Java and Python Again Share Second Place In RedMonk Rankings
Written by Mike James   
Wednesday, 25 August 2021

In the latest iteration of the RedMonk Programming Language Ratings, for June 2021, Java has tied with Python  in second place, a repeat of the situation that initially occurred in January 2020.


Since 2012 RedMonk's co-founder and Principal Analyst, Stephen O'Grady has ranked the popularity of programming languages on a twice-yearly schedule based on a very straightforward methodology - a correlation between GitHub pull requests (an indication of language usage) and Stack Overflow discussions (an indication of level of interest). This not only seems intuitively to be a good approach, it produces consistent and believable results.

At the top of the table, its results are also pretty immutable as can be seen from this extract covering the top four languages for the last 5 years, with JavaScript solidly occupying the top slot and PHP, which Python displaced from #3 in 2016, maintaining its #4 position.  


Given how rarely one language displaces another, when Python originally tied with Java in January 2020 and then moved into second place at the next iteration, June 2020, it seemed likely that Python had overtaken Java on a permanent basis. So it comes as something of a surprise that Java has rebounded.

O'Grady's comment on this in his blog post is:

After spending a few quarters demoted to third place in our rankings, prompting questions from observers as to whether it was fated to a gradual drift down these rankings, Java surged back into a tie for second place with Python. This would be less of a surprise but for many of the language’s competitors – and, it should be said, the odd industry analyst or two – writing regularly recurring epitaphs for the stalwart of enterprise infrastructure. The language once created to run cable set top boxes continues to be a workhorse, and importantly one that has consistently been able to find new work to do. Java’s performance on these rankings continues to impress, all these years later, and as it’s shown a remarkable ability to adapt to a rapidly changing landscape it’s a language that would be difficult to bet against.

Each iteration of the RedMonk rankings is sponsored by an industry partner and in this case it is Microsoft, which has taken the opportunity to draw attention for its support for Java, something we have reported in in recent months, including for example Microsoft Reveals Java Support In VS Code Roadmap and Microsoft Jumps on the OpenJDK Bandwagon.

The lower portion of the RedMonk Language Rankings chart is where there is some volatility, with new languages entering, such as Kotlin which made its debut years ago, and existing ones bowing out, in this instance Perl.


Look carefully, however and you'll notice the only changes anywhere in the chart in the last iteration were Python, going from #3 to #2; and Dart, making its debut in the chart at #20, having previously been in #21.

O'Grady also discusses this:

As has become typical of third quarter runs, this round of the language rankings was fairly static. Whether the causal factors there are related to seasonal vacations, continuing impacts from the pandemic or some other combination of variables is unclear, but after last quarter’s run featured half the languages in the Top 20 changing spots in some way, this quarter’s run features only two such changes. 

While it might not make for exciting news, the fact that that dominant programming languages stay dominant and at the same time new languages are able to gain a foothold is reassuring and should be welcomed as good news.



More Information

The RedMonk Programming Language Rankings: June 2021

Related Articles

Language Ranking Almost Unchanged Over Time

JavaScript Still Tops RedMonk's Rankings

Python Ties With Java In RedMonk Language Rankings 

Watch the Rise and Fall of Programming Languages

Language Popularity Retrospective

The Dance Of The Programming Languages 

Why Do Some Languages Always Come Top?

Kotlin Enters RedMonk's Top 20 


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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 25 August 2021 )