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R Is Still Hot – and Getting Hotter

David Smith, Chief Community Officer, Revolution Analytics

When I wrote a white paper titled “R Is Hot” about four years ago, my goal was to introduce the R programming language to a larger audience of statistical analysts and data scientists. As it turned out, the timing couldn’t have been better: R has now blossomed into the language of choice for data scientists worldwide.

Today, R is widely used by scientists, researchers, and statisticians for modeling data and solving problems
quickly and effectively. When people ask me which factors are driving the broader adoption of R among data analysts, I usually offer two key points:

  1. R was designed specifically for statistical analysis, which means that analytics written in R typically
    require fewer lines of code (and hence less work) than analytics written in Java, Python, or C++.
  2. R is an open source project, which means it is continually improved, upgraded, enhanced, and
    expanded by a global community of incredibly passionate developers and users.

Let’s take a quick look at the many ways in which R has proven its value in real-world scenarios:


Paul Butler, a data scientist and product developer who interned at Facebook, used R to create one of the most spectacular data visualizations in recent memory—the worldwide map of Facebook friends. What’s even more amazing, especially to coders who aren’t familiar with R, is that Paul produced the iconic image with about 150 lines of R code. He truly demonstrated the power and flexibility of R.

In addition to The New York Times, Google, and Facebook, many other respected organizations routinely use R for data analysis. The list of users includes Twitter, Kickstarter, eHarmony, Accenture, Deloitte, Coursera, Zillow, Trulia, DataSong, The Economist, RealScientists, ANZ, Credit Suisse, Lloyds Bank, Nationwide Insurance, Bank of America, Ford, John Deere, Nordstrom, Uber, and Etsy.

Not bad for an initially esoteric language created by two academics in New Zealand in the early 1990s.

More Than a Programming Language

Unlike legacy analytic software products, R is a fully fledged programming language. But it’s more than just a language: R represents a radically different approach to the challenges posed by increasingly larger and more complex sets of data. In that respect, R is something of a cultural phenomenon.

Usage of R has increased steadily since 2007, according to a Rexer Analytics 2013 Data Miner Survey. R is also among the world’s top 10 most popular programming languages as ranked by IEE Spectrum. On a practical note, R programmers were among the highest paid developers in recent surveys by Dice and O’Reilly Media.

As an open source project, R depends on a worldwide community of active developers to grow and evolve.
Like Linux, the most famous open source project, R isn’t “owned” by any single person or entity. R is maintained and supported by thousands of individual users who also contribute to its ongoing development.

The members of this global community serve as R’s guardians and custodians—and they take their responsibilities seriously. Like doting parents, they take pride in the achievements of their offspring—and they are quick to leap in when they perceive a problem.

Click below to download the full white paper, including the sections:

  • R is Ready for Business
  • Embedding Results of R Functions
  • If You're Not Using R Already, You Probably Will Be Soon