~7,099 spoken languages exist. But how many programming languages exist?
This is one of the questions we aim to answer at CodeLani. We are building a comprehensive database of programming languages.
Similarly, some programming languages are very popular, others are used moderately, and many are completely abandoned. Java may be the most popular programming language, with approximately ~5.3 million LinkedIn users claiming it as a skill.
The number of programming languages in the world depends on the rules you establish for deciding whether or not a language counts.
What do other people say?
TIOBE - 250
The TIOBE index is one of the best lists of popular programming languages and monitors ~250 popular programming languages. TIOBE tracks a programming language if it passes 3 tests: it must have its own Wikipedia page, it must be Turing complete, and a Google search for it must return over 5,000 search results.
Wikipedia - 700
Wikipedia has a list whose goal is to include “all notable programming languages in existence”, that currently lists over 700 programming languages. Wikipedia’s list excludes certain types of languages such as markup languages.
FOLDOC - 1,000
FOLDOC, a 90’s era online dictionary of computing, lists over 1,000 programming languages, though that includes aliases.
The Language List - 2,500
The Language List–started in 1991–tracks ~2,500 computer languages. The Language List includes popular languages as well as many “published languages”. If a language was published in a journal it may be on the list, regardless of its implementation history or popularity.
HOPL - 8,945
HOPL is a collection curated by Diarmuid Pigott. It lists 8,945 programming languages!
J.E. Sammet - ~165 (In 1971)
What do we say?
At the moment we are closely tracking hundreds of programming languages with thousands more in our periphery. Until we have a more comprehensive database across all the languages we track, we’ll have to make some estimates.
Our current estimate for active general purpose programming languages is between 500 and 2,000.
Our current estimate for all active computer languages is between 5,000 and 25,000.
As our database improves we will refine our definitions and estimates accordingly.
Reproducibility notes: A hard count of programming languages was made by querying the CodeLani database, which consists of thousands of human-checked facts about programming languages. Confidence intervals were added ad hoc through spot checking with the reference lists above.