Python Beats Java On GitHub
Written by Janet Swift   
Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Making the headlines in the latest State of the Octoverse report comes the news that Python has replaced Java as the second most popular language. This just goes to confirm a phenomenon that we've already know about. 

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A year ago in Python's Unstoppable Rise we reported that Python, which was already the top language in the IEEE Spectrum's ranking, had displaced Java at the at the top of the PYPL Index. Now it has overtaken Java on Github, although it is still outnumbered by JavaScript. The chart below is of the Top 10 primary languages over the period 2014 t0 now ranked by number of unique contributors to public and private repositories tagged with the appropriate primary language.

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Other language changes from last year are that C# has risen to rank #5 pushing C++ down to #6 and C has continued last year's downward trend to #9, allowing Shell to re-occupy  #8.

In terms of fastest growing languages one surprise is the inclusion of Assembly in the list just below Python. Of course as this list is in terms of percentage changes the numbers involved can be an order of magnitude apart. Even so it is good to see Kotlin, which top this list last year. 

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The report's own comment on this ranking is:

With Flutter in our trending repositories, it’s not surprising that Dart gained contributors this year. We also saw trends toward statically typed languages focused on type safety and interoperability: the Rust, Kotlin, and TypeScript communities are still growing fast.

Flutter, which burst onto our radar in 2018, leading us to report The Future Is Flutter, is a new entrant in the Top 10 table listing projects in order of number of contributors. While it  is certainly a vibrant project, I can't see where the report finds 13K contributors. According to the repo flutter/flutter there are 481 contributors responsible for 16.5k commits and it has been forked 10K times. 

Last's years Octoverse report credited Microsoft/vscode with 19k contributors so gaining another 100 doesn't seem unlikely but its repo records only 1,017 contributors and 57K commits and 12.8k forks.

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Disregarding the inflated number of contributors, the things that are of interest in this ranking are the way Microsoft, which now owns GitHub continues to attract contributors. Its Azure Docs project has climbed from being #5 to #2. Facebook/React-Native meanwhile has slumped from #2 to #5. The other two projects that are new entrants to this lists are first contributions - which is advice to new GitHub contributors, and Home Assistant which was one of last years fastest growing projects. Two of the three projects knocked off this list in 2018-19 are related to Angular and the other is npm/npm which has been archived with its project continuing at npm/cli.

The overall numbers stated in the latest State of the Octoverse report also have to be treated with some caution. It states that having welcomed more than 10 million new users since last year, GitHub now has more than 40 million developers and more than 2.9 million organizations. But once you allow for multiple repos belonging to the same individual, and individuals contributing to different projects with different hats on, and therefor different email addresses or identities, the figure of 40 million individuals is undoubtedly inflated. And it isn't just developers who have Github accounts - many of the consumers of open source software are not also producers and yet there advantages to them to sign up to GitHub.

Even so GitHub is a thriving platform and has again  experienced successful expansion over the past year.

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 13 November 2019 )