Python up, C still down in language popularity

The two languages take divergent paths in the Tiobe and PyPL popularity indexes, with Python getting a spike thanks to AI while C founders due to lack of major support

Python up, C still down in language popularity
George Hodan (CC0)

Python has become entrenched near the top of language popularity indexes while C continues on a downward trajectory.

In the PyPL Popularity of Programming language index, which analyzes language searches in Google, Python again takes second place with a 14 percent share; Python, in fact, has seen the most growth in the index in the past five years.

"Python has been [in] second place on PyPL for a year now and is still going strong," index author Pierre Carbonelle said. "Not a surprise with the popularity of AI; [Python] has popular AI libraries like Keras, Theano."

Python climbed to fourth place in this month's Tiobe Index, which gauges language popularity based on a formula assessing language searches in search engines like Google, Bing, and Wikipedia. The language has a rating of 4.239 percent in the Tiobe index, which is actually down slightly -- .19 percent -- from a year ago. But Python was in fifth place last month, with a rating of 3.567 percent, and was ranked fifth in October, with a rating of 3.775 percent. Python first reached fourth place in the Tiobe index in December 2015.

C's story is different. It has lost the most of any language in the PyPL index in the past five years, currently ranked seventh with a share of 6.8 percent. In the Tiobe index, it has dropped nearly 8 percentage points in the past year to a rating of 8.726 percent. Still, it holds second place behind Java, which has a rating of 17.856 percent.

"The language was in a range of 15 percent to 20 percent for more than 15 years, and this year it suddenly started to suffer," a report accompanying the index states. "Its ratings are now less than 10 percent, and there is no clear way back to the top."

Tiobe reasons that C isn't the language thought of when writing mobile apps or websites, it's not evolving much, and no big company is behind it.

Meanwhile, the Go language is doing well in the Tiobe index, coming in at 16th place with a rating of 1.939 percent after ranking in 50th place in December 2015. But Paul Jansen, managing director at Tiobe, is not fully sold on Go, saying it actually lost some rankings last month. "It is yet unclear to me what the unique selling point of Go is, but I see it gradually adopted by industry." Go is ranked 18th in the PyPL index, with a share of .4 percent.

Remaining entrants in the top 10 of Tiobe's index include C++, with a 5.335 percent rating, in third place; placing from fifth to 10th were Visual Basic.Net (3.302), C# (3.171), PHP (2.919), JavaScript (2.862), assembly language (2.539), and Perl (2.338). For PyPL, Java finished first with a 23.7 share, followed by Python and then by PHP (9.7), C# (8.4), JavaScript (7.9), and C++ (6.9) in sixth place. After C, finishing eighth through tenth respectively were Objective-C (4.6), R (3.3), and Swift (3.1).

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