Top programming languages: C reigns supreme but third-ranked Python gains on Java

TIOBE releases its monthly programming languages index to detail fluctuations across the landscape. Its latest index identifies granular changes as well as long-term trends.

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Software quality assurance company, TIOBE, releases its top programming languages index each month to detail shifts in the ever-evolving landscape. TIOBE recently announced its latest updated index for October. TIOBE uses a series of metrics including searches on Amazon, YouTube, Wikipedia, Bing, Google Yahoo, and Baidu to determine the rankings. Overall, the top 10 saw no positional shifts since the September report, although there are granular data fluctuations and long-term changes to note.

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Top programming languages: TIOBE October index

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In the latest index, C remains in the top spot with a rating of 16.95% representing a positive 0.77% change over October 2019. C continued its reign at the top from last month when the programming language held a rating of 15.95%. In October of 2019, C was ranked number two according to the TIOBE index.

Java remains the runner-up in the latest rankings with a 12.56% rating. Overall, Java had a negative 4.32% change since last October; the largest swing (negative or positive) in the top 50. Python remains in the third position with an 11.28% rating. The index notes this is Python’s highest position since 2001. Python recorded a positive 2.19% change since last October; the largest uptick registered in the top 50. In order, C++, C#, Visual Basic, and JavaScript round out the remaining top seven.

C++, C#, Visual Basic, and JavaScript were rated in the same order in TIOBE’s October 2019 ratings. The eighth-ranked programming language, PHP, jumped one spot from the October 2019 ratings. The ninth-ranked language in the latest rankings, R, surged six spots since October 2019. In

Python set to overtake Java in latest programming language rankings

Java’s popularity continued to decline this month, almost clearing the path for Python to snatch its spot as the world’s second most popular programming language, according to Tiobe’s latest programming language rankings.   

If Python does overtake Java, it would mark the first time since Tiobe began its programming language popularity index in 2001 that Java would be outside the top two spots. 

As Tiobe CEO Paul Jansen notes, C and Java have held the top two spots consistently for two decades. But today 25-year-old Java is approaching its “all time low” in popularity, falling 4.32 percentage points compared with October 2019. 

In September, Jansen said Java “is in real trouble” because of its year-on-year decline of 3.81 percentage points. Python, which was created in 1991, has seen its popularity ascend thanks to its use by data scientists and the rise of machine learning.     

Tiobe bases its popularity index on the number of hits that searches for a particular language get across 25 search engines. It constitutes one estimate of the popularity of various programming languages, along those provided by IEEE Spectrum, RedMonk, GitHub, Stack Overflow and others. Each index uses different methodologies, so the rankings don’t always align.        

However, Tiobe’s October 2020 index appears to be tracking what RedMonk observed in its July 2020 rankings. RedMonk’s rankings are based on GitHub and Stack Overflow data. 

RedMonk consistently places JavaScript in first place, but July was the first time Java dropped outside of the top two, thanks to Python’s ascent to second spot.   

Tiobe’s latest data shows that Java’s ratings stood at 12.56% compared with Python’s 11.28%, leaving a 1.3% gap between the two languages. 

RedMonk’s Stephen O’Grady thinks Java will remain important. However, its place as a “language of first resort” is under threat as developers explore other languages. 

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Programming languages: Java founder James Gosling reveals more on Java and Android

James Gosling, the father of Java, one of the world’s most widely used programming languages, has talked with research scientist Lex Fridman about Java’s origins and his motivations for creating a language that would be used on tens of billions of devices and become central to the development of Android at Google. 

Gosling designed Java 25 years ago while at Sun Microsystems. In 2009, Java would be one of the key reasons Oracle acquired Sun. According to Oracle, today there are 51 billion active Java Virtual Machines (JVMs) deployed globally. 

But long before Oracle’s acquisition of Sun, Gosling said he and a team at Sun “kind of worried that there was stuff going on in the universe of computing that the computing industry was missing out on” – what would become today’s Internet of Things.

“It was all about what was happening in terms of computing hardware, processors and networking that was outside the computing industry,” he said. 

“That was everything from the early glimmers of cell phones that were happening then to – you look at elevators and locomotives and process-control systems in factories and all kinds of audio and video equipment.  

“They all had processors in them they were all doing stuff with them and it felt like there was something going on there that we needed to understand.” 

At that stage C and C++ “absolutely owned the universe” and everything was being written in those languages. 

Gosling says his team went on several “epic road trips” around 1990 to visit Toshiba, Sharp, Mitsubishi and Sony in Japan, Samsung and several other South Korean companies, and went “all over Europe” to visit the likes of Philips, Siemens and Thomson. 

“One of the things that leapt out was that they were doing all the usual computer things that people