowadays between two COBOL developers. Even though COBOL is more than 50 years old, it is still very, very alive. It remains the core of many finance companies. In fact, according to this study by Freedom after the Sharks, COBOL still accounts for more than 70% of the business transactions taking place in the world today.

However, the industry of software is really dynamic. New languages appear continuously to help developers in many aspects. Only in the last few years, languages like Kotlin, Scala, Go, and Python have emerged to cover some functionalities the market was asking for, that could not be solved with existing technologies.

Kotlin and Scala are languages based on the Java Virtual Machine and they have gained an astounding amount of interest among developers. Kotlin is predominantly used for Android app development and has Google as a sponsor. Scala’s complex features promote better coding and it offers advanced performance, thanks to functions, macros, and tuples.

One of the languages showing rapid growth is Python. This could be due to the support of the big open source community behind it, its productivity and speed, and that it is a great language to handle data, particularly big data. In fact, Python is the preferred language for data scientists due to some of its libraries, such as TensorFlow, Pandas, NumPy, and, Keras. Another data scientist language that is having a moment is R. According to Dice, a website for technology jobseekers, familiarity with both Python and R is essential for developers interested in data science.

We could have an identical speech for JavaScript frameworks, for example, Node.js, Vue.js, Angular, React, and Ionic are evolving to help not only front-end developers to create beautiful and scalable web applications but also backend developers in the server-side. It is very interesting to see the evolution of libraries over time, starting from Ecmascript to the latest fashionable javascript frameworks like Angular or React. 

New JavaScript frameworks pop up so fast, that it is common in the community to make jokes about how often a new one is born. See, for example, the website Days Since last JavaScript Framework

The Stack Overflow study of popular programming languages

Stack Overflow is a well-known forum-type website where developers can go to share tips, solutions, tricks, and resources for many programming languages. We bet that every developer has at least once in his or her life solved a technical problem reading a solution in Stack Overflow. It saves a lot of working time and it has created a great developer community. It’s no surprise that their slogan is: For developers, by developers.

Every year this organization publishes a study about developers’ tendencies.

  Stack Overflow’s annual Developer Survey is the largest and most comprehensive survey of people who code around the world. Each year, we field a survey covering everything from developers’ favorite technologies to their job preferences. This year marks the ninth year we’ve published our annual Developer Survey results, and nearly 90,000 developers took the 20-minute survey earlier this year.

In this relevant study, it is very interesting to look at the language trends. 

A graph of the most loved programming languages in 2019

We can see that front-end languages like Javascript (with all its frameworks), HTML/CSS and SQL are the most commonly used languages, though they are not the most loved ones. This place is taken by Rust, which has been the most loved programming language in the past four years among survey respondents, followed closely by Python and TypeScript. Python has had a good year overall since it has also surpassed Java as the most commonly used language, taking 4th place. 

Java is still very popular, due to many reasons, including the variety of platforms where it can be run. Other JVM languages like Scala or Kotlin are also growing, but not used as much as its parent.  

What about the programming languages in Kiuwan?

One key mission for Kiuwan is helping developers. We want to be with them in every line of code they are developing regardless of the language. During the last few years, we have measured how our customers’ developers are using Kiuwan to analyze their code.

Number of Kiuwan customers per language in 2019

Most of our customers scan for vulnerabilities in JavaScript, HTML, and Java. Overall, this reflects the results of the StackOverflow survey, which also places JavaScript and HTML as the most popular languages. 

Python, while being the fastest growing language according to StackOverflow, is not very widespread within our customers. Only 60 of our customers use Python, compared to 157 that use JavaScript. 

A graph showing the main programming languages by numbe of analyzed LOC

If we look at the evolution of LOC analyzed per language, we can see that Java has been growing exponentially, followed by steady growth from JavaScript, XML, for web applications, and COBOL, which is core for many finance companies.  

What about new languages?

 As we mentioned before, not many Kiuwan customers use Python, however, the data shows that the analyzed LOC in Python are growing exponentially. It seems like this language is being used more and more. Scala and Kotlin are also growing steadily, as you can see in the chart.  

A graph showing the newest programming languages by number of analyzed LOC

What will be the language with the biggest growth in 2020?

There are various reasons why a programming language becomes popular, and we cannot predict exactly what the greatest new language will be in 2020. But based on the survey from StackOverflow and the current market trends towards data harvesting, it is easy to assume that Python will continue growing alongside JavaScript frameworks

Google Go, aka Golang, is also a new language that is in every developer’s mind at the moment and we predict it will become more widespread in the upcoming year. Java, .Net and COBOL will continue to be widely used and it will take decades and new groundbreaking technology to shake them off their pedestal.

Kiuwan likes to keep the finger on the pulse, adding continuously to the long list of supported languages, which already includes 30+ programming languages. Furthermore, we are currently working on adding support for Gopher.

Can Kiuwan support your programming language and help you make your code more secure? See for yourself by requesting a free demo of Kiuwan. 

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