Programming Languages Ranking: Top 9 in 2021

Programming languages

The IT field is an evolving industry. New databases, programming languages, and frameworks are appearing every day. On the Internet, you can find hundreds of programming language rankings telling you which ones you should choose. Before any programming languages list, you should consider what you (or your dev team) need to do with them.

Here is an overview of different rankings to help you choose the right programming language for your project. 

How Many Programming Languages Are There And What To Choose For Your Team  

Instead of looking for the best language, a better strategy is to analyze the most used language and its uses. According to the TIOBE Index, there are over 265 programming languages out there. There is a reason why there are so many languages. To put it simply, each language can give you different results depending on the scale and type of project. Usually, programmers learn a dozen of these languages to specialize in a few of them based on their work requirements. 

There is no point in looking for someone who can master all of these programming languages. A more strategic method is to isolate the specific need of your project for each stage of the development process. So, before looking for the winner, let’s have a look at which is the best language to consider in the different phases of the development process: 

Front-end Web Development

  • JavaScript 
  • Elm 
  • TypeScript

Back-end Web Development 

  • JavaScript 
  • Scala
  • Python
  • Go 
  • Ruby 

Mobile Application 

  • Swift
  • Java 
  • Objective C
  • JavaScript

Game Development

  • Unity 
  • TypeScript 

Desktop Application

  • Scala 
  • Go 
  • Python 

System Programming 

  • Go 
  • Rust 

Based on what you need, you can focus your research on the type of programming language that can give you the best outcome. Here is a comparison between three 2021 rankings of the most in-demand programming languages.

Top Programming Languages: 2021 Rankings In Comparison

Programming languages

As we mentioned, coding practices evolve like any software or digital device. Some of them were popular in the past and now are forgotten. Some others are immortal, and new ones are taking over. Each year, different rankings come up. And the ‘best language’ can be different depending on which technologies or geographical areas are taken into account.

For example, the Ruby language is more popular in Japan and South America than anywhere else. Likewise, Python is equally popular worldwide and C++ is the favorite in India, Pakistan, and Malaysia. When it comes to hiring remotely, it is also crucial to consider where to hire, not only which language is the most used. 

Here is a comparison between three different indexes to analyze the most used programming languages: 

TIOBE Index 

Since 2001, the TIOBE index has been an indicator of the popularity of programming languages, and it’s updated each month. In this index, ratings are the results of the twenty-five popular search engines, courses, and third-party vendors – Google, Bing, Yahoo!, Wikipedia, Amazon, YouTube, and Baidu lead the way. 

According to 2021’s results, the number one programming language is  C. So far, only C and Java hold the podium. However, Python has never been so close to hitting the first position – the bridge between these two is only 0.16%. In fact, C ratings recorded a decline from 20.24% in June 2001 to 11.83% in September 2021. Java is still in the third position on the podium. But it declined from 26.49% in June 2001 to 10.12% in September 202. In addition, Ruby is also getting more popular, moving from position 15 to 13. Finally, Go gained 4 positions, going up from 18 to 14. 

On the flip side, PHP has the worst performance. This language was number 3 in 2001, and now it’s in position 9. 

To conclude, the TIOBE index is a useful source because it analyzes the most used programming languages – rather than the best ones. If you need to make a strategic decision for a new project, this index is a starting point for an overview of programming languages’ demand and evolution.

Here is the complete list of programming languages based on TIOBE ratings: 

Programming languages rank

Source: TIOBE Index, September 2021

PYPL Index Ranking

The Github PYPL Index also analyzes the popularity of programming languages. Their method takes into account which tutorials developers are searching on Google. This index is also updated each month. 

In addition to their worldwide index, PYPL publishes separate rankings for the US, India, Germany, United Kingdom, France. According to this index, Python is in position number 1 worldwide, followed by Java. To specify, Python has doubled its shares (48%) in Germany, the United Kingdom, and France. And it has the highest share in the UK (34%) and the lowest in India (31%).

PYPL also recorded a decline for PHP and Java. From 20% shares in 2008, PHP reached 5.76% in 2021. For Java, the decline is slower but consistent: from 31% in 2008, it dropped to 18%. Both languages are losing popularity, considering that their shares hit 50% in 2004-2009.

Here is the complete list of shares for the 2021 ranking: 

Source: Github PYPL Index 2021

RedMonk’s Q1 2021

For its ratings, RedMonk combines GitHub data and discussions on developer info-sharing site Stack Overflow. Based on their research, Javascript is number 1, followed by Python and Java. Unlike the first two indexes, PHP maintains a good position (number 4) and C is down the list (number 10). However, their method produces several ties. And the results of their analysis determined the following programming languages list:

  1. JavaScript
  2. Python
  3. Java
  4. PHP
  5. C#
  6. C++
  7. CSS
  8. TypeScript
  9. Ruby
  10. C
  11. Swift
  12. R
  13. Objective-C
  14. Shell
  15. Scala
  16. Go
  17. PowerShell
  18. Kotlin
  19. Rust
  20. Perl

Here is a complete overview of the first quarter plot for 2021:

Programming languages rank

Source: RedMonk’s Q1 2021

Top 9 Programming Languages 

Based on these indexes, here is our list of the most trending programming languages and their uses:

  1. Python 
  2. Java
  3. JavaScript
  4. C#
  5. C/C++
  6. PHP
  7. Swift
  8. Objective-C
  9. Kotlin

1. Python 

Python is a general-purpose coding language for several programming styles such as functional, object-oriented, reflective, etc. With this language, you can build multiple digital tools and platforms. For example, YouTube, Google Search, and iRobot machines use it. In addition, for hiring managers, Python is the second-most in-demand programming language after JavaScript. 

