back to article Apple's Swift creeps up dev language survey – but it's bad news for VB

A new programming language survey shows Apple’s Swift breaking into the top 20 for the first time, while the future of Microsoft’s Visual Basic (VB) in the top rankings is now “unclear”. The Redmonk consultancy published a six-monthly analysis based on Github usage and Stack Overflow discussions. The methodology is an …

  1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Stack Overflow use introduces a big bias

    Languages which make your head hurt and have sub-par online documentation will be significantly ahead of stuff that "just works".

    Github will have similar (albeit less pronounced bias) - stuff that is buggy or in need of constant redesign and refactoring because of language choice (and/or lack of understanding of how to use the language due to bad documentation) will also have significant bias - commits will be posted by the hundreds if not thousands instead of just getting it to work out of the box.

    1. Google

      Re: Stack Overflow use introduces a big bias

      Any new language should skew results. People will start to experiment and stumble upon problems, flocking to stackoverflow.

      Same goes for github, new languages need ports of libraries.*

      You'd think this is all taken into account though.

      *unless, as in the case of Swift, it's compatible with existing ones.

    2. JeevesMkII

      Re: Stack Overflow use introduces a big bias

      I think the StackOverflow bias is mainly towards languages that clueless newbies think they should know.

      I've long since given up with either asking or answering questions there. For most queries you'll find there, the proper answer is "when is your homework due?" and if you ever have a question of your own that's hard enough to give you more than an hour's pause, then you'll never find anyone knowledgeable enough to answer your questions in return.

    3. LDS Silver badge

      Both skew data, because of their intended audience.

      Both axis are just a perspective - GitHub -> open source code, thereby languages used by developers less inclined to open source are less prominent. StackOverflow -> lots of newbies (it was better in the past, but now newbies discovered it it's a mess). Look for example where Delphi is. Historically, Delphi developers like "free" code to be used in their applications, but are far less inclined to release open source project, and Delphi was never an appealing language for open source aficionados (especially because it's strongly biased towards Windows, despite its attempts to cross-platform development). But it is common enough on StackOverflow, especially since there are still enough schools using it as a teaching language, and some hobbyists as well.

      All these surveys based on open data are doomed to be skewed one way or the other, because those open data source are designed for a given user base, which don't represent the overall market, especially the professional development market - which may not use open source repositories, and skilled developers may need less (and have less time) to ask/answer on sites like StackOverflow.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Both skew data, because of their intended audience.

        Tiobe Index has the same languages, in a different order. In fact Swift at 14 with JavaScript at 9. The top dominated by the old favourites, C, C++, Java.

        I think Tiobe picks up on general web traffic rather than specific sites, but seems to bias toward university stuff.

  2. Jagged

    More Swift :/

    I couldn't help but notice that The Register's News Bots linked this story to more about Taylor Swift. I score that as -1 for our Machine Overlords!

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: More Swift :/

      It sure doesn't link to singing Gorillas.

      Also "JavaScript at the top" == "Many people actually do not leave the Gaza Strip". Maybe it's nice there?

  3. AMBxx Silver badge
    Thumb Down


    Javascript is number 1.

    1. captain veg

      Re: Ugh

      Better get used to it. For application programming, the browser is the platform now, and Javascript is its API.


      1. AMBxx Silver badge

        Re: Ugh

        Javascript - proves that popularity and quality aren't the same thing.

  4. dogged

    Less VB use is good news for everyone.

    1. Filippo

      Amen to that. These days, the only place where I still see extensive use of VB is industrial automation... which makes me weep every time.

      1. captain veg

        VB much maligned

        I started with VB at a time when the only alternative (for Windows development) was the godawful Windows SDK for C. Life was just too short to grapple with that, so back to BASIC it was.

        We didn't like it much, and often had to put the heavy stuff in a C DLL. But by version 6, VB was shaping up quite nicely. It had swallowed up most of Pascal and was starting on C++. True, the Fortran legacy was apparent in places, but you could avoid them.

        Then Microsoft developed its strange Java envy and decided to cut us loose. Bye.


    2. AbelSoul

      Re: Less VB use

      I have been helping maintain a VB / Classic ASP based intranet for the last year and a half and have to concur.

      On the bright side, I finish up a week on Tuesday.

      On the not so bright side, where I'm going almost everything will be done in .NET MVC.

      Still, could be worse....

    3. LucreLout Silver badge

      Less VB use is good news for everyone.

      I started using VB with version 3. I stopped with version 6 when C# arrived.

      I love that people still use VB for one reason - you always hear about those people that get a head injury and wake up with no memory of the last 20 years. That people still use VB is my insurance policy in case that ever happens to me.

  5. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Languages which make your head hurt and have sub-par online documentation will be significantly ahead of stuff that "just works".

    Actually, that's not my experience. Stackoverflow is full of people with no idea asking stuff because they're too lazy to read the docs or try stuff out. That said, there are also some very knowledgeable people on there about particular areas.

    Github suffers more from the programming fads and fashions. A lot of bit C++ stuff is never going to be on there and that's even the open source stuff.

    1. theModge

      Stack overflow

      I find stack overflow to be very varied actually. Certainly there are some questions on there to which the answer is read MSDN, but I've seen useful comparisons of different techniques on there as well as real world experience of using poorly documented libraries.

  6. DJV Silver badge

    Yeah but...

    ...why isn't Brainfuck in the top 20?

