Scratch Marks TIOBE’s Language Rankings

It’s always interesting when a new language enters the higher rankings of the TIOBE Index, which measures the popularity of various programming languages. This month, Scratch is that language, hitting 20th place.

Scratch is a visual programming language developed by MIT Media Lab. Its mascot is a cute feline affectionately dubbed “The Scratch Cat.” Thanks to its intuitive design and ease of use, instructors often use Scratch as a way to introduce students to the fundamentals of programming, before upgrading them to more complex languages such as Java or C.

“The Scratch repository at MIT labs contains 20 million different Scratch projects and more than half a million new users each month,” read the note accompanying TIOBE’s rankings. “The field of teaching children to program should certainly not be underestimated.”

If it keeps rising, Scratch will pass Objective-C, Apple’s aging language for building iOS and macOS apps, which currently sits in 19th place. Apple’s newer Swift language has cannibalized Objective-C’s market share over the past few years.

The TIOBE Index calculates rankings based on data from 25 search engines, including Google and Bing (a lengthy breakdown of its methodology is available on its site). Because it is intended to rank popularity, certain ubiquitous languages such as Java, C, and Python can sit at the very top of the Index for years. There’s more movement in the lower ranks, where increased usage by even a few hundred developers can elevate a language by several slots.

Over the past year, languages that have experienced such dizzying rises include Swift, R, and Go (which leapt from 38th place in February 2016 to 14th place this month). Other languages have experienced sharp declines, most notably Visual Basic, which has dipped from 12th to 16th place over the past twelve months.

We’re curious to see if Scratch’s utility as a learning language will propel it further up the ranks, or if it will hover in its current slot. Those interested in learning more about basic programming, or who just want an easy way to design a game or two, might consider giving Scratch a try.