Industry Insights

The 15 Most Popular Programming Languages of 2023

Written By Ryan Loftus | December 13, 2022

The past few years have seen plenty of uncertainty in the tech industry. Yet even as the broader economic outlook appears to be softening, the demand – and competition – for skilled tech talent has only increased.

To get an unbiased, unparalleled view into the programming language popularity, HackerRank undertook an intensive study of our platform data. From the supremacy of Java and Python to the rise of Go and TypeScript, 2023 is on track to be a pivotal year for developer skills.

Methodology

Our ranking of the most popular programming languages draws from our 2023 Developer Skills Report. In that report, we used exclusive data from the HackerRank platform to understand employer demand, developer preference, and candidate engagement.

We tracked the popularity of languages by analyzing the languages candidates chose to use on assessments with multiple options available, as well as their proficiency in those languages. For key languages on our list, we’ve included data and insights on employer demand for the skill. We also included HankerRank Community practice data to get a full spectrum of skill preferences. The rates of change for data are based on the difference between volume in 2021 and 2022. In total, our analysis is based on the language preferences of 2.8 million developers.

The Most Popular Programming Languages

#1. Java

What this language is used for: 

  • Mobile applications
  • Cloud applications
  • Video game development
  • IoT devices
  • Web-based applications
  • Big data
  • Machine learning

Java is a high-level, object-oriented programming language used to create complete applications. The language is platform independent, allowing it to run on any device that supports its environment. 

This combination of performance and versatility made Java the most popular programming language with developers in 2021 and 2022. You can do just about anything with Java. (Well, almost anything.) 

Building a machine learning model? Check. Developing IoT software for a smart fridge? Java has you covered. And of course, it’s the official language for Android development, the leading smartphone system in the world. Big data frameworks such as Apache Spark and Hadoop have also made Java a popular supporting skill for data scientists. Java usage is widespread, with companies such as Google, Netflix, Uber, and Spotify using the language.

Growing in popularity at a rate of 155%, Java is likely to retain its number one position for the foreseeable future.

#2. Python

What this language is used for: 

  • Web development
  • Data analysis
  • Data visualization
  • Task automation
  • Machine learning

Python is an interpreted, high-level, general-purpose programming language, and one of the most popular languages for rapid development.

There are a number of reasons behind Python’s popularity with developers. It’s easy to learn, usable on nearly every project, and vital for the field of data science. There’s also a range of powerful Python frameworks, including Django, Bottle, Web2Py, and PyScript. Python usage is also widespread, with companies including Intel, IBM, Netflix, and Meta using the language.

#3. C++

What this language is used for: 

  • Browser rendering
  • Device operating systems
  • Video game development
  • Cloud systems
  • Banking applications

C++ is a general purpose, compiled, and statically typed programming language. Known as “C with Classes,” C++ is an extension of C with the functionality of user-defined data classes. 

The high performance of C++ has made it the top language for use cases requiring fast rendering, including browsers, banking applications, and motion design software.

Another major contributor to C++’s ubiquity is its ability to work closely with system hardware. Developers use C++ as their first choice for hardware-oriented applications, including video game engines, operating systems, and cloud systems.

Another contributor to C++’s ubiquity is its age. C++ is more than 40 years old. In that time, it’s grown to support millions of applications, and developers have perfected it with new libraries and 20 updates. Beyond new application development, C++ skills are vital for maintaining existing applications and infrastructure. 

While C++ rounds out the medal podium with a third-place ranking, it’s unlikely to surpass Python anytime soon. Python utilization is almost 50% higher, and their growth rates are about the same.

#4. JavaScript

What this language is used for: 

  • Web development
  • Mobile development
  • Interactive design
  • Data visualization

JavaScript is a dynamic scripting language used for adding interactive behavior to web pages and applications. The main way developers use JavaScript is to manage the behavior and user experiences of websites. But there are a number of other interesting use cases for JavaScript. Node.js is a framework that extends the functionality of JavaScript to back-end, server-side applications. And libraries like D3.js make JavaScript useful for data visualization. There are also a range of powerful JavaScript frameworks, including, React, Angular, Vue, jQuery, ExpressJS, and Backbone.

