The Decline and Fall of C?

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The TIOBE Index attempts to gauge the popularity of programming languages via search-engine data. From month to month, languages in the upper echelons of the index rarely rise or fall very much: Java, C, C++, C#, and Python have all preserved their top-five rankings for the past year.

Despite the relative immobility of the top languages, the analysts behind the TIOBE Index believe that C may face some trouble in the years ahead. “The C programming language has a score of 11.303 percent, which is its lowest score ever since we started the TIOBE index back in 2001,” read the note accompanying the August rankings. “One of the main reasons for this drop is that C is hardly suitable for the booming fields of web and mobile app development.”

“Moreover the C programming language doesn’t evolve like the other big languages such as Java, C++ and C#,” the note added. “There is a ‘new’ C11 standard available but this contains only minor changes.”

Moreover, no major tech firm relies on C as its primary language. Google leans heavily on Java and Python, for example, while Apple depends on Swift and Objective-C. If C has maintained its enviable TIOBE ranking for multiple quarters, it’s largely because the language already has a considerable install base; in order for it to begin dropping down the ranks, thousands of developers would need to stop using it (and replace it with something else).

And that’s not the sort of seismic shift that takes place overnight, or even months. The TIOBE Index might have put C on notice, but the language could very well take years to actually decline, especially since it continues to maintain an enviably high position in other rankingsIf you’re a programmer who specializes in C, there’s a good chance that your skills will continue to be in demand for quite some time to come—although given the fast-evolving nature of tech, it’s always a good idea to hedge your bets by learning more languages, and keeping abreast of the latest developments in programming.

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