Java Leads the Way As Most Popular Language in ProgrammableWeb Directories

Editor's note: Be sure to check out our research on the overall growth of Web APIs since 2005. At the time of writing, this is the most recent data we have, but check the research page to see if we have a more updated article. We will be continually updating the overall growth chart with other charts getting updated on a less frequent basis

Which programming language is the most popular with developers? It’s a question that has been asked many times and can elicit many different answers. In the past we’ve looked to our directories to provide some insight into which language is most in demand. The growth of our SDK and Sample Source Code directories gives us an opportunity to take a fresh look at the data.

To start with, we’ll look at SDKs in our directory including official provider supplied as well as third-party kits (yes, one of the advantages of our new data model is that we can track both!). The table below shows the total number of SDKs and the number of SDKs added in 2016 broken out by language.

Language Total SDKs SDKs added in 2016 2016 as % gain of total
Java 931 441 47.37%
PHP 745 448 60.13%
Ruby 638 379 59.40%
Python 632 381 60.28%
Objective-C 575 234 40.70%
Node.js 514 305 59.34%
JavaScript 465 212 45.59%
.NET 289 128 44.29%
C# 217 106 48.85%
Go 148 103 69.59%
C++ 79 30 37.97%
Perl 66 37 56.06%
Swift 57 38 66.67%

The popularity of Java is likely explained by the rise of Android. This is because the official language for Android development is Java and that is the language its APIs are called from. StatCounter, an analytics service tracking internet usage shows that for the first time, Android is the world's most popular operating system. ProgrammableWeb has looked into the question of which platform offers the best opportunity for developers and while the answer isn’t clear cut, what is clear is that Android has a deep user base that continues to spur Java development.

Popular server-side languages for building Web apps such as PHP, Ruby and Python come next. These languages have proven popular with API startups and it is no surprise to see them well represented in the directory.

JavaScript and Node.js are worth noting because taken together, they would constitute the largest number of SDKs both in total and in 2016. The more we head out into the field to rub shoulders with developers, the more we hear about the advantages of JavaScript’s client and server-side (Node) presence when it comes to recruiting and managing developer talent. We track many other languages too but there is a clear delineation between the top ten languages and the rest. Languages such as Swift, PERL, C++ and others certainly have their niches. But our data doesn’t support the idea that they are widely used. That said, Go and Swift showed the highest growth percentage in 2016 which bears watching.

We also used the same methodology to compile the data for our Sample Source Code directory seen below.

Language Total Sample Code Sample Code added in 2016 2016 as % gain of total
PHP 506 297 58.70%
Java 443 278 62.75%
Python 334 209 62.57%
Ruby 309 178 57.61%
JavaScript 285 164 57.54%
C# 184 102 55.43%
Objective-C 178 121 67.98%
Node.js 158 123 77.85%
.NET 145 96 66.21%
Perl 65 37 56.92%
Go 51 43 84.31%

Here again we see similar results to the SDK numbers with Java riding the popularity of Android, and PHP, Python, Ruby and JavaScript also well-represented. One note of interest arises when you look at the Sample Code assets added in 2016 as a percentage of their overall total. This growth rate if you will shows how Go and Node.js are becoming more popular with developers.

As mentioned in the SDK and Source Code total count post, due to some amount of catch-up the trend number for 2016 can’t be taken as gospel. It does however give us a baseline to compare to the next time this data is updated.

If you are an API provider and want to list your SDKs or if you are an independent developer that has created a third-party SDK, you can use the link below to add your SDK to our growing directory.

If you have links to hosted code samples for your API; provided either by you or by your developer community, you can use the link below to add them to our Sample Code directory.

Wendell Santos is the editor at You can reach him at Connect to Wendell on Twitter at @wendell78 or Google+.