The 10 most dreaded programming languages, according to a survey of 65,000 developers

  • Stack Overflow, a popular Q&A site for developers, surveyed 65,000 users about the programming languages they use, and which ones they have no interest in continuing to use.
  • Based on those responses, Stack Overflow compiled a list of the “most dreaded” programming languages.
  • This survey was conducted in February, before the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic in March.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Some programming languages are known to cause massive headaches for developers.

Sometimes it’s because these languages hard to learn. Sometimes it’s because they’re older and more likely to have bugs in the code, or even crash. Or sometimes, writing in a certain language is simply frustrating.

Stack Overflow, a Q&A site for developers with 50 million unique monthly visitors, is especially well-positioned to identify the top languages that developers are coding in. Last week, it released its annual survey where it asked over 65,000 developers about themselves and their programming habits. That included the languages they love the most, and the languages they dread.

To find out the “most dreaded” languages, Stack Overflow asked developers what language they use, but have no interest in continuing to use.

Sadly for many developers with headaches, some of their most dreaded languages are also the most popular in terms of how widely they are used.

Notably, this survey was conducted in February, before the World Health Organisation declared the coronavirus outbreak to be a pandemic. Different routines and challenges around remote work may have affected developers’ choices, but we’ll just have to wait until the next survey to see how, if at all.

For now, here are the “most dreaded” programming languages, according to Stack Overflow, in descending order. You’ll find the top source of dread at the bottom of the list.

10. R

Flickr / Steven Snodgrass

R is used for statistical computing, graphics, and data analysis. It includes various statistical tools, like classification and modelling, and makes it easy to create graphs.

9. Java

Sam Howzit/Flickr

Java was first developed by Sun Microsystems, which has since been acquired by Oracle. It’s one of the most popular programming languages, and it’s a core language for companies like Twitter and Netflix, as well as many Android apps.

8. C++


The programming language C++ dates back to 1979. The Danish computer scientist Bjarne Stroustrup created it while he was working on his PhD thesis, as a way to add additional features to an older programming language, C. Today, it’s still one of the most popular programming languages, as it’s the core language in many operating systems, browsers, and games.

7. Ruby

IMDb/Warner Home Video

Ruby is an open source programming language created by Yukihiro “Matz” Matsumoto, who blended the best parts of his favourite languages to create it. It was released in 1995, and since then, it’s become one of the most popular programming languages, with several conferences and meetups based on the Ruby language. Ruby developers also earn some of the highest salaries: a median salary of $US71,000 globally and $US130,000 in the U.S.

6. PHP


PHP, which stands for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor, is an open source programming language for web development and creating interactive web pages. It also works well with databases, and has been used by Facebook and Yahoo. (Yes, the “P” in the language’s full name stands for “PHP.”) Today, it’s one of the most popular programming languages.

5. C


C is one of the oldest programming languages and still one of the most popular today, developed by American computer scientist Dennis Ritchie in 1972. It was designed to be a general-purpose language, for programming a wide array of computer systems and hardware. Many popular languages today, including Java, PHP, and JavaScript, have their roots in C. It’s also one of the highest paying programming languages in the US. C developers make a median salary of $US125,000.

4. Assembly

Associated PressFILE – In this Sept. 27, 2018, file photo robots weld the bed of a 2018 Ford F-150 truck on the assembly line at the Ford Rouge assembly plant in Dearborn, Mich. U.S. businesses are edging their way toward figuring out how to bring their employees back to work amid the coronavirus pandemic, some more gracefully than others. Detroit-area automakers, which suspended production in March 2020, are now pushing to restart factories as soon as possible. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

Assembly is a programming language that helps developers program a specific computer device or architecture to handle operations and commands. While a computer’s processor only understands strings of 1’s and 0’s, Assembly helps developers write commands for these processors.

3. Perl

Ali_ayers via Flickr

Perl is a family of programming languages that’s over 30 years old, built by programmer Larry Wall. It’s used for prototyping, large scale projects, text manipulation, system administration, web development, network programming, and more. It’s also one of the highest paying programming languages. Worldwide, Perl is the top paying programming language, as developers make a median salary of $US76,000. In the U.S., Perl programmers make a median salary of $US130,000.

2. Objective-C

Paul Szoldra/Tech Insider

Objective-C is based on the C programming language and is used to build OS X and iOS operating systems and apps. It was developed originally by Brad Cox and Tom Love in the 1980s and used for NeXT computers. Eventually, Apple took over the language to use for its iOS and Mac OS X.

1. Visual Basic for Applications (VBA)

Sean Gallup/Getty ImagesMicrosoft CEO Satya Nadella

Microsoft VBA, or Visual Basic for Applications, takes the top spot for the most dreaded programming language. It’s built into most Microsoft Office applications like Word and Excel to automate repetitive tasks, like cleaning up tables, building a pop-up reminder, and formatting documents.

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