Apple Swift Losing Momentum, Says TIOBE

October’s update of the TIOBE Index, which attempts to gauge the world’s most popular programming languages, has a bit of a surprise: Swift, Apple’s new(ish) language for building iOS and MacOS apps, is losing steam.

Since October 2016, Swift has fallen from 12th to 16th place in TIOBE’s rankings, managing to stay just ahead of its predecessor, Objective-C, which tumbled from 10th to 17th place during the same period.

The reason for the decline, in TIOBE’s analysis, is frameworks. “Until recently it was quite common to program Android apps in Java and iOS apps in Swift/Objective-C. This is quite cumbersome because you have to maintain two code bases that are doing almost the same,” read the firm’s analysis. “So frameworks for mobile hybrid apps were developed and now that they have grown mature these are becoming very popular.”

The market leaders, TIOBE continued, are “Microsoft’s Xamarin (C#), Apache’s Cordova (JavaScript) and Ionic (JavaScript).” As a result, “languages such as C# and JavaScript are gaining popularity at the cost of languages such as Java and Swift.”

It’s important to note that the relative rankings of Swift and Objective-C don’t correlate directly with the popularity of iOS as an app platform. Developers clearly want to build for iOS, which can pay a healthy premium over Android (according to Dice’s Salary Calculator). But as with any platform, their choice in tools can evolve according to their needs.

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 Turing complete, have its own Wikipedia entry, and earn more than 5,000 hits for +”<language> programming” on Google.

The top of TIOBE’s rankings remained largely unchanged from last month: Java headed up the list, followed (sequentially) by C, C++, C#, and Python. But even these languages have seen a degree of market-share erosion as developers embrace a broader collection of languages in order to accomplish their tasks. The TIOBE rankings could look very different in just a few years.

5 Responses to “Apple Swift Losing Momentum, Says TIOBE”

  1. joe ellison

    Mr. Kolakowski, thank you for the illuminating post. I just finished taking the first half of a two semester course on android and apple using java and swift. Do you think I should bother taking the other half?

    • Nick Kolakowski

      Yes! It’s definitely worth taking. Just because a portion of developers are choosing to use frameworks for cross-platform development doesn’t mean learning those languages won’t prove really useful. Swift is here to stay, and so is Java.

        • Understanding Swift, Java, Cotlin, etc. will help you understand the individual platform and platform apis and ultimately help when working in Xamarin. That said, Xamarin does a very good job of documenting the various platform API’s and does an excellent job abstracting each platform to a uniform API that can be accessed via C#. I’ve now completed two Xamarin Forms apps (full abstraction, including the UI) and have been very impressed with how much code reuse there is and how it properly renders the native experience on each platform.

          In addition to iOS and Android, Xamarin is also able to target Windows UWP, and is adding MacOS, Linux (desktop) and Tizen OS (think Samsung Smart TV Apps). The Xamarin ecosystem is improving day by day and expanding very rapidly.

          One last thought about Xamarin, they are very good about getting new API’s into the platform prior to release of a new version of iOS and Android. For instance, prior to iOS 11 shipping, they had already built support for things like AR Kit, etc. Very impressive.

  2. I found TIOBE’s analysis to be silly. If everyone is moving to Xamarin for mobile development you would C# popularity increase and we haven’t. I personally stopped with Swift because it’s locked into Apple and there are few iOS developer jobs. Apple is a phone company only now, and if that platform goes out of style, 100’s of hours learning the platform are gone. When they release the iPhone 6 for the fourth year in a row and try and call it iPhone 8, that has developers worried about the platform’s future.