Objective-C spirals downward in language popularity

Tiobe language index cites the rise of Swift as the main reason for Objective-C's decline

Objective-C plummets in language popularity

Interest in the Objective-C language has taken a nosedive thanks to developers ramping up on Apple's successor, the Swift language, according to this month's Tiobe index of language popularity.

Based on Objective-C's continuing downward trajectory, the language could fall off Tiobe's Top 20 language list before the end of the year. "Objective-C is really going into free fall. The last couple of months it has been losing about 1 percent of market share per month," states a report accompanying the index.

It comes as no surprise that Swift, the language introduced by Apple a year ago, is the main culprit behind Objective-C's demise. "The programming community embraced Swift because it fits the bill much better. Apart from this, there is also a trend to use C++ more frequently to program the lower layers of an iOS application," the report says.

Tiobe's index gauges language popularity via a formula that assesses searches on languages in popular search engines including Google, Bing, and Wikipedia. Objective-C ranked fifth in language popularity this month, with a 4.339 percent share; it was ranked third in June 2014, with a 10.939 percent share.

Swift, meanwhile, is ranked 14th this month, with a 1.44 percent share, but the language is likely to become more popular with Apple's recent move to make the language open source. "Making Swift open-source will certainly affect its popularity positively," said Tiobe Managing Director Paul Jansen in an email. "It is a recent trend of big companies to open-source part of their technology. In 2006, Java was made open source by Oracle, and recently Microsoft released TypeScript as an open source language. The idea is I think that by making a language open source there is less mental association with the big company behind the language. So there is less negative bias to adopt the language."

All is not lost for Objective-C, however. While Swift is becoming the language for new applications, Objective-C still appears dominant when it comes to iOS mobile application development -- at least with Tiobe customers, Jansen said. The company specializes in tracking software quality.

The alternative PyPL Popularity of Programming Language Index, which analyzes how often language tutorials are searched on in Google, has Objective-C ranked in eighth place this month, with a 5.5 percent share; that's down 0.4 percent from a year ago. Swift is in 11th place, with a 2.6 percent share.

Java finished first again this month in Tiobe's index, with a 17.822 rating, followed by C (16.788 percent), C++ (7.756 percent), and C# (5.056 percent). Java also tops this month's PyPL index, with a 24.4 percent share, followed by PHP (11.5 percent), Python (10.9 percent), C# (9.1 percent), and C++ (7.9 percent).

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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