GitHub CEO Nat Friedman
GitHub

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  • Since 2014, GitHub’s annual State of the Octoverse report has tracked various developer trends.
  • That includes the top 10 programming languages each year, which, in 2020, included Java, Python, and C.
  • JavaScript continued to dominate as the most used programming language for six years in a row.
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2020 was an extraordinary year that changed the way many developers work, according to GitHub’s annual State of the Octoverse report.

Since GitHub was founded in 2008 and acquired by Microsoft in 2018, it has become the largest host of source code in the world, connecting more than 56 million developers across the globe. Its scale allows it to track various trends, including an annual ranking of the top programming languages, which it calculates based on the number of contributions to repositories in a given language, as well as new repositories created.

Despite 2020’s many job-related changes, developers maintained a few preferences over the course of the year, with the top three languages maintaining their rankings. There were a few shifts, however, with C bumping up, PHP falling down, and TypeScript receiving the biggest surge in popularity as it jumped from seventh to fourth place in the ranking.

Meanwhile, GitHub’s report also found that non-work open source activity jumped on the weekends at higher levels than in 2019, which could indicate that users were increasingly focusing on passion products in their free time.

According to GitHub, here are the top programming languages, as well as how they’re used. 

(Disclosure: The author’s mother is currently employed at Microsoft, working on the company’s open source initiatives.)

#10: Ruby

AFP

Yukihiro “Matz” Matsumoto created Ruby in Japan in the 1990s. This open-source language is similar to Python in the sense that it’s structured like the English language. Ruby has seen a sharp decline in popularity over the past half-decade, falling from fifth to tenth place in the State of the Octoverse report since 2014.

#9: Shell

A shell collection.
Joan Slatkin/Getty Images

A shell script is a computer program designed to control an operating system via commands, rather than using the graphical user interface (like the icons on a desktop).

Someone might encounter Shell when they run into a computer problem and an IT systems administrator remotes in to use it to fix the issue. 

#8: C

Linus Torvalds, creator of Linux, on stage and wearing a Linux jersey.
Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie developed C in the 1970s and, due to the way it’s compiled, it’s well-suited to developing operating systems. For example, Linux and Unix were both built using C.

#7: C++

A stream of characters and code from the movie The Matrix.
Warner Bros.

C++ (pronounced”C-plus-plus”) is a descendent of C, and was originally named “C with classes,” as it added object-oriented features that C lacked. 

C++ was one of the most popular programming languages in the 1990s, but has since decreased in use, though it’s still a core language in many operating systems, browsers, and games.

#6: PHP

A person coding in PHP.
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Rasmus Lerdorf created PHP in 1995 and it stands for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor — because “HP” was already taken. This scripting-language is most commonly used for web development and has seen a recent decline in use since 2018, in part because many programmers don’t like using it. PHP’s design was influenced by languages such as C, Perl, Java, C++, and Python.

#5: C#

Bloomingdales

Microsoft created C# — pronounced like the music note “C-sharp” — in 2001. C# is most commonly used in creating desktop applications and video games for Windows. The video game engine Unity also uses C#. 

#4: Typescript

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Typescript is a direct continuation of JavaScript, which means it includes all of JavaScript’s features, and any program written in JavaScript will run in TypeScript.

However, there are two features that set this language apart from its predecessor. TypeScript has a strong-typing feature JavaScript does not have, which can help with syntax issues. Also, unlike JavaScript, TypeScript is object-oriented, which can help with reusing code, which makes it useful for larger scale projects.

These additional features have helped TypeScript’s popularity surge: It shot from tenth to fourth place in GitHub’s rankings in the past two years.

#3: Java

Daniele Jesus/Getty Images

Originally called Oak during its creation, Java is an object-oriented language created by Sun Microsystems, which is now owned by Oracle.

Java is commonly used for back-end development projects, desktop and mobile apps, databases, and more. The versatile language also closely resembles C, C++, and C#.

#2: Python

Comedians from the British comedy troupe Monty Python pose with a large scarf around their necks during a visit to Paris.
Pierre Vauthey/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images

Python is one of the most popular open-source languages, with a notably strong community backing.

It’s easy to use, with much of the coding resembling plain-English, and is often noted as the best language to learn for beginners. Python developers also focus on making it a fun language to engage with — fitting, considering that its name originated from the 1970s BBC comedy series “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”

#1: JavaScript

A close-up shot of JavaScript code.
Shutterstock

JavaScript has remained steadfast as the most popular programming language on GitHub GitHub since 2014, in large part due to its use in creating dynamic web pages.

JavaScript’s impact is far-reaching and it’s utilized by 97.1% of all websites. For example, JavaScript powers the autocomplete you see when you start typing a question in Google search.