    1. Spaceman Spiff

      Re: Yeah but...

      It is, but it's in stealth mode! It sits comfortably somewhere between 5 and 10 on the "Too Stupid To Tell" scale!

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Yeah but...

        Is that like INTERCAL?

  7. Spaceman Spiff

    Just what we needed, another farking programming language! In my (not so) humble opinion, these are simply devices to sell books - "Programming Swift For The Complete Idiot"... Then there's "Agile - Here's a Bucket - Stick Your Head in It!". C++99 - ok and useful. C++11 - GAH! C++14 - Double GAH! Shoot me now please!

    1. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge

      I beg to isagree - and won't call for your shooting - there is always a clinic in Switzerland if you feel that bad... Swift is generally well designed, and easy to get to grips with if you have any education. It has many advantages over Objective C (which I first started to use with NeXT) and is infinitely preferable (except possibly for breadth of application to C++ - see

  8. Quentin North

    Language bias becaiuse internets

    The issue I would have with this survey is that it is biased towards languages that are common for internet software development and therefore posted up on Gthub etc. If you took a look at much commercial software you might find a good level of use of older languages such as C, COBOL, PL/SQL, and even old 4GLs like UNIFACE and Pro-IV. In scientific computing you will find FORTRAN still in use.

  9. Mage Silver badge


    VB6 was last version.

    A review from a VB Guru when it came out:

    " is a C programmer's idea of VB, it's pointless. Better off learning C#"

    He was 100% correct. C# is of course based on J++, MS version of Java.

    There is a LOT of C still used. It's nearly 30 years since I started learning C++. Why are people still writing ordinary C? Many people that think they are using C++ are really programming in C. So in that respect (Moving people to C#?) MS was correct to make incompatible with VB5 / VB6?

    Strustrupp didn't want C++ to C backward compatibility.

    Yes the survey is inaccurate.

    1. richardcox13

      Re: VB

      > Strustrupp didn't want C++ to C backward compatibility.


      He certainly didn't say that in "Design & Evolution of C++" which goes through the early stages of C++'s evolution from C via "C with Classes".

      > Why are people still writing ordinary C

      Because they are targeting platforms without C++, or in case where it is (at least perceived that) C++ is unsuitable (too much dynamic memory, polymorphism, ...: too hard to predict exactly what happens). Eg. consider code for a low power embedded system running on a PIC controller with memory measured in hundreds of bytes (or less). And then there is inertia.

      > Yes the survey is inaccurate

      Of course it is. As every such survey (whether COBOL marketing from MicroFocus or a survey of job advertisements to name two that regularly generate headlines) it is massively biased because of its selection of data sources.

    2. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge

      Re: VB

      "There is a LOT of C still used. It's nearly 30 years since I started learning C++. Why are people still writing ordinary C?"

      compact, simple (not up to BCPL but that is for a different rant), and with a relatively few stiff learning experiences, reliable.

      1. thames

        Re: Why are people still writing ordinary C?

        Why do people use C?

        a) C++ has big problems with third party binary compatibility. If you're writing a library, most languages can call C binary libraries fairly painlessly. C++ on the other hand can be a major headache, and even when possible the documentation to do so is sketchy or non-existent.

        b) You need to do low level stuff which isn't supported in C++. C compilers often have extensions specifically for this which become de-facto standards, even if they're not in the C language specification.

        c) You need very tight control over how memory is being handled, or over how instructions get executed. It's safer to use C than to add a comment in a C++ program asking people not to use certain language features and then praying that they listen to you.

        There are no doubt many other reasons, but "a" is the main one that I run into. I'm sure that C++ is a perfectly good language in the right applications, but there's no such thing as a "one size fits all" language, which is why we have so many different ones.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: Why are people still writing ordinary C?

          a) extern "C"

          Anyway there's no standard to export classes. Interop frameworks like DCE, COM and CORBA resulted too complex for the average programmer. So we're back to calling scripts through a shell...

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: Why are people still writing ordinary C?

            C is like a comfortable old jacket. It gives that feeling of actually doing something with the hardware, instead of being totally abstracted from it. It's perfect for hobby/project fun.

            Some coding is still done in Assembly.

    3. LDS Silver badge

      Why are people still writing ordinary C?

      Because too many developers can't get OOP properly (including a lot of Java and C# ones).

  10. MissingSecurity

    Hurrah, We got this cross-platform coding thing down pat!

    Now I can develop in Java EE for enterprise applications, run system scripts in python on my nix boxes, PS on my dos boxes, SWIFT for Apple devices, Android's Java implementation, PHP for no other reason other than that was a web language of choice and HTML5, CSS3, Javascript, etc for web 3.0 (and maybe Node.js just because).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hurrah, We got this cross-platform coding thing down pat!

      I'm actually trying to link Prolog and Processing. Maybe it will work out.

  11. PhilMurray

    Poor metrics to base these conclusions on.

    As a C# developer I have no bias to either, although I can also develop in VB.Net. I metrics used for this "study" have no direct reflection on real world usage and the community should not just assume that StackOverflow or GitHub represent what is happening in the real world. This especially holds true for the Enterprise.

    There are a huge number, as Scott Hanselman put it, Dark Matter Developers that are not part of the online community.

  12. Robert Grant

    If Swift is a programming language

    Then so is Powerpoint.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: If Swift is a programming language

      Powershell even.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019