How important are open source contributions in determining a language's health?

Health check-up: Is your favorite programming language growing or dying?

Gabriela Motroc
programming languages

© Shutterstock / sheff

It’s hard to measure programming languages’ popularity but we all love rankings and sometimes even choose our “weapon of choice” depending on how desired a language is. What does that have to do with health? Let’s find out.

Ever wondered how healthy your programming language is? Thanks to LanguageHealth, you can now compare programming languages based on their open-source health.

The website looks at the percentage of commits to public projects on GitHub because “this […] is a fairly good indicator of how healthy a programming language is, as it reflects the total amount of work being done in that language,” according to the website. It was created earlier this month by Mitch Crowe, data scientist, web developer, and start-up enthusiast.

Mitch explained in a Reddit thread that “LanguageHealth looks at the number of open-source commits to projects in different languages. This reflects the amount of interest in that language over time pretty well.”

I think that open-source contributions are a very important factor for determining how healthy a programming language is.

Mitch Crowe

And now for the fun part: Java, JavaScript, Go, Kotlin and Python

If you go to LanguageHeath, you’ll see that you can add or get rid of languages. Java, Go and Ruby are already there but you can move them around. We looked at Java, JavaScript, Go, Kotlin and Python.

Source: LanguageHealth


How important are open source contributions in determining a language's health?

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If you don’t like LanguageHealth, there are countless websites which measure programming languages’ popularity, starting with TIOBE, PYPL, GitHub (Year in Review), IEEE Spectrum, RedMonk Programming Language Rankings and more.

Measuring programming languages’ popularity is not the easiest thing to achieve but there are at least eight ways to check if your favorite programming language is popular or not. This is what Wikipedia proposes:

  • counting the number of times the language name is mentioned in web searches, such as is done by Google Trends
  • counting the number of job advertisements that mention the language
  • the number of books sold that teach or describe the language
  • estimates of the number of existing lines of code written in the language – which may underestimate languages not often found in public searches
  • counts of language references (i.e., to the name of the language) found using a web search engine
  • counting the number of projects in that language on SourceForge, and GitHub
  • counting the number of postings in Usenet newsgroups about the language
  • comparing the number of commits or changed source lines for open source projects on Open Hub

Popularity has nothing on satisfaction

Still, does popularity automatically mean that users are satisfied with a certain language? Not really, no.

According to RebelLabs’ Developer Productivity Report, the lesser used languages get the most love. Case in point: Kotlin, which made its debut at one percent in terms of language preference had the highest satisfaction score of 9.1, which happens to be the highest score across the entire report, not just the programming languages question.

Source: RebelLabs Developer Productivity Report 2017 — Results

If you want to know what’s happening in the JavaScript ecosystem, what frameworks/libraries/tools are killing it, take a look at the State of JavaScript 2017 Report.

Gabriela Motroc
Gabriela Motroc was editor of and JAX Magazine. Before working at Software & Support Media Group, she studied International Communication Management at the Hague University of Applied Sciences.

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