Java, C, C++ face growing competition in popularity

The three languages are still tops in Tiobe's popularity index, albeit with sinking ratings

When it comes to programming, Java, C, and C++ still rule the roost, according to this month's Tiobe index of language popularity. But all three have suffered downturns from where they stood in the index a year ago, with lesser-ranked languages grabbing away share.

Java maintained the top spot it has held since April 2015, with a rating of 16.676 percent, while C stays in second with a rating of 8.445 percent, followed by C++ in third place at 5.429. But Java has lost 4.47 percentage points year over year from last February, when it was rated at roughly 21.145 percent, while C is down a whopping 7.15 percentage points during that same time period. It was rated 15.594 a year ago. C++'s drop was less sharp compared to one year past, decreasing 1.48 percentage points from about 6.91 percent.

"I expect the big drop for C and Java to continue because there's hardly any dominance anymore in the programming field," Paul Jansen, managing director at Tiobe, said. "So the small languages are coming closer and closer to the top." But he expects C++ to remain at the same level. "The reason for this is that I see a migration from C to C++ at our customer base."

Go made big year-over-year gains. It was in 38th place in February 2016 and is in 14th place now, with 2.105 percent rating, up 1.81 percentage points from a year ago. The Google-developed language, known for its use in building the Docker container system was named Tiobe's language of the year for 2016 due to having the highest growth rate last year. It was in 13th place last month.

Swift, Apple's anointed successor to Objective-C, appears on a path to do exactly that. It was in 12th place this month with a 2.125 percent rating, while Objective-C ranked 19th, with a rating of 1.536 percent. Also doing well and cracking the top 20 was Scratch, an educational programming language intended for children, which had a rating of 1.5 percent in 20th place. "The field of teaching children to program should certainly not be underestimated," Tiobe said in its report accompanying the index.

The rest of Tiobe's top 10 languages included C#, in fourth place and rated at 4.902 percent, followed by Python (4.043), PHP (3.072), JavaScript (2.872), Visual Basic.Net (2.824), Delphi/Object Pascal (2.479), and Perl (2.171). The rival PyPL index, which is based on how often language tutorials are searched on in Google, had Java at the top with a share of 22.6 percent, followed by Python (14.7), PHP (9.4), C# (8.3), JavaScript (7.7), C (7), C++ (6.9), Objective-C (4.2), R (3.4), and Swift (2.9).

The Tiobe Programming Community Index gauges popularity through a formula assessing searches on languages in different search engines, including Bing, Google, Wikipedia, and Yahoo. Specifically, the index gauges the number of skilled engineers worldwide, courses and third-party vendors pertinent to a language.