JavaScript stands out as the first front-end language on our list. And you might be wondering why it doesn’t rank higher. After all, outlets like Stack Overflow and Codecademy rank JavaScript as the top language in the world. The difference is down to methodology.

Lists like Stack Overflow’s are survey-based, which means they measure the percentage of developers who know a language. In contrast, HackerRank’s list is based on the frequency at which developers choose to use a language. This provides visibility into both the languages that developers know and their likelihood to use them.

That’s not to say that JavaScript isn’t widespread. A staggering 97.3% of all websites use JavaScript as a client-side language. And with usage increasing at a rate of 157% per year, JavaScript’s popularity is only going to grow.

#5. C#

What this language is used for: 

  • Mobile development
  • Desktop development
  • Web development
  • Enterprise applications
  • Cloud services
  • Video game development

C# is a general purpose, object-oriented, component-oriented programming language developed around 2000 by Microsoft as part of its .NET initiative. C# is based on the C family of languages, and has similarities to C, C++, Java, and JavaScript. 

An extension of C, C# adds on a number of features, including variable checking, type checking, bound checking, and garbage collection. Like other members of the C language family, C# is a popular and well-established language, with companies such as Microsoft, Stack Overflow, Accenture, and Intuit using it in their tech stack.

#6. SQL

What this language is used for: 

  • Relational database management

SQL is an industry-standard structured query language for creating, defining, implementing, accessing, and maintaining relational databases.

SQL has been growing at a steady rate of 133%, but was replaced in the top five by C#, which is growing at a rate of 173%.

SQL stands out on this list as the only database-oriented language in a crowd of front-end and back-end languages.

That fact goes a long way in explaining its placement on the list. It’s ubiquity as database management earns it strong popularity, but it’s too specialized to challenge the popularity of more versatile languages like Java, Python, and JavaScript.

#7. C

What this language is used for:

  • Enterprise applications
  • Operating systems
  • Video game development
  • Calculation-based applications
  • Programming language development

C is a general-purpose, statically-typed, and compiled programming language. C is a foundational programming language that’s become known as the mother of all languages. Many of the most popular languages are built on C, including:

  • C++
  • C#
  • Python
  • Java
  • JavaScript
  • PHP
  • Perl
  • D
  • Limbo
  • Verilog

Because C has contributed to so many other languages, developers who learn C will acquire fundamental skills that transfer to any other language.

While the languages C inspired have surpassed it in popularity, the language is still a vital part of modern development.

#8. PHP

What this language is used for: 

  • Web development
  • Desktop app development

PHP is a widely-used open source and general-purpose scripting language that is especially suited for web development.

PHP’s popularity is owed to the fact that it was one of the first server-side languages that developers could embed into HTML. It’s also fast, secure, versatile, and supported by a strong open source community.

While PHP isn’t as popular as other general-purpose languages, its specialization gives it an advantage in web development over languages like Python.

#9. Go

What this language is used for:

  • Cloud development
  • Back-end development
  • Distributed networks
  • General development

Go is an object-oriented programming language that Google created in 2009 for networking and infrastructure. But since launch it’s evolved into a general-purpose language used in a wide range of applications.

Over a decade after Go’s launch, interest in the language has continued to grow. From 2018 to 2020, Go was the number one language developers wanted to learn. Companies such as Uber, Twitch, Dropbox, and – yes, Google – are using Go in their tech stack. 

Go stands out in this list as the second fastest-growing language. This year, Go overtook Swift’s spot at number nine. And it might have enough momentum to take PHP’s ranking in the near future. Go’s popularity is growing at a rate of 190%, while PHP is growing at 145%. Add in the fact that employer demand for Go increased by 301%, and its growth may even impact the popularity of other languages. 

 #10. Swift

What this language is used for: 

  • iPhone app development
  • MacOS app development

Swift is an open source, general-purpose programming language with a focus on performance, safety, and design patterns. Designed by Apple to replace Objective-C, Swift is the go-to language for iPhone, iPad, and Mac iOS development. 

Beyond iOS, Swift is a general-purpose language suitable for a wide range of use cases. However, drawbacks such as incomplete cross-platform support and poor interoperability with third-party tools limit its versatility.