The language is used for:
  • Back end development 
  • Data science 
  • App development

Apps using Python: YouTube, Quora, Reddit, Instagram, Spotify. 

2. Java

Java is an object-oriented programming language. Developers can create objects encompassing functions and data to structure programs and applications. Currently, Java ranks is the third most in-demand language for hiring managers worldwide. In addition, Stack Overflow lists it among the most used languages in the past two years. 

The language is used for: 
  • E-commerce 
  • Finance
  • App development

Apps using Java: Google Play, TrainAway app, School App, and Matchplayer for Android.

3. JavaScript

With JavaScript, developers can manage the behavior of web pages by creating animated graphics, interactive maps, and so on. For Stack Overflow’s 2020 Developer Survey, JavaScript is the most commonly-used language in the world (69.7%) and it’s the most in-demand programming language for US hiring managers

The language is used for: 
  • Web development
  • Game development
  • Mobile apps 
  • Building web servers

Apps for JavaScript: Yahoo, eBay, Amazon, Wikipedia.

4. C#

Microsoft released C# in 2002. Since then, C sharp steadily grew in popularity. Approximately, one of every five hiring managers plans to hire a C# developer. 

The language is used for: 
  • Game development
  • Desktop/web/mobile apps 
  • VR

Apps using C#: any desktop Windows apps like Uno, Mono, and .NET Core.

5. C/C++

 

According to PYPL, C++ and C have the same popularity ratings on Google trends, which is why they both belong in this position.  Since its creation in 1973, C has been one of the most popular object-oriented languages. You can program systems like Microsoft Windows, Linux, Mac, iOS, Android, and Windows Phone kernels. In addition, it works on popular databases such as Oracle, MySQL, and MS SQL Server.

The language is used for: 
  • Game development
  • Mobile applications
  • Video/photo editing apps

Apps using C/C++: Adobe products, Mozilla browser, and Microsoft software.

6. PHP

PHP is widely used for web development services. As an open-source server-side scripting language, PHP allows the creation of interactive and dynamic interfaces. Despite its recent decline, it’s still a popular language. Even today, numerous leading pages use it to run their interfaces and login systems. 

The language is used for: 
  • Interactive interfaces
  • Mobile applications
  • Website development 

Apps using PHP: WordPress, Wikipedia, Mailchimp, Flickr, Yahoo.

7. Swift 

Swift programming language works with iOS applications. Since 2014, the language has been a one-stop platform for future Apple product development. Designed by Apple, Swift runs on macOS, tvOS, watchOS, and z/OS that’s powering IBM Mainframe computers. 

The language is used for: 
  • iOS applications 
  • Native applications
  • UX design 
  • Front-end development 

Apps using Swift: Slack, Facebook, Uber, Khan Academy, LinkedIn, WhatsApp.

8. Objective-C 

Before Swift, there was Objective-C. Created in 1983, it’s the first and only iOS development programming language. Swift is replacing this language in most cases. However, it’s worth mentioning it since several macOS and iOS programming learning resources still run with Objective-C.

The language is used for:  
  • iOS and Mac OS X operating systems
  • Mobile application 
  • Back-end development 

Apps using Objective-C: Apple services like Apple Music and iTunes.

9. Kotlin

Kotlin‘s popularity increased with the rise of Android users – 124.4m in the USA only last year. That is to say, 80% of programmers use Kotlin mainly to build Android apps, 31% for back-end applications, and 30% for SDK/libraries. In addition, it runs with Java, allowing the use of existing Android libraries.

The language is used for: 
  • Android applications
  • Back-end applications
  • SDK/libraries

Apps using Kotlin: Slack, Netflix, Evernote, Basecamp, Blockbuster, Occaz, AYIO, MoveUP.

Conclusion

The programming languages’ list we proposed is a guide to make an evaluation of what you need for your project. For example, Objective-C isn’t the first choice for new projects since Swift appeared. So, if you are launching an iOS app from scratch, Swift is the best choice. On the other hand, if you need to implement a running app built with Objective-C, it’s wiser to work with the same language to improve features and interactions. Finally, triad Java, JavaScript, and Python are always a wise choice because of their popularity. 

Programming languages

To recap, remember that looking for the most popular language isn’t enough to build a productive development team. You want talented developers, and to attract them you have a solid recruitment strategy.  If you need advice on that, we are (virtually) here to help! Our remote recruitment team can find you a developer in less than two weeks, helping you find the right candidate – not only the right language! 

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Costanza Tagliaferri

Costanza Tagliaferri

Costanza Tagliaferri is a Writer and Content Marketer at DistantJob. She has covered a wide range of topics, and now she is focussing on technology, traveling, and remote work.