C language nosedives in Tiobe popularity index

The venerable language has lowest rating ever but still ranks second; Google's Go language is a rising star

C language nosedives in Tiobe popularity index
Valder137 (Creative Commons BY or BY-SA)

C has seen its better days when it comes to language popularity, based on Tiobe's language index.

Once regularly placing at the top of that index, which gauges popularity using a formula assessing searches on languages in popular search engines, the venerable C still is in second place behind Java. But it has sunk to a new low.

"The C programming language has a score of 11.303 percent, which is its lowest score ever since we started the Tiobe index back in 2001," a report accompanying the August index said. "One of the main reasons for this drop is that C is hardly suitable for the booming fields of Web and mobile app development. Moreover the C programming language doesn't evolve like the other big languages, such as Java, C++, and C#."

C's usefulness in embedded computing and internet of things (IoT) has not jump-started its popularity, based on Tiobe's index. "Apparently the mobile app and Web development industry are growing faster than embedded and IoT," said Paul Jansen, managing director at software quality services vendor Tiobe and the publisher of the index.

Tiobe does not see a lot of hope for a C revival. The language is constrained by the need for C object code to be small and fast, and adding C++ features would not help because C++ already has them, the company said. C is further hampered by the lack of a big-time IT company to shepherd it, Jansen added. "Oracle supports Java; Microsoft supports C++, C#, and TypeScript; Google supports Java, Python, Go, Dart, and JavaScript; Apple promotes Swift and Objective-C, etc.; but none of them supports C publicly."

Elsewhere in Tiobe's ratings, Go is a rising star this month, ranking 20th after placing 95th the same time last year. It has a rating of 1.27 percent in the current index.

Apple's Swift language ranked 14th, with a rating of 1.983, after clocking 17th a year ago. But Jansen is skeptical about its chances of rising in the index. "I don't see any adoption of Swift yet outside the iOS mobile app development," Jansen said. "So I doubt that it will become a top 10 language, though Apple is trying hard to make it a great language."

Java finished way ahead of C this month with a rating of 19.01 percent. In third was C++ (5.8), followed by C# (4.907), Python (4.04), PHP (3.173), JavaScript (2.705), Visual Basic .Net (2.518), Perl (2.511), and Assembly (2.364).

In the alternative PyPL index, which examines searches on language tutorials in Google, Java was tops, with a 24 percent share. Python was second with a 13.2 share; finishing after it were PHP (10.4), C# (9), JavaScript (7.6), C++ (7), C (6.9), Objective-C (4.6), R (3.2), and Swift (3.1)

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