Java and C continue to decline in popularity

Upstart languages are creeping closer to the lead in the monthly Tiobe popularity index as software is adopted by more and more domains

Java and C continue to decline in popularity
Thinkstock

Keep on moving over, Java and C. Other languages are closing the popularity gap.

That's the gist of this month's Tiobe index, which gauges language popularity based on a formula assessing search-engine activity. While still ranking number one and two in the index, Java and C continue to see their shares dwindle as other languages capture attention.

"Java and C are in a heavy downward trend since the beginning of 2016. Both languages have lost more than [six percentage points] if compared to last year," according to report accompanying the index. Java's rating is 14.639 percent this month, down 6.32 points, more than 30 percent from May 2016. The situation is even more dire for C; it declined 6.22 points from a year ago to 7.002 percent, a decline of nearly 48 percent.

"Since software is adopted by more and more domains nowadays, C (low-level software development) and Java (high-level software development) apparently don't suffice any more," the report states. "To illustrate this point, a rating of 0.6 percent was sufficient to reach the top 20 in 2012. Nowadays this would put you at position 33."

The top five languages for this month all show declines from May 2016, with third-place C++, rated at 4.751 percent, down 1.95 percentage points, followed by Python (3.548, -.24) and C# (3.457, -1.02). However, all but Java do show slight upticks from last month. Not until sixth place does a language show a year-over-year gain: Visual Basic .Net was rated at 3.391 percent this month, up 1.07 points.

Further down the list, PHP dropped from sixth to ninth place from last May to this May, with a share of 2.693 percent, down 0.3 point. Last month, it was also in sixth place, with a share of 3.376. "PHP used to be the web development language but nowadays a lot of other frameworks [on the client and server side] are taking over," Paul Jansen, managing director of software quality services provider Tiobe, said. "So I am afraid PHP has had its days." He said frameworks like Angular, Meteor, and Ruby on Rails are cutting into PHP's popularity.

The R language, which placed 14th this month with a rating of 2.192 percent, up 0.86 point from a year ago when it was in 16th place, is a bright spot on the index. "Statistical programming is getting more and more important nowadays due to data mining," Jansen said. "The R programming language appears to be the market leader in this area."

Objective-C, viewed as the earlier technology for iOS mobile development as opposed to the newer Swift language, also grew from May 2016, posting a 2.101 percent share, up a half a point from a year ago. But Objective-C ranked 15 this month and 14th a year ago. Swift, for its part, placed 13th this month, with a 2.274 percent rating, an increase of 0.68 point from May 2016.

Finishing out the top 10 in Tiobe's index were JavaScript, in seventh place with a rating of 3.071 percent, followed by Assembly in eighth place (2.859). Perl was rated in 10th place (2.602).

In the alternative PyPL Popularity of Programming Language Index, which assesses searches on language tutorials in Google, Java was in first place with a 22.7 percent share, followed by Python, with a share of 15.7 percent, then PHP (9.3), C# (8.3), JavaScript (7.9), C++ (6.9), C (6.7), Objective-C (3.8), R (3.6) and Swift (2.8).