Explore Your Favorite Topic With Stack Overflow's Interactive Trend Tool
Explore Your Favorite Topic With Stack Overflow's Interactive Trend Tool
Written by Janet Swift   
Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Stack Overflow has a wealth of data which reflects the level of interest in programming languages and technologies. Now it has provided a simple to use tool for do-it-yourself exploration and analysis of trends over almost a decade.

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Introducing the new interactive Stack Overflow Trend tool on the Stack Overflow blog, data scientist David Robinson explains that:

On a typical day, developers ask over 8,000 questions on Stack Overflow about programming problems they run into in their work.

By looking at the technologies that users have asked about since Stack Overflow was launched in 2008 you can see trends in the popularity of different languages, frameworks and general technical topics which have been identified by tags.

Measuring developer interest based on Stack Overflow questions isn’t perfect: some technologies might inspire more questions among its users than others. But we’ve found it’s a simple measure that gives useful insights into the developer ecosystem. It’s especially useful for measuring changes over time: when we see a rapid growth in the number of questions about a technology, it usually reflects a real change in what developers are using and learning.

In the blog post Robinson looks at JavaScript Frameworks with a chart that shows how the share of questions about jQuery has declined as newer popular frameworks - Angular and React - came on the scene, even though it remains the most popular (something we keep noticing) with around 4.5% of questions per month, compared to 2% for the other two:soeg1

A second chart is needed to look at other front-end web frameworks because their shares are all at the sub 0.5% level:   

soeg2

Robinson comments:

Smaller web frameworks show a brutal life cycle, where some show rapid growth then decline over the span of a few years. 

 

But the fun in the tool is performing your own analysis by going to Stack Overflow Trends. You can enter up to 15 tags from a very long list. Start typing and then make a selection. Notice that you can't include anything not already in the list.

According to the TIOBEindex, which is also based on frequency of mentions on the Internet, Java is currently the most popular language with C in second place, followed by C++, Python and C#, so let's look at how they line up. Haskell is a language that is known for being disproportionately talked about (it is currently in 38th place on TIOBE) so let's add it in too:

sotrands1

sotrands1c

It seems that C# was a really popular topic for questions in early 2009 but has declined ever since - partly because now it is better documented -  for example youi'll find are over 40 articles on I Programmer as well as it gradual decline in popularity as other's become in vogue - see the next chart for how Python's rise appears to have affected it: sopythoncsJava appears to have a repeating cycle. Could this be linked to new releases? Also when questions about Java peak those for C++ and C go down - but as the chart is for share of questions rather than absolute number of questions when one topic goes up another has to go down. The fact that C and C++  have very similar patterns is probably not due to interest in them but rather to what is hogging the limelight at any time. 

sojavac

Notice trhat it would have been a good idea to add Haskell into this chart in order to extend the y-axis down to 0%!

This next chart demonstrates how easy it is to get an informative result. JavaScript so swamps the alternatives to it that all we can can conclude is that JavaScript has accounted for an increasing proportion of questions since StackOverflow started, when it had around 4.5% to a peak of over 12% in 2015 and remains at above 11%.sojavascript

To know the relative importance of the JavaScript alternatives, including EcmaScript which is of course JavaScript under its official name, you need to discard JavaScript from the chart - just click the x on its tag.

sojscriptalts

Now you can see how Typscript is currently attracting questions and so is Ecmascript, but at a lower level. Dart and CoffeeScript appear to be in terminal decline. You might think that removing Typescript from the chart would give better resolution, but 1% is the minimum for the top of the y-axis and you cant change the years on the x-axis at all.

Even so this is a fun tool to play with and nicely complements the one for looking at the diurnal patterns in question-asking data we covered recently. Thank you, again Stack Overflow.sosq

More Information

Stack Overflow Trends

Introducing Stack Overflow Trends

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