Java, C Losing Momentum: TIOBE Index

May’s edition of the TIOBE Index, which ranks the popularity of dozens of programming languages, reveals something interesting: both Java and C are losing momentum.

Although those languages continue to come in first and second (respectively) in TIOBE’s rankings, both have dipped 6 percent year-over-year. “So which programming languages are taking advantage of this drop? Well, actually all the other languages,” read the note accompanying the latest rankings. “Since software is adopted by more and more domains nowadays, C (low level software development) and Java (high level software development) apparently don’t suffice any more.”

But don’t count out Java and C just yet: other rankings place the languages in strong positions. In March 2017, for example, RedMonk’s bi-annual programming language rankings (based on data from Github and Stack Overflow) placed Java and C at second and ninth, respectively. Last September, “Java Developer” ranked first on the list of jobs in the Dice database with the most applies.

So even if fewer tech pros are using these languages to get things done, the fact remains that both undergird untold thousands of Websites and platforms.

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

Any language, popular or unpopular, can fade under the right circumstances. Objective-C remained in wide use for thirty years as the primary programming language for NeXTSTEP and, later, OS X and iOS; it faded only when Apple introduced Swift, an updated language for its various platforms. That was an example of a controlled culling; but any language can lose its developer base if the latter decides that something newer is superior—the reduction just might take a long time, given all the legacy code out there.