This month’s edition of the TIOBE Index, which ranks the popularity of various programming languages, has a surprise: Microsoft’s Visual Basic .NET has climbed into fifth place, its highest ever.
Meanwhile, Visual Basic .NET’s predecessor, “classic” Visual Basic, still lingers in nineteenth place on TIOBE’s list. “Professional software developers don’t think much of Visual Basic,” read TIOBE’s note accompanying the rankings. “It is considered a toy language meant for people who start to learn programming. This is true, but it can’t be denied that there are many programs and applications written in Visual Basic, also in the professional domain.”
Whoever writes this monthly TIOBE update believes that small and midsize businesses are drawn to Visual Basic by its speed (you can use Visual Basic to quickly cobble together a prototype) and ease-of-learning. However, Microsoft announced earlier this year that it would terminate the co-evolution strategy of Visual Basic and C# (another Microsoft-produced language), meaning that Visual Basic will tumble out of TIOBE’s rankings at some point, no matter how much legacy code remains in place; it will simply become too obsolete.
In order to create its rankings, TIOBE leverages data from a variety of aggregators and search engines, including Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, and Amazon. 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 languages in the upper echelons of TIOBE’s rankings never budge much from month to month. Java is still in first place, followed sequentially by C, Python, and C++. The languages with the strongest year-over-year movement include SQL (now in ninth place), Delphi/Object Pascal (which went from 16th to 11th), and R (which dove from eighth to 16th over the past twelve months).
When it comes to the ultra-popular languages, it seems unlikely that much will change in 2019—Java, C, and Python enjoy massive legacy codebases, and thousands of developers leverage these languages every day to create new products on a variety of platforms. As always, the interesting movement will take place among the smaller languages, which can rise in TIOBE’s rankings if embraced by even a relatively small subset of developers.
Meanwhile, Visual Basic is a little bit… ya basic (with apologies to “The Good Place”):