C’s wild ride: From all-time low to big gains

After bottoming out earlier this year, the language is gaining in adherents—but still faces the Java juggernaut for the top spot

C’s wild ride: From all-time low to big gains

The venerable, close-to-the-metal C language has enjoyed a reversal of fortune in the Tiobe language popularity index, emerging as a candidate for the index’s top gainer this year after sustaining its record low just four months ago.

Although still in second place in this month’s index behind Java, C—with its 10.158 percent rating—has jumped nearly four percentage points since August, when it sustained an all-time low of 6.477 percent. (Java also had an all-time low that month of 12.961 percent.) C’s rating also has increased 1.43 points compared to December 2016. Tiobe, which offers software quality services, attributes C’s rise this year to its usefulness in programming of small software devices and the increase of low-level software in the automotive industry, where C also has a stronghold.

Popular in China, C still faces major competition from Java

If C gains the most share this year, it would be named Tiobe’s programming language of the year. The language is very popular in China, said Tiobe Managing Director Paul Jansen, who compiles the index. And a lot of European and US companies are developing their software in that country, he added.

Although C used to top Java in the index, Jansen still sees Java keeping its lead despite C's good fortunes of late. Java still has an edge over C when it comes to being deployed in enterprise systems, he said. Java’s rating this month was 13.268.

Tiobe’s index is based on a formula assessing searches on languages in popular search engines, gauging the number of skilled engineers worldwide, courses and third-party vendors pertinent to language.

Kotlin is a gainer as well

Also a candidate for Tiobe’s language of the year is Kotlin, JetBrains’ statically typed language that began on the JVM and now can be transpiled to JavaScript. It also has been endorsed by Google as a language for building Android mobile applications. Kotlin was in 28th place this month with a 0.994 percent rating. “Since the adoption of Kotlin as an official Android language, its popularity is skyrocketing,” Jansen said. But “the effect of this will be over soon, and then it is interesting to see whether Kotlin can get some traction in other areas.” Because Kotlin runs on the JVM, it could also take away from other Java domains, he said. Kotlin reached the index's top 50 for the first time in June, when it was ranked 43rd with a rating of 0.346 percent.

Matlab also sees strong gains

Also noteworthy in this month’s index is Matlab turning up in 10th place with a rating of 1.569 percent. While down 0.25 percentage points from a year ago, Matlab nonetheless jumped eight spots compared to December 2016. Matlab is a slow climber, Jansen said. But allong with the Simulink model-based design environment, Matlab is popular in the automotive industry, he said.

Tiobe and PyPL top 10 languages for December 2017

Tiobe’s top 10 languages for December 2017 are as follows

  1. Java (13.258 percent)
  2. C (10.158 percent)
  3. C++ (4.717 percent)
  4. Python (3.777 percent)
  5. C# (2.822 percent)
  6. JavaScript (2.474 percent)
  7. Visual Basic.Net (2.471 percent)
  8. R (1.906 percent
  9. PHP (1.59 percent)
  10. Matlab (1.569 percent)

In the alternative PyPL Popularity of Programming Language index, which analyzes how often language tutorials are searched on in Google, December’s top 10 are:

  1. Java (21.5 percent)
  2. Python (19.3 percent)
  3. PHP (8.3 percent)
  4. JavaScript (7.9 percent)
  5. C# (7.6 percent)
  6. C (6.3 percent)
  7. C++ (6.3 percent)
  8. R (3.8 percent)
  9. Objective-C (3.8 percent)
  10. Swift (3 percent)

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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