A Picture of Java in 2020

This year Java hit an incredible milestone and reached the grand old age of 25 years. We celebrated its jubilee by running a special online Java day event, where lots of expert speakers shared their experience and gave tips and tricks on how to get more from the language.

 

 

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This got us thinking, and we decided to do a deep dive into the data to discover once and for all what the common state of Java is, and to help answer some of your burning questions. Some of what we have found may come as no surprise, but there are some very unexpected insights too.

 

With Java 15 released this week, we decided to put it together and present to you the state of Java. This post was created based on data from several different sources and includes expert commentary from our Developer Advocate Trisha Gee.

 

Where

 

The first question was, “Where are most Java developers based, and how many of us are there?” We answered this by combining the most accurate information we could get hold of and then extrapolating to come up with what we think is a pretty well-educated guess.

 

 

Our best estimate from the Developer Estimation Model by the Market Research and Analytics Team shows there are about 5.2 million professional Java developers in the world today that use Java as a primary language. But that number is possibly closer to ~6.8 million if we include professional developers who mainly use other programming languages but also do a bit of Java on the side.

 

As for where these Java developers are concentrated, the largest number of Java developers live in Asia where about 2.5 million developers are using Java as their primary language. The numbers for North America and Europe are nowhere near the scale of Asia. You might be asking, “But why?” Well, we had that exact same thought at first, so we dug a little deeper into these regions to see exactly where the numbers were coming from.

 

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Where specifically

Going deeper we looked at the individual countries that had the largest populations of Java developers, and then investigated why these countries specifically prefer Java over other languages for professional development.

 

The graph below shows the percentages of developers in each country who use Java as their primary language (respondents to the survey that was used to gather this data could choose up to 3 primary languages). China and South Korea have the highest values at about 51% and 50% respectively. The data was taken from the State of the Developer Ecosystem Survey 2020.

 

Expert analysis


The reasons Java is most likely so popular in the first 6 countries include the free use of Java, governmental support, and open-source. This is especially the case for China, Spain, and Brazil. It is the base for Android mobile development in China and India, and hiring offshore staff to build phone apps in Java is very widespread which could account for the peak in use for India. Germany is also very high which could be attributed to Java being the most popular language in Germany for software engineers as it is used to build highly scalable applications for a multitude of industries. Most enterprise services rely on Java to power the applications that enable the day-to-day running of businesses, such as payroll, inventory management, reporting, and so on. Germany also has a big financial sector that uses Java heavily for their homegrown tech, such as trading bots, retail banking systems, and other applications that the finance industry requires in order to remain competitive.

 

We might have expected the USA to have a high percentage of Java users, but it also makes a lot of sense that they don’t. There is a big technology stack to choose from and often a lot of the tech companies are at the forefront of that stack, so it could be that developers there don’t need the power or stability of Java and are using languages that allow them to build and test quickly..

 

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Industry insights

According to the State of the Developer Ecosystem Survey 2020, more than a third of professional developers use Java as a primary language and Java remains the second primary language among professional developers after JavaScript.

 

Expert analysis


It is not surprising to see JavaScript and Java taking the leading positions as they are kind of paired together; developers who work with Java often write their frontend and any quick scripts in JavaScript. Python is probably third place due to the spread of machine learning. In general, we expect the web to be a big part of the developer ecosystem and so JavaScript, HTML and CSS, and PHP will always have solid standing. SQL is also always going to be around as there isn’t much that doesn’t require databases in some capacity. C++ is also kind of a solid language in that it is used for a lot of embedded applications, so it won’t be disappearing off the charts any time soon. C# though seems to be losing ground, and I guess if Java is high then C# will be low, as they are both very similar in terms of capabilities. As to why I think Java is so high in the sphere of professional development – it’s similar to what was mentioned about Germany. Most enterprise business services rely on Java to make them tick along. It’s not just the IT sector either – almost every company, be it in distribution, manufacturing, or banking, has IT services as part of their infrastructure, and these services, such as payroll or inventory management, are generally built with Java in the backend. So Java is used a lot by professional developers who work for these companies.

 

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