TIOBE Index Highlights the Rise of Hack

TIOBE’s April update of its programming-languages Index offers few surprises: Java, C, C++, C#, and Python continue to hold the top spots, while up-and-coming languages such as Swift and Go keep climbing the ranks.

Go, TIOBE’s programming language of 2016, has risen from 44th to 18th place over the past twelve months, driven by various companies adopting it for large-scale use. Docker, Netflix, Uber, and Dropbox (among many others) all rely on Go to power some aspect of their respective technology stacks.

TIOBE bases its popularity ratings on data from a number of aggregators and search engines, including Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, and Amazon. In order for a language to qualify for the list, it must be Turning complete, have its own Wikipedia entry, and earn more than 5,000 hits for +”<language> programming” on Google.

This month, TIOBE also called out Hack, a dialect of PHP created by Facebook in order to interface with the HipHop Virtual Machine (HHVM), as a language to watch (it’s currently in 47th place). The HHVM is an open-source virtual machine for executing programs written in Hack and PHP; it utilizes a just-in-time (JIT) compilation approach. “The main drivers behind the release of Hack are that it is faster, more scalable and safer if compared to PHP,” TIOBE wrote in this month’s note accompanying the rankings. “The Hack programming language contains modern programming paradigms such as generics, nullable types and collections.”

But will Hack eventually eclipse PHP? “Deployability is still quite hard (e.g. because it is not available on hosted webservers by default), otherwise it could certainly become PHP’s successor,” TIOBE added. Right now, PHP stands in sixth place on the Index; it would take quite a bit of time and momentum for Hack to climb that high.

There is precedent for a newer language replacing its predecessor in a relatively short span of time: Swift, Apple’s latest language for programming iOS and macOS apps, only needed a few years to surpass Objective-C, albeit with Apple’s heavy encouragement and support. To have a language eclipse another in a more organic fashion, developer by developer and company by company, could very well take considerably longer. It will be interesting to see Hack’s progress on the TIOBE Index in months and years to come.

Image Credit: Sata Production/Shutterstock.com

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