C: Programming Language of 2019, Says TIOBE

The TIOBE Index, which attempts to track the rise and fall of the world’s most popular programming languages, has named C its “Programming Language of the Year 2019.” While that’s mildly surprising—our money was on Python to claim that particular honor—it also makes a good deal of sense. C is everywhere, it seems, and still gaining users.  

“Why is the programming language C still hot? The major drivers behind this trend are the Internet of Things (IoT) and the vast amount of small intelligent devices that are released nowadays,” read the note accompanying the results. “C excels when it is applied to small devices that are performance-critical.” In addition, C is “easy to learn and there is a C compiler for every processor.”

According to TIOBE’s methodology, the popularity of C grew 2.4 percent last year, more than C# (2.1 percent), Python (1.4 percent), and Swift (0.6 percent), which were also candidates for language of the year. For any language to rank on the TIOBE Index, it must be Turing complete, have its own Wikipedia entry, and earn more than 5,000 hits for +”<language> programming” on Google. Languages with the biggest presence on various aggregators and search engines, including Google and YouTube, climb into the top rankings. As you might expect, this methodology has proven controversial with many technologists who feel that it’s not an accurate barometer of language popularity.

However, TIOBE is a solid way to see which languages are broadly trending. If you want to monitor the fortunes of up-and-coming languages such as Swift or Kotlin, for example, the Index gives you a sense of how much “chatter” they’re attracting.

C: A Vital Language to Learn

As you can see from the following chart, specializing in C as a developer can translate into a pretty hefty salary, although not as high as some other languages (such as Swift and Java). This is an analysis of Dice’s own data:

As TIOBE mentioned in its breakdown, part of C’s widespread appeal is its versatility; developers leverage it for everything from embedded systems and the Internet of Things (IoT) to desktop and smartphone applications. That it’s so ubiquitous should come as no surprise, considering that its fiftieth anniversary is rapidly approaching. If you want a breakdown of how the language actually works, check out this quick guide.