Ruby, Groovy post surprise gains in popularity

The Tiobe index author isn't convinced these are long-term gains, though, pointing out earlier high rankings that have since faltered

Ruby, Python, Groovy post surprise gains in popularity
hermanturnip (CC BY 2.0)

Compared to their positions a year ago, Ruby, Assembly, Python, and R fare well in this month's Tiobe index of language popularity. But the index's author isn't sold on all of these languages as long-term big gainers.

The Tiobe index gauges language popularity based on searches in Google, Yahoo, Bing, and Wikipedia, assessing the number of skilled engineers, courses, and third-party vendors vested in a particular language. Java, with a 20.528 percent rating, still tops the index, again followed by C with a rating of 14.60 percent.

Further down, some languages made significant jumps year over year. In Ruby's case, it was in the 18th spot in March 2015 and placed 10th this month, boosting its rating 1.21 percentage points to 2.238 percent. Still, index author Paul Jansen, managing director of software quality services vendor Tiobe, does not see Ruby as a big gainer in the overall scheme. "Ruby is not climbing," he said. "It was also at 10th place 10 years ago," he said.

The Assembly language jumped even more, moving from 28th in March 2015 to 12th this month, gaining 1.23 percentage points to score a rating of 1.847 percent. Jansen suspects the increase is related to small processors in mobile devices leveraging bits of Assembly code.

Python, meanwhile, rose from eighth a year ago to fifth, with a rating of 4.257 percent, 1.64 percentage points higher than March 2015. "Python has become the de facto scripting standard worldwide," Jansen said.

Groovy jumping from 36th a year ago to 17th, albeit with a rating of 1.193 percent, "also is a bit strange," Jansen said. "I would have expected Scala there instead, but Groovy is apparently a popular alternative to write Java code without all the verbose stuff." The D language also impressed, rising from 31st to 20th with a rating of 1.139 percent. "D is also a bit of a surprise to me," confessed Jansen. "It is not really taken seriously in industry yet, but it is still very promising."

Another big gainer -- Apple's Swift -- was not so surprising. It was rated 23rd a year ago and is in 14th place now, rated at 1.587 percent. Swift is the successor to Objective-C, which dropped dramatically from third a year ago to 15th now, with a rating of 1.461 percent, which is a decrease of 5.23 percentage points.

The R language, 20th a year ago, now is ranked 16th, with a rating of 1.285 percent, an increase of .33 percentage points. "R is the most popular statistical language at the moment," Jansen said. "I expect it to rise further especially because big data is hot nowadays."

Rounding out the top five in this month's Tiobe index were C++, in third place with a rating of 6.721 percent and C# (4.271 percent). The alternative PyPL Popularity of Programming index, which analyzes how often language tutorials are searched on in Google, also has Java in first place again, with a 24.1 percent share. Again following Java were Python (12.1 percent), PHP (10.6 percent), C# (8.8 percent), and C++ (7.5 percent).

In his report accompanying the index, Jansen said the top 10 languages today are the same ones from 10 years ago. "The only difference is that Visual Basic, PHP, and Perl swapped places within the top 10 with more modern languages C#, Python, and JavaScript. Yes, Objective-C entered the top 10 during these 10 years and even reached a top 3 position, but it vanished again quickly after Apple's announcement to replace Objective-C by Swift."

Most of the top 10 languages borrow features from each other in order to survive, he said. "For instance C++11 adopts type inference, range-based for loops, and lambda functions and expressions; PHP 7 adopts anonymous classes and the null coalescing operator; C# 6 adopts expression bodies, null-conditional operators, and string interpolation."

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.