Developers love Python and TypeScript, get paid for Clojure, and aren’t using blockchain

By Peter Bright

Stack Overflow's annual developer survey was published this week, giving an insight into the skills, experience, and opinions of a wide slice of the developer community. Since its launch in 2008, Stack Overflow has become an essential developer tool, offering copy/paste solutions to an ever-growing number of programming problems.

The Stack Overflow survey is particularly interesting, as Stack Overflow does not focus on any one kind of developer or development; is used by professionals, students, and hobbyists alike; and has substantial use across Europe, North America, and Asia, with respectable representation from South America, Africa, and Oceania. As such, it gives a view of the software development industry as a whole, across all fields and disciplines.

To the surprise of nobody, Web technology remains top of the usage chart: some 67.8 percent of developers use JavaScript, giving it the number one position; and 63.5 percent use HTML and CSS in second place. SQL once again takes the third slot, at 54.4 percent. The first change relative to last year's survey comes at the fourth spot, with Python pushing Java into fifth place and Bash/shell scripting into sixth. C#, PHP, and C++ retain their same relative ordering at the seventh, eighth, and ninth slots.

Rounding out the top ten is a newcomer: Microsoft's TypeScript language, used by 21.2 percent of developers, up from 17.4 percent last year. Microsoft introduced TypeScript in 2012 to address difficulties the company was facing with writing large-scale JavaScript applications, such as the difficulty the language's coercive dynamic typing poses for refactoring. Languages built as extensions to JavaScript are nothing new, but TypeScript has been unusually successful. Microsoft's focus on making it easy to incrementally adopt TypeScript into existing JavaScript codebases was no doubt helpful here, as is the fact that TypeScript is used by the popular Visual Studio Code developer-focused editor and Google's Angular 2 framework.

Visual Basic will never die

When it comes to popularity rather than actual use, TypeScript did even better, coming in third, with Python in second and Rust at the top of the list. The most dreaded? Visual Basic for Applications, Objective-C, and Assembly. Visual Basic's position is no surprise—the tooling hasn't been updated for 20 years, but unlike everything else of that vintage, Microsoft still supports the Visual Basic runtime, promising not to break Visual Basic applications even on Windows 10, making it a legacy relic that the world can't quite leave behind.

Much as we saw last year, the biggest-earning languages were off the beaten track. Clojure—a Lisp dialect that targets the Java virtual machine, the .NET runtime, or JavaScript—moves from third place to take the top spot, with a global average salary of $90,000. F#—an Ocaml dialect that targets the .NET runtime—falls to number two. The third spot is taken by Google's Go language, up from ninth place last year. One can only imagine that this is due to the rise of Docker and similar tools. If I were not a member of the media, and hence bound to be impartial and opinion-free, I would complain that Go is a poorly designed language that ignores some 40 years of proven language design to leave us with something that has all the expressive power of C, and it's utterly bereft of taste to boot.

Overall, the survey found that DevOps specialists and site reliability engineers have the highest job satisfaction, are among the best paid, and are the least likely to be on the lookout for new positions.

Each year the survey also asks unique questions about technology issues of the day. This year, developers were asked about blockchain. Gratifyingly, some 80 percent of respondents said that they're not using blockchain at all. 12.7 percent said that they were using blockchain for something other than digital currency, and the remaining 7.4 percent were working with cryptocurrency in some capacity. Even with this low adoption, there was surprising enthusiasm about the technology: quizzed on their opinions about blockchain, 29.2 percent said that it was useful in many roles and could change many aspects of our lives; 16.8 percent called it a passing fad; and 15.6 percent said it was an irresponsible use of resources. But there was some good news: the enthusiasm was "largely concentrated among young, less experienced developers," with Stack Overflow's analyst writing that "the more experienced a respondent is, the more likely they are to say blockchain is an irresponsible use of resources." The cynicism of age and experience shows its value again.

When asked which individual person would be most influential in tech this year, Elon Musk topped the poll with 30.2 percent naming him. Only one woman, AMD CEO Lisa Su, made the top 25.

Listing image by Stack Exchange