How many Python programmers are there in the world?

24 June 2013

We’ve been talking to some people recently who really wanted to know what the potential market size was for PythonAnywhere, our Python Platform-as-a-Service and cloud-based IDE.

There are a bunch of different ways to look at that, but the most obvious starting point is, “how many people are coding Python?” This blog post is an attempt to get some kind of order-of-magnitude number for that.

First things first: Wikipedia has an estimate of 10 million Java developers (though I couldn’t find the numbers to back that up on the cited pages) but nothing for Python — or, indeed, any of the other languages I checked. So nothing there.

A bit of Googling around gets one interesting hit; in this Stack Overflow answer, “Tall Jeff” says that the 2007 version of Learning Python estimated that there were 1 million Python programmers in the world. Using Amazon’s “Look inside” feature on the current edition, they still have the same number but for the present day, but let’s assume that they were right originally and the number has grown since then. Now, according to the Python wiki, there were 586 people at the 2007 PyCon. According to the front page at PyCon.org, there were 2,500 people at PyCon 2013. So if we take that as a proxy for the growth of the language, we get one guess of the number of Python developers: 4.3 million.

Let’s try another metric. Python.org’s web statistics are public. Looking at the first five months of this year, and adding up the total downloads, we get:

Jan: 2,584,754
Feb: 2,539,177
Mar: 3,182,946
Apr: 3,199,012
May: 2,855,033

Averaging that over a year gives us 34,466,213 downloads per year. It’s worth noting that these are overwhelmingly Windows downloads — most Linux users are going to be using the versions packaged as part of their distro, and (I think, but correct me if I’m wrong) the same is largely going to be the case on the Mac.

So, 34.5 million downloads. There were ten versions of Python released over the last year, so for let’s assume that each developer downloaded each version once and once only; that gives us 3.5 million Python programmers on Windows.

What other data points are there? This job site aggregator’s blog post suggests using searches for resumes/CVs as a way of getting numbers. Their suggested search for Python would be

(intitle:resume OR inurl:resume) Python -intitle:jobs -resumes -apply

Being in the UK, where we use “CV” more than we use “resume”, I tried this:

(intitle:resume OR inurl:resume OR intitle:cv OR inurl:cv) Python -intitle:jobs -resumes -apply

The results were unfortunately completely useless. 338,000 hits but the only actual CV/resume on the first page was Guido van Rossum’s — everything else was about the OpenCV computer vision library, or about resuming things.

So let’s scrap that. What else can we do? Well, taking inspiration (and some raw data) from this excellent blog post about estimating the number of Java programmers in the world, we can do this calculation:

  • Programmers in the world: 43,000,000 (see the link above for the calculation)
  • Python developers as per the latest TIOBE ranking: 4.183%, which gives 1,798,690
  • Python developers as per the latest LangPop.com ranking: 7% (taken by an approximate ratio of the Python score to the sum of the scores of all languages), which gives 2,841,410

OK, so there I’m multiplying one very approximate number of programmers by a “percentage” rating that doesn’t claim to be a percentage of programmers using a given language. But this ain’t rocket science, I can mix and match units if I want.

The good news is, we’re in the same order of magnitude; we’ve got numbers of 1.8 million, 2.8 million, 3.5 million, and 4.3 million. So, based on some super-unscientific guesswork, I think I can happily say that the number of Python programmers in the world is in the low millions.

What do you think? Are there other ways of working this out that I’ve missed? Does anyone have (gasp!) hard numbers?

One thought on “How many Python programmers are there in the world?

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