Java, C remain entrenched as most popular languages

The stalwarts have held the top two spots in Tiobe's popularity index since 2001, even as other languages get all the hype

Java, C remain entrenched as most popular languages
Credit: Brad K

While new programming languages emerge on what seems like a daily basis, two established languages have remained in charge when it comes to leading the Tiobe Index of language popularity: Java and C.

The two languages have held either first or second place since Tiobe began publishing the index more than 15 years ago. The index is based on a formula that calculates searches on languages in popular search engines such as Google, Wikipedia, and Bing, specifically the number of skilled engineers, courses, and third-party vendors pertinent to a language.

Java, with a rating of 18.755 percent this month, has held onto the top spot since April 2015 after a year and a half behind C. While slipping lately, C, rated at 9.203 percent, remains entrenched in second place in the November index, ahead of third-place C++, rated at 5.415 percent. Java and C's stranglehold on the top two spots is "a bit of a paradox," said Paul Jansen, managing director at Tiobe. "The IT world is changing everyday with new hypes, however, programming languages don't change that often. The reason for that is that if you have programmed 1 million lines of code in Java, you are not going to change that easily and jump on every new programming language train that comes along."

Haskell made headway this month, nearing placement in the index's top 20. "Some people say that Haskell is the most mature purely functional programming language available nowadays," a report accompanying the index states. "It has quite a long history, dating back from 1990, and its community is growing, although slowly. This month Haskell is only 0.255 percent away from the top 20 at position 23." It was in 40th place a year ago.

Also, both Apple-oriented programming languages, Objective-C and its successor, Swift, are trending upward. Rated 14th and 15th respectively a year ago, they are 12th and 13th in the index for November, with ratings of 2.246 percent and 2.039 percent. "If we add the ratings of Objective-C and Swift and we compare it to one year ago, then there is indeed an upward trend. They are 4.2 percent together now and 2.6 percent together a year ago," Jansen said. Objective-C had declined in the index last year.

Rounding out the top 10 in Tiobe's were C#, in fourth place with a rating of 3.659 percent, followed by Python (3.567), Visual Basic .Net (3.167), PHP (3.125), JavaScript (2.705), Assembly language (2.441) and Perl (2.361). PyPL has PHP in third place with a 9.8 percent share, followed by C# (8.4), JavaScript (7.6), and C++ (7.1). Following C were Objective-C (4.7), R (3.2,) and Swift (3.2).

Java also has ruled atop the rival PyPL Popularity of Programming Language index, which analyzes searches on language tutorials in Google. Java's share this month was 23.4 percent. But Python, not C, takes second place in that index this month, with a 13.7 percent share. C is in seventh place, with a 7 percent share.

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