Determining The Market Share of Popular Programming Languages

Posted By Kate Armel on Wed, 2011-07-13 18:49

<< Introducing the SLIM-Estimate... | Main | Beyond the Hype: Thoughts on Agile... >>

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?

Related Posts

Back to Main Blog


Programming Language of Choice

Posted by on Fri, 2011-07-15 12:21

Languages used in application development are fickle, but for well over 20 years, C/C++ (mostly just C) has been the only language to use for operating system development. Almost all of the Windows base operating system, or for that matter Linux is in C or C++.

Reply | Add Comment


Posted by on Fri, 2011-07-15 12:17

Maybe because all of my experience is as an ISV-type, packaged-product developer and not a corporate developer, I have a different perspective, but in the last seventeen years, I may have heard Cobol mentioned a dozen times, and never as a programming language that someone would use for a current project.

A quick search on Cragslist DC's job section for "Cobol" finds two jobs in the D.C. area, and I'm surprised to find those. A search for "C++" finds 53. "Java" finds 166. ".NET" finds 158.

The same search on Seattle's Craigslist job section find zero for Cobol, 193 for C++, 379 for Java, and 248 for .NET.

Of course, a quick search on Craigslist isn't a statistically valid way to determine this, but the fact that anything is being done with Cobol is surprising to me.

Reply | Add Comment


Posted by on Thu, 2013-12-12 10:42

Cobol still operates over 70% of the worlds business applications and there are around 60 times more cobol transactions each day than there are Google searches.

If there is an explanantion as to why there are no Cobol jobs adverstised on Craiglist, that is because it is a very specific and uncommon skill. So someone in need of a Cobol programmer will use a more formal and effective search tool... like a recruitment agency.

Do you think the majority of financial insitutions in the world (who run on Cobol) are using Craiglist to recruit?

Also many thousands of ISV's still operate applications underpinned by Cobol.

Reply | Add Comment


Posted by Kate Armel on Fri, 2011-07-15 11:18

That makes a lot of sense. Our client base is pretty diverse - it includes both large firms that do mostly new development and firms that do maintenance work for other companies, so I'm sure our COBOL numbers reflect this!

For a long time C/C++ seemed to be the new 'programming language of choice', but Java seems to be making real inroads. In 20 years or so, it will be interesting to see which language (if any) has the durability of COBOL.

Any guesses?

Reply | Add Comment

Cobol here to stay?

Posted by on Fri, 2011-07-15 08:45

Cobol has such a huge base of installed applications, many of which are quite large, that I believe it will be here for a long while.  As long as they are working, there's no motivation to shell out the money that would be required to replace them.

Reply | Add Comment

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.