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P-Languages on the Wane?  

By Ryan Tomayko under Then they fight you... on 04. August 2005

Hot on the heels of O’Reilly’s report of strong demand for dynamic languages we have The Register reporting that Perl, PHP, and Python are on some kind of massive wane:

PHP and Python have each experienced a 25 per cent drop in the last 12 months while Perl fell 20 per cent. Those not planning to evaluate or use either of the three in future projects, meanwhile, is growing - up by as much as 40 per cent in the case of PHP.

The Reg goes on to predict folly for IBM, Oracle, SAP, and Intel - each of which has thrown support behind PHP.

EDC blamed the drop on a failure for PHP, along with Perl and Python, to penetrate the enterprise space. An EDC spokesman predicted that the decline could be halted and reversed with this year’s work between Zend and its new backers.

Hmmm.. I’m not very satisfied with the response they got from Zend, either:

Disputing EDC’s numbers, though, Zend said that its backing from IBM, Oracle, Intel and SAP proved that PHP is a growing market and that these companies have accurately read developer trends.

This argument is crap - backing from large corporations proves nothing about developer trends.

EDS’ sample seems a bit narrow. They polled 400 developers in small, medium and large enterprises across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

This goes strongly against much of what I’ve been observing over the past year. Where are we to assume these huge percentages of developers going? Java? .NET? I don’t buy it.

Or is this some kind of massive migration to Ruby? ;)

9 Responses to “P-Languages on the Wane?”

  1. Ryan Tomayko:

    The Reg just doubled up with Is the web’s love affair with PHP over?. This time they’re pointing the folly at the recent crop of LAMP startups:

    Andrew agrees that the big vendors are just keeping their options open. “I don’t think PHP is going to go away fast - they have a large share of the market. Most of those suppliers have to remain open to multiple ways to be friendly,” he said.

    If EDC is right, then the real problem is not for the tier one vendors who have deep pockets and multi-platform support to ride out any tactical snafu, but an emerging class of start-ups betting their business on LAMP. Companies like SpikeSource and SourceLabs plan to provide certification and testing for business software in the Linux, Apache, MySQL and Perl/Python/PHP (LAMP) stack. But, what happens if the “P” part of the stack is losing developers and evaporates?

    Andrew is confidant LAMP will adapt, and other open source languages will take the place of PHP. “[LAMP] was intended to be interchangeable - that’s the beauty of it. That’s the beauty of open standards and open source,” he said.

    comment at 04. August 2005

  2. Lorenzo Gatti:

    Statistics must be taken with a grain of salt, more so when the sample is undocumented: the “400 developers” might be writing downloadable cellphone trinkets, embedded control systems, Excel or Access “applications”, DirectX or OpenGL shaders, anything for z/OS or older mainframe environments, JDBC drivers, console games, and countless other kinds of software where language choice is limited or nonexistent.
    I’d rather trust direct interest metrics like downloads and page views, mailing list volume, revenue of relevant companies.

    comment at 05. August 2005

  3. Harry Fuecks:

    Someone’s gotta call horseshit.

    It’s a shame The Register jumped on the story which is not a big step from “We surveyed 5 people on a bus and guess what?!? P* languages are in decline”.

    Some slightly more solid stats:

    Also if you head to http://www.jobserve.com/ which is a UK based job search engine. I’ve always found it presents a pretty accurate picture of corporate demand for technologies. Listings are aged out quickly and are usually posted by specialist IT Job Agencies and usually represent a real requirement from a real business.

    Back in Nov 2002, on a good day you’d see about 70-80 PHP jobs listed. Today it’s returning 271 jobs. Python is up from somewhere like 1-5 jobs back in 2002 to 84 right now. Perl I’ve never followed by right now there’s 929 jobs listed and Ruby’s putting in an appearance with 6. For reference Java has 3811 right now and C# - 1998, which helps convince me of the type of demand being reflected here.

    In the end if this survey has got it right, the hidden story must be corporations cutting back in web development and imminent IT downturn.

    comment at 05. August 2005

  4. Chris Foster:

    I second Harry’s “horseshit.” The stats are most likely compiled against responses from easy to find corporate/government trolls who are spoon fed .NET or legacy vendor Java solutions.

    Take a look at craigslist.org. There was no Python market for me locally last year, but now there is a slow, but steady stream. And, PHP opportunities pile up daily.

    comment at 05. August 2005

  5. Ryan Tomayko:

    Yea, I’m gonna third Harry’s horseshit. The Reg or EDC could have dug a little deeper to find supporting evidence for such a bold claim. Those kinds of drops don’t happen for no reason and you should see similarities between polls if they’re acurate.

    comment at 05. August 2005

  6. Bob Ippolito:

    I certainly wouldn’t mind if the people so easily swayed by such nonsense would just go waste their time with C# and Java.

    It’d certainly mean less competition for those of us running businesses built on agile languages… though, I guess the other side of the coin is that the unemployed ├╝berhackers that specialize in agile languages may have a harder time finding (boring) work.

    comment at 06. August 2005

  7. Fredrik:

    My guess is that they use a narrow and badly controlled sample, leading to huge fluctuations. Remember, this is the same company that reported a 30% increase in MySQL use in only six months.

    I wonder how many interviewed developers that Python number represents? If Python usage (in this survey) is below 70% of that of PHP, this drop in Python usage is not even a statistically significant change according to the numbers on Evans own (PHP-driven) website.

    comment at 06. August 2005

  8. Harry Fuecks:

    Just for fun, some more lies and statistics thanks to alexa.com;

    Traffic to python.org for the last year

    Traffic to cpan.org for the last year

    Traffic to php.net for the last year.

    Traffic to ruby-lang.org and rubyforge.org for the last year.

    They’re all say basically the same thing.

    comment at 07. August 2005

  9. duncan:

    Cleary, it’s a fine piece of reporting by El Reg in the mold of ‘post something outrageous and watch the links roll in’ but I do think there’s a grain of truth in there somewhere.

    I’d say that, on average, about half the people developing in the P-languages aren’t doing it to build the next Intel/SAP rival. They’re doing it to build the next Flickr or the next Moveable Type.

    comment at 08. August 2005