Apple's Swift soars into Tiobe's top 10 programming languages

However, Swift's Apple-centric focus could prevent the language from climbing much higher

Apple's Swift soars into Tiobe's top 10 programming languages
Credit: Stefan Berndtsson

The Swift language was introduced to much fanfare by Apple in June 2014, positioned as a modern successor to the Objective-C language that has driven iOS and MacOS application development. Now, Swift has cracked the top 10 in Tiobe's language popularity index, demonstrating momentum for the fledgling language as it approaches its third birthday. But Tiobe has doubts about how far up in the rankings Swift can move, given its Apple-centric focus.

Tiobe's March index has Swift in 10th place with a 2.268 percent rating. "The expectations [for Swift] were high right from the start, but adoption took off slowly," a report accompanying the index states. "That is for good reasons by the way, because the installed base of Objective-C code is quite large."

While developers are writing new applications in Swift, they are not actively migrating old applications written in Objective-C to Swift, Tiobe said. "This is also what we observe at customer sites. Since Swift is mainly intended to write applications in Apple's ecosystem, it is expected that it won't rise much further."

In fact, Tiobe Managing Director Paul Jansen, who compiles the index, does not expect it to rise to any further than the seventh spot. While efforts have been made to get Swift to work with Windows and Linux, Jansen said he has not seen anyone using a non-Apple-focused version yet.

Tiobe's index is calculated by a formula assessing searches on language in popular search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Wikipedia. Swift also takes 10th place in this month's PyPL Popularity of Programming Language Index, which analyzes how often language tutorials are searched on in Google. It has a 2.9 percent share in the PyPL index.

Elsewhere in the Tiobe index, Java again finishes first, with a rating of 16.384 percent, followed by C (7.742) and C++ (5.184). All three have seen their shares slip lately while still remaining in top spots. Following in the fourth and fifth spots were C# (4.409) and Python (3.919). In the sixth to ninth spots were Visual Basic.Net (3.174), PHP (3.009), JavaScript (2.667), and Delphi/Object Pascal (2.544).

For PyPL, its top language also was Java, with a 22.7 percent share. Following it from second to eighth places were Python (15), PHP (9.3), C# (8.3), JavaScript (7.7), C++ (6.9), Objective-C (4.1), and R (3.5).