Upon its launch, developers had hoped that Swift could challenge the popularity of Python. But Swift never quite caught on as a general-purpose language, and its usage levels reflect its role as a specialized technology. This is demonstrated by its decline in popularity from nine to ten in our list. Employer demand for Swift is also limited, with it ranking thirteenth in demand.

#11. Kotlin

What this language is used for: 

  • Android development
  • Back-end development
  • Data science

Kotlin is a cross-platform, general-purpose programming language designed for safety, productivity, developer satisfaction, and Java interoperability. Kotlin is most known for its role in mobile development, with over 60% of Android developers using the language. 

Android apps that use Kotlin include Trello, Evernote, and Coursera. Beyond Android applications, developers use Kotlin for roles throughout the tech stack, including back-end development, full-stack development, and data science.

Kotlin popularity is on the rise, moving from twelfth to eleventh in popularity. However, its usage is far lower than classic languages like Java and Python. Employer demand for the language is also limited, as Kotlin doesn’t appear in our list of languages with the highest demand.

#12. Ruby

What this language is used for: 

  • Web development
  • Video game development
  • Scientific computing
  • Data processing
  • Automation tools
  • Data analysis

Ruby is an interpreted, dynamic, open-source programming language with a focus on simplicity and productivity. Ruby has a diverse range of use cases, including data-driven web apps, marketplaces, and desktop apps. 

Ruby is most known for Ruby on Rails (RoR), a framework optimized for productivity, efficiency, and DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself). Developers have gradually shifted away from Ruby over the past several years, and it’s not surprising to see it drop from eleventh to twelfth in popularity. 

#13. TypeScript

What this language is used for: 

  • Web development
  • Mobile development
  • Enterprise-level development

TypeScript is an open-source, object-oriented language that is an extension of JavaScript, meaning JavaScript code is valid TypeScript code. Developed by Microsoft in 2012, TypeScript describes itself as “all of JavaScript, and then a bit more.” 

The language builds on the foundation of JavaScript with additional features, including classes, object-oriented techniques, and scalable code bases. TypeScript has been gaining popularity for years, and ranked 4th in GitHub’s 2022 language rankings

From 2021 to 2022, TypeScript showed large gains in its popularity with developers. With a doubletake-inducing 2,788% gain, TypeScript is growing faster than any other programming language. That popularity is also translating into hiring demand. TypeScript demand grew by a huge 392% (or 282% compared to trend).

Its growth may also affect the growth of larger languages. TypeScript is tightly linked with JavaScript. Will its growth come at the expense of JavaScript, or will it serve to amplify it?

#14. Scala

What this language is used for: 

  • Mobile development
  • Web developments
  • Big data systems
  • IoT development

Scala is a high-level, statically-typed programming language that combines object-oriented and functional programming. Its multi-paradigm approach to programming makes it ideal for a number of use cases, including big data, distributed systems, Android applications, and IoT devices. A major benefit for developers is that Scala is interoperable with Java code and libraries.

#15. R

What this language is used for: 

  • Statistical computing
  • Data analysis

R is an open-source programming language for statistical computing and data analysis. Researchers and scientists use R for data visualization and statistical analysis in a number of industries, including academia, research, fintech, retail, government, healthcare, and social media.

The popularity of R has fallen over the past several years. From 2021 to 2022, R dropped from the thirteenth to the fifteenth most popular language. And while R grew by 59% in 2022, most other languages on this list are growing two to four times faster. 

The differences in total volume are even more striking. Only 1,239 developers opted to use R in their assessments. But 484 times as many developers used Java – almost 600k. The gap in relevance between these two languages is striking.

Given all these data points, we expect another language to replace R on this list in the near future.

Key Takeaways

  • It’s unlikely that lower-ranked languages will break into the top five. The gap in volume is too great to overcome.
  • Go and TypeScript are the languages to watch. Their popularity and demand are growing at a rate unmatched by other languages.
  • Ruby, R, SQL, and Swift saw their rankings decrease. Their usage is still growing, just not fast enough.
  • General-purpose languages like Java and Python tend to outrank more specialized languages like SQL and Swift. While the popularity of specialist languages is strong, their specialization means they’ll never reach the widespread usage of more popular languages. 

For more insights about trending languages and technical skills, read HackerRank’s 2023 Developer Skills Report.

The Most In-Demand Programming Languages for 2023