Programming language popularity - Stack Overflow

There are many ways to compare the popularity of programming languages. None of them is perfect.

Let's look at one of those imperfect comparisions: Tags on StackOverflow

That page shows the number of questions asked marked with the specific tags.

Our assumption is that the language with the more questions is more popular.

The limitations are:

  • It is a total since the establishment of StackOverflow on September 15, 2008. Languages released since then had less time to accumulate questions.
  • On the other hand it does not include questions that were asked (somewhere) before StackOverflow opened.
  • Some languages might have other resources where people can ask questions.
  • It's a total number. Does not show trends. A language might be rapidly fading but still have a high number because of questions asked 5 years ago.
  • Languages with better documentation, where these types of questions are answered might generate less questions.
  • Some languages are used by less Internet-savy developers. (e.g. COBOL?)
  • Some languages are used in environments where Internet use is limited and/or discouraged. (e.g. security-related systems)
  • Some questions are tagged by the library or framework in use and not the language. (e.g. Ruby On Rails has a lot more tags than Ruby.)
  • More questions probably also indicate more newbies to the language which mean newer languages might have higher number of questions.

Anyway, some of the numbers as of today (April 21, 2017):


  JavaScript    1,369,708
  Java          1,245,453
  C#            1,084,612
  PHP           1,065,573
  Python          737,329
  C++             509,984
  ASP.NET         313,926
  Objective C     275,572
  Ruby on Rails   272,120
  .NET            250,922
  C               248,307
  Ruby            180,234
  R               180,031
  Node.JS         169,701
  Swift           144,520
  VB.NET          109,646
  Bash             82,775
  VBA              79,590
  Matlab           70,842
  Scala            65,012
  Perl             55,815
  PowerShell       44,461
  Delphi           38,716
  Haskell          32,287
  Assembly         24,433
  Go               21,880
  Lua              12,378
  SAS               8,013
  Dart              6,442
  D                 2,206
  ABAP              1,312
  COBOL               964

BTW I just found Stack Overflow Tag Trends that can show the trends both in absolute numbers and in percentage of the total number of question on Stack Overflow.

Published on 2017-04-21 by Gabor Szabo

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