Poll results: languages and frameworks for developing business applications

A couple of weeks ago I started a poll asking the following questions:

What are the best language and frameworks for building business applications? And why?

The poll was promoted on Twitter, Google+, HackerNews, Reddit, DZone, a couple of language-agnostic forums on LinkedIn, and of course this blog (which is picked up by the Planet Eclipse aggregator),

There were 46 responses, which is not huge but is a decent sample size. I am no statistician, and I am sure the research has many flaws. But I think the data is still interesting.

Languages: Java against the rest of the world

I know Java is a pretty popular language, and even more so for business applications. But I did not expect to see the following picture:

Java got almost half of the votes (20 of 46). Five languages tied in second place, with only 3 votes each: C#, Ruby, Scala, Python, and of all things, C++.

C++ would seem a tad too low level for developing business applications, so it was a bit of a surprise. However, it is one of the oldest of the languages mentioned, it has a mature library/framework ecosystem, and it was the most popular language before Java became mainstream (considerng only those mentioned here, which does not include C), so I guess that explains it.

Another notable aspect is diversity: 12 languages divided the 26 votes that didn’t go to Java, with each language getting between 1 to 3 votes (which would be enough for a second place). This level of diversity was something I expected and actually hoped for. I tried to emphasize that this survey was about understanding what makes developers personally like in languages and frameworks, as if it was only up to them to choose, no previous experience being expected, and even if they had no hope of ever being able to use those languages in their jobs. But given the number of responses for Java with Spring (see below), which have been the status quo for 5-10 years, I think I could have done a better job at that.


The table below shows all framework responses, lumped together by language:

For languages other than Java, this is not statistically relevant, but I hope it gives interesting pointers for people looking to play with the less mainstream languages. Also, I am not sure what RoR is doing there on the Xtend line, but hey.

Since Java got the majority of the votes by a landslide, an analysis of the numbers for Java frameworks exclusively is warranted.

Spring’s dominance is impressive, but not totally unexpected. Spring is more of an umbrella brand, covering frameworks for all sorts of aspects of an application, so it is very likely any Java developer building a business app to be using at least one of the Spring frameworks.

Other than Java EE (which if lumped with EJB would have 4 votes), the remaining got one mention each. Again, definitely not statistically relevant, but if you are a Java developer, maybe take a look at those you had not heard of before.

What drives developers?

The chart below shows the most common reasons respondents provided for their choice of favorite language/framework:

Responses were broken into Java (20 respondents, in blue) and non-Java (26 respondents, in green) – just in case it would give some insight into how Java and non-Java developers may value things differently (I took interest into the “Community” and “Maturity” items). The overall averages would be in between those bars. Finally, note that Clojure, Groovy and Scala were counted as part of the Non-Java camp, even though they are JVM languages.

The following options appeared only once in the responses: “Robustness”, “Scalability”, “Want an excuse to learn it”, “Cloud deployment”, “Integration”.

I expected “Want an excuse to learn it” to be more popular – given how this survey tried to get people to take chances. Most of the motivations chosen seem to belong to the “professional software engineer” mindset, as opposed to the “passionate programmer” viewpoint I was hoping to encourage.

Note that except for “Cloud deployment”, “Ease of deployment” and “Integration” (the last two originally phrased in a more language-specific way), all motivations above were suggested options, that respondents could just check. In retrospect, one major omission in the suggestions was Portability. I would guess many would have picked it, as most of the languages chosen are historically available on multiple platforms.

Motivations per language

Finally, I will leave you with one last chart.This one gives you an overview of what things are appreciated on the basis of the language (and its frameworks):

There is little significance in this data though. For languages other than Java, the sample was too small.

What are your conclusions?

You are encouraged to take your own conclusions and post them on the comments section. I had fun doing this little exercise, and am thankful to all those who took the time to respond.

For me, my personal conclusion is that there are quite a few languages people have been using or looking forward to using. But it seems that Java will continue to be the safe choice for developing business applications for a long time. It would be interesting to see what a similar survey would show 5 years from now.

Finally, if you want to try to dig something else up, the raw responses (minus identifying info), consolidations and charts are available in a Google Sheet.

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