Objective-C plummets in popularity

The venerable language for Apple development is losing ground, perhaps with a nudge from Swift

Objective-C plummets in popularity

Thanks to the emergence of Apple's Swift language and maybe a decline in iOS development, Objective-C is in free fall in the monthly Tiobe index of language popularity. The legacy language for building iOS mobile and Mac OS applications has dropped out of the index's top 10, where it had been a staple for more than five years. It is in the 14th spot this month.

The official compiling the index, however, sees more than Swift as the culprit. "Yes, Objective-C is indeed pushed aside for Swift," says Paul Jansen, managing director at Tiobe Software, which provides tools to analyze software quality. Apple announced Swift 15 months ago as the successor to Objective-C, though its Xcode development environment still supports both.

"But apart from that, iOS app development is apparently declining [in general], because the rise of Swift doesn't fully explain the loss [sustained by] Objective-C."

Ranked third in the index a year ago, Objective-C has dropped nearly 9 points year over year, from 10.1 percent down to 1.419 this month. Prominent Apple developers, however, still see staying power in Objective-C. Swift, which debuted in June 2014, was ranked 15th in this month's index, with a rating of 1.277 percent.

Tiobe sees the Ruby language exploiting the drop by Objective-C. Ruby climbed back up to the 10th spot with a 1.825 percent rating. "Ruby's small revival is a bit surprising," a report accompanying the index states. "The language was a genuine hype between 2006 and 2008. Rubyists were shouting all over the Internet that Ruby and Rails were the best gift to mankind. It even became Tiobe's language of the year 2006. The hype stopped quite abruptly when Twitter announced to shift from Ruby to Scala in 2009." The Ruby community has started to work hard to overcome criticism of the language, Tiobe said. "Now it is slowly picking up again."

In other findings, OpenEdge ABL enters the top 20, in the 19th spot with a 1.04 percent rating. Clojure nabs the 50th spot with a 0.19 percent rating. But Google Go "surprisingly" dropped out of the top 50, Jansen said. Facebook's Hack, meanwhile, appears perched to enter the top 50, he said.

Heading the list, Java again came out on top, with a 19.543 percent rating, followed by C (16.19 percent), C++ (5.749 percent, C# (4.825 percent), and Python (4.512 percent). The rival PyPL Popularity of Programming Langauge index, which assesses searches on language tutorials in Google, also had Java in its top spot, with a 24.7 percent rating. It was followed by PHP (11.3 percent), Python (11.2 percent), C# (9.2 percent), and C++ (7.6 percent).

Tiobe ratings are based on a formula that assesses searches on languages in search engines including Google, Yahoo, Bing, and Wikipedia. 

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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