Dynamic Languages on the Rise by Open Source Developers

Survey shows increased use over past year of JavaScript and PHP, decline in static languages

Dynamic programming languages now represent a greater percentage of code used by developers of open source projects over the past year, according to a new survey released today. The increased use of JavaScript and PHP in particular suggests that static programming languages such as C, C++, and Java are being used less for open source projects.

The survey was conducted by Black Duck Software, whose software crawls more than 4,300 open source repositories and tracks 1,500 licenses. Even though it sells software to enterprises, Black Duck (which also owns the Koders.com free search engine for open source software and code) is a viable resource for tracking code usage, said IDC analyst Al Hilwa.

"It's difficult to get statistics for accounting for code but they do a decent job at crawling data," Hilwa said in an interview. The findings show 36 percent of all projects in the past year included JavaScript, making it the fastest growing scripting language, according to Black Duck. Overall the share of JavaScript code is now 2.1 percent higher than last year, PHP code is .3 percent higher and Ruby has a .2 percent greater share. At the same time, the share of C and share of C++ have both declined .6 percent; Java has declined .7 percent. SQL usage is up 1.1 percent.

That shouldn't be interpreted as a decline in development use of C, C++, and Java, said Black Duck executive VP Peter Vescuso. "It's not diminishing in terms of the number of lines of code.  In fact, it's growing.  It's just [a] shift in terms of the overall share of all open source code," Vescusso said. It means "the dynamic Web-oriented programming languages are growing, JavaScript and PHP in particular." Among some other data points shared by Black Duck:

  • 65% of open source code is C, C++, and Java
  • 80% of open source is C, C++, Java, Shell, and JavaScript.
  • C is the only language that has exceeded 1 billion lines of code

The growth of scripting language use by open source developers is not necessarily surprising but validates a move toward more client-facing applications, IDC's Hilwa said. "These shifts are slow, but it shows over time there seems to be some growth that has taken place toward the Web architecture in general," Hilwa said. " Java, C++, and C are used much more often for the back end whereas JavaScript and PHP are really about the Web tier or the front end of the application. That tells you that for the typical new application there's a lot more focus on the front end than there used to be."

Black Duck intends to provide free access to the data, which it will routinely update. It can be accessed here. The company for some time has offered data on licensing, which is updated daily and can be accessed here.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.