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GitHub Innovation Graph Reveals Current Developer Trends

GitHub's Innovation Graph shows JavaScript's dominance, an uptick in the use of obscure programming languages during Advent of Code, and a surge in documentation due to AI-powered tools.

GitHub is arguably the world's most popular and widely used software development repository and as such, it has a lot of data about developer trends.

Among the most open sources of trend data about what's happening in the developer world is the GitHub Innovation Graph, a tool that tracks global developer activity. The Innovation Graph has recently been updated with data from the fourth quarter of 2023, providing four years of comprehensive information.

The data reveals several key findings:

  • More than 21,077,000 American developers and over 1,173,000 American organizations are building on GitHub.
  • American developers and/or organizations own over 58.7 million repositories on GitHub.
  • The popularity of AI has led to an increase in project documentation among developers.
  • JavaScript is the highest ranked programming language in the United States based on the number of unique developers who uploaded code, followed by Python and Shell.

"An interesting trend was the rise of documentation coinciding with the rise of chat-based AI interfaces like GitHub Copilot and ChatGPT," Mike Linksvayer, vice president of Developer Policy at GitHub, told ITPro Today. "Of course, we can't draw clear causation, but the correlation certainly suggests developers may be using these tools to write and update their documentation more frequently."

JavaScript Dominates but Obscure Programming Languages Show Up

Across the four years of data and the geographies the Innovation Graph covers, JavaScript has dominated as the most popular programming language.

While that's not a surprise, what is somewhat of a surprise is that there is a rise in the popularity of more obscure programming languages at the same time of year, every year. Linksvayer said the rise of the obscure language appears to coincide with the Advent of Code, an annual event founded and run by Eric Wastl where participants solve daily coding challenges Dec. 1-25.

"With our programming languages dataset, you can see a clear rise in languages including COBOL, Julia, ABAP, Elm, and more right around the timing of the Advent of Code," he said. "It's a nice reminder that so many developers truly enjoy programming, and they're often excited to learn new languages and skills."

Linksvayer said it will be interesting to see how the Rust language progresses. Rust was ranked 17th in the Q4 2023 rankings, up dramatically from 34th at the beginning of 2020. It seems developers aren't the only ones loving Rust, as it has caught the attention of the cybersecurity policy audience, he said.

The overall level of collaboration in software development across different organizations is another key highlight of the innovation graph (Figure 1).

GitHubGitHub Innovation Graph

Figure 1: GitHub's Innovation Graph plots how developers across different geographies collaborate with each other.

"Software development is a global team sport, and it's nice to have data that illustrates that collaboration," Linksvayer said.

About the author

 Sean Michael Kerner headshotSean Michael Kerner is an IT consultant, technology enthusiast and tinkerer. He consults to industry and media organizations on technology issues.
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