Practical Software Measurement

Determining The Market Share of Popular Programming Languages

On Linked In, Peter Hill reports on current "programming languages of choice" in the ISBSG database:

"Java and C# .Net are now the languages of choice in the projects that the ISBSG receives. COBOL has slumped to 12% (it used to be 38%) and Visual Basic has dropped back to 5% after peaking at 15%."

I thought it might be interesting to find out how the "market share" for popular programming languages has changed over time. The first task was to stratify Business projects from the QSM database into 5 bins using the year the systems were put into production. Only medium and high confidence projects with language data were used. Sample sizes ranged from about 600-1200 projects with most year bins containing around 1000 projects.

For each year bin, I determined the "market share" (% of total projects in each bin) for various programming languages. Each bin spans 5 years (1985-1990, 1990-1995 and so on). 

The durability of COBOL surprised me a bit. The vast majority (>75%) of the COBOL projects put into production between 2005 and 2010 were major/minor enhancements of existing systems or maintenance releases, but despite their dwindling market share, COBOL systems appear to be the Energizer Bunnies of the software world - they just keep going, and going, and going....

Market Share for Various Programming Languages

As Peter noted with the ISBSG database, Visual Basic's market share appears to have peaked between 2000 and 2005. Java has a commanding lead, but systems developed using Microsoft's .NET framework debuted at a whopping 11% of systems put into production from 2005-2010.

Question: is Java the new COBOL? Is it here to stay, or will it be eclipsed by .NET?

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