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Are there some statistics out there that show the approx. number of users that popular programming languages have and the rate this number increases over time?

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It's not exactly statistics but you might find interest in the Thoughtworks Tech Radar : thoughtworks.com/radar –  guillaume31 Aug 11 '12 at 11:35
    
Stats for stackoverflow can be found here: hewgill.com/~greg/stackoverflow/stack_overflow/tags –  Roman Luštrik Aug 11 '12 at 12:50

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up vote 18 down vote accepted

Programming language trends are notoriously hard to make sense of, and all available statistics & metrics should be taken with a grain of salt.

One of the most oftenly quoted indexes is the TIOBE Programming Community Index, that rates programming languages by counting hits on the most popular search engines. As for job trends, Jobs Tractor publishes monthly trends, based on listings for developer jobs.

If you are looking to compare specific languages against each other, Ohloh provides a very handy language compare tool, which counts monthly commits by open source developers. You can also use Google Trends, for example here's a comparison of Haskell vs Scheme.

You can always look at Stack Overflow, and more specifically at the language tags, or popular code hosting services like Github, that maintains a "top languages" page. And if you are a Redditor, look no further than /r/programming's FAQ.

As you may have noticed, all the available data seem quite unreliable, and that's understandable, popularity is extremely hard to measure. And, at the end of the day, popularity and trends are rather irrelevant metrics. Who cares which language is the more popular, programming languages are tools, if it does what I need it to do, it's fine by me.

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uh PHP is going down :( –  katie Aug 11 '12 at 11:19
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@katie: And rightfully so ;-) Seriously: PHP used to be the only serious option for its problem domain (server-side web development on *nix platforms), but these days, many other languages have spawned mature web programming libraries, and most of them are much better than PHP as languages. Today, the most important reasons for using PHP are "because we're already using it" and "because our shared hosting provider doesn't give us anything else to work with". –  tdammers Aug 11 '12 at 11:32
    
@tdammers Did you just post this on a PHP developer's answer, with access to the suspend button? ;P –  Yannis Rizos Aug 11 '12 at 11:33
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@YannisRizos: I believe I did. PHP pays my rent as well, and I actually enjoy writing PHP. It's not that PHP isn't "good enough". But where PHP was the only serious option for server-side web dev on the *nix platform, there are now a dozen or so mature languages that have grown mature web programming features, and most of them are better as programming languages. PHP is still the best choice for many situations, but it's certainly not the best tool under any circumstances, and so it is no wonder that other languages are eating into its market share, despite PHP's unparalleled traction. –  tdammers Aug 11 '12 at 11:54
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@tdammers I kinda think that a smaller market share will be extremely beneficial for the PHP ecosystem, the PHP community has been lazy for far too long (imho), we need a bit of healthy competition. –  Yannis Rizos Aug 11 '12 at 12:01

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