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It's everywhere we turn, from DevOps to machine learning

Python is the fastest-growing major programming language, says Stack Overflow

Jane Elizabeth
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Python’s been around for some time, but it seems to be everywhere we turn, from DevOps to machine learning. Stack Overflow agrees; they’ve calculated that Python is the fastest growing programming language right now. So, we’re taking a closer look at this functional programming language.

Fastest growing is such a dubious claim. It’s easy for something to claim that title, especially if they started at low point. However, Stack Overflow makes the case that Python has a solid claim to being the fastest-growing major programming language. In June 2017, Python jumped to be the most visited tag on Stack Overflow, more than JavaScript, Java, or even C#. But why? We’re going to take a closer look.

Growing like bamboo

Let’s start off by making it clear we’re not making any value judgement here. Just because Python is growing a lot right now doesn’t mean it’s better than Scala, it just means there are more people coding in Python.

Fastest growing is something of a difficult thing to determine, anyways. If you start with a low beginning number, it’s easier to show a higher percentage growth.


Fastest-Growing, by Randall Munroe. XKCD.

So, since Stack Overflow likes to differentiate traffic and data based on country income (richer countries use different technologies than poorer countries), they were surprised to see Python jump to the top of the list this June.

There are a couple of reasons for how it jumped past Java. For one, Java is a seasonal language. It peaks every fall and spring with the academic year, since it’s heavily taught at the university level as an introductory computer science course. (Most of the time, anyways.)

Python is likely to fall behind as soon as school is back in session for all those undergrads. But, the general trend line is clear: Python is growing and it’s not going away any time soon. According to one model from Stack Overflow, it’s on track to become the most visited language of 2018.

Python is unusual in that it is a large tag that continues to grow rapidly. Most of the other tags on Stack Overflow that show comparable growth are much smaller proportionally.

You can clearly see that, while programming languages like R, Swift, TypeScript, and Scala are showing a great deal of growth, it’s just not to the same extent as Python.

Why is Python growing so quickly?

Well, that’s the $64,000 question, isn’t it? There’s a couple of reasons.

When we talked to Adam Geitgey, Director of Software Engineering at Groupon, he was very clear about what new programmers should learn if they wanted to make use of machine learning.

“Definitely start by learning Python. It’s by far the most popular programming language today for machine learning,” Geitgey said.

“For solving most machine learning problems (which don’t require deep learning), the answer is easy. You just need to install a few python libraries: scikit-learn, NumPy and pandas. These tools are free and designed to work well together. And if you have a large classification problem that runs too slowly on a single CPU using scikit-learn, you can use the xgboost library to run it on multiple cpus.”

SEE MORE: “Python is the most popular programming language today for machine learning”


The incredible growth of the machine learning field is helping boost Python’s profile.

Another reason could be DevOps. According to Richard Gall, in this year’s Skill Up survey, Packt found that Python was the primary language used by those working in DevOps. In fact, Python dominated across all sorts of job roles from web development to security to data science. This diversity only highlights Python’s flexibility and adaptability.

Gall goes on to point out that Python’s accessibility explains its popularity. Python is a pretty easy language for anyone interested in learning new languages and tools; it doesn’t require a serious level of commitment that a specialist language might need. So, it’s easy for a programmer to pick it up as a second or third language. (Polyglotism for the win!)

SEE MORE: Why Python is a crucial part of the DevOps toolchain

Besides this, Python is a popular language in DevOps for one specific reason: it’s a great language for scripting… and scripting means automation. (Plus, Ansible and SaltStack are both written in Python.) And in the end, isn’t automation and improving efficiency what DevOps is all about?


So, what do you think? Are you coding in Python? Let us know in the comments below!

Jane Elizabeth
Jane Elizabeth is an assistant editor for

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