Main image of article JavaScript, Python Boast Largest Developer Communities Worldwide

It’s difficult to determine with any real certainty how many people use a particular programming language. Sure, there are lots of popular programming-language rankings out there (such as the TIOBE Index or Stack Overflow’s exhaustive annual Developer Survey), but those often make assumptions about languages’ user base based on complicated formulas and multiple data sources. 

Then there’s SlashData’s State of the Developer Nation, which attempts to take the most comprehensive look at how many technologists use some of the world’s most popular programming languages. It relies on two metrics: an independent estimate of the number of software developers around the world (24.3 million in the first quarter of 2021), and extrapolations from its “large-scale, low-bias surveys.”

SlashData claims its methodology gives it “rich and reliable information about who uses each language and in what context.” For the first quarter of 2021, it concluded that JavaScript is the language with the largest developer community (13.8 million strong), followed by Python (10.1 million), Java (9.4 million), and C/C++ (7.3 million). Here’s the full chart; download the full report for a glimpse at the contexts in which language is the most popular, including web, cloud, mobile, embedded, and AR/VR:  

JavaScript is the clear winner here. “Between Q4 2017 and Q1 2021, more than 4.5M developers joined the community—the highest growth in absolute terms across all languages,” SlashData’s report added. “Even in software sectors where JavaScript is not among developers’ top choices, like data science or embedded development, about a fourth of developers use it in their projects.”

Python is also strong, thanks in large part to its increasing use in cutting-edge technologies: “The rise of data science and machine learning (ML) is a clear factor in Python’s popularity. Close to 70 percent of ML developers and data scientists report using Python. For perspective, only 17 percent use R, the other language often associated with data science.” 

These languages’ usage is also unlikely to decline anytime soon. In January, GitHub Education released survey data showing that Python, HTML, and JavaScript were the languages most used by students, meaning there’s a whole generation of rising technologists who are comfortable with them. “One consistent finding, across the board, is the widespread adoption of Python and related tooling. In the past five years, many, if not most, of the top computer science programs in the United States have implemented Python as a primary language of instruction,” read the accompanying report. 

If you’re just beginning your programming journey, keep all of this in mind as you decide which languages to pursue. Learning a popular programming language can unlock all kinds of opportunities.