Python Still Swallowing R, Groovy Blasts Into Top 20: TIOBE

The TIOBE Index for July is out, and there’s not much movement at the top of the leaderboard. Python has usurped C++ for third place, which is actually impressive; plus, it ate or slithered past a few popular languages to get there.

While we’ve long pointed out that Python is replacing R for many data science use-cases, it seems Perl is also feeling the squeeze. From TIOBE:

Python’s continuous rise in popularity comes at the expense of the decline of popularity of other programming languages. One of these programming languages is R, but Perl has been beaten even more. Perl is currently at position 19 of the TIOBE index, which is an all-time low for Perl. Note that Perl was at position #3 in 2005 with a rating of more than 10%. The unconventional syntax of Perl and its unclear future (Perl 5 versus Perl 6) harmed the language a lot. Perl 6 has entered the top 100 at position #93 this month, but this is probably too late to become a major player again.

If the “Perl 5 versus Perl 6” commentary confuses you, we can clarify a bit. Perl 5 is the continuation of the Perl language release cycle; it’s a true “version five” of the language. Perl 6 is (for reasons we can’t clearly identify) its “own thing,” according to the official Perl website. It works with Perl 5 and previous versions of the Perl language, and uses libraries to call Perl 5 code.

In other words, Perl 6, which remains in active development, seems to be a reboot of sorts for the language to help make it friendlier to those who don’t know it. As to that uncertainty TIOBE speaks of… Perl 5 might represent the end of the line for many who work with it, and they’ll have to make a decision whether to jump to Perl 6, stay with 5, or switch to another programming language altogether.

Meanwhile, the R language continues its decline in popularity. Its main purposes, data science and machine learning, have been swallowed up by Python’s prowess. R’s scalability issues are a core reason for this dip, as well as the popularity and ubiquity of Python. The R language has dipped 6 spots year-over-year on TIOBE’s list, the sharpest decline of any language within the top 20.

The silver lining in all this is Groovy, which shot into the 15th spot this month (it ranked 81st in July 2018). TIOBE didn’t discuss why Groovy is rising so fast, although it noted in February that the language is being used more often in DevOps, where it’s finding favor with those who want to automate processes… and who doesn’t want that, right?

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.