Delphi Is Dying, TIOBE Index Insists

The beginning of a new month means it’s time for the TIOBE Index to unveil its updated list of the most popular programming languages. If you follow that list on a regular basis, you know there’s not a lot of movement in the upper echelons of the rankings—Java, C, Python, and C++ all occupy the top slots, and haven’t moved in at least a year. It’s further down that things get interesting.

For this month’s edition, TIOBE also seems pretty focused on Delphi and its seeming collapse. For those who’ve never worked with it, Delphi is based on Object Pascal, itself an extension of the Pascal programming language, and is mature and fully featured. It’s used for building everything from mobile to web and desktop applications, and right now (at least according to TIOBE) it’s in a bit of trouble. (If you’re a history buff, you can probably guess the extremely nerdy, Delphi-related joke in that top image there.)  

“Delphi has been in the top 20 since the beginning of the TIOBE index (started in June 2001). In the early 2000s it was one of the most popular languages and IDEs,” reads the note accompanying the data. “After that Delphi got in to troubles: the port to Linux was not successful, there were some buggy releases and non-commercial IDEs with similar features started to conquer the market.”

The frequency of new Delphi releases has likewise fallen off: “Delphi had at least one major release per year since 2001. However, the latest Delphi release is from 2018.” In any case, Delphi has plunged into 20th place, down from 19th a year ago.

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. That methodology has obviously sparked complaints that these rankings aren’t a “true” measure of languages’ respective popularity.

Some other things to note: Swift continues to climb upward in the rankings, balanced out by Objective-C’s plunge—no surprise, given how Apple is pushing the former and the expense of the latter. Over the past year, Swift has become even more fully featured; those interested in learning its ways should familiarize themselves with sets, loops, functions, and more.

Also, Go is on the rise, jumping from 18th place to 10th over the past year. Perhaps that’s unsurprising, as HackerRank’s 2020 Developer Skills Report, which collects and analyzes survey responses from 116,000 developers worldwide, suggested that Go is the top language that developers want to learn next, followed by Python, Kotlin, and Typescript.

5 Responses to “Delphi Is Dying, TIOBE Index Insists”

  1. Jon-Lennart Aasenden

    TIOBE cannot be trusted. I have completely lost faith in their way of building statistics. Delphi just gained 1 million new users in Turkey, and its growing at incredible speed — yet they issue statements like this? Absurd. It only underlines that they have absolutely no insight into the Delphi and C++Builder communities at all.
    I also have to question how any serious writer would pass such information on without a serious study – which includes talking to the Community.
    On Facebook you have groups like “Delphi Developer” which is a good place to engage with the community. There are millions of Delphi users in the world (an estimate 10 million, 6 million paying customers in 2018. You can add 1000.000 students to that as of last month. I used to work for Embarcadero). So im sorry, but the whole Delphi is dying thing is vapour. People have been saying that for years (hoping perhaps, its typically stated by people with no experience with the language or toolkit) — yet here we are, millions strong, and growing!

  2. Bruce McGee

    Yeah, I know; I’m a big Delphi fan, so you should take my comments with a grain of salt, too, but you had to expect some kind of push back on TIOBE’s comments.

    They’re right that the last major release was in November of 2018 (16 months ago), but since then, there have been three point releases and the next major version is in beta. I don’t think that suggests that the release frequency has “fallen off”.

    TIOBE is also right that Linux support (Kylix) could have been handled better in 2001-2002, but Embarcadero did a much better job of it in 2017 when it was reintroduced as part of their cross-platform strategy to go with support for Mac, iOS and Android. At the very least, Embarcadero hasn’t quietly killed the product like Borland did with Kylix. Not that I’m bitter or anything…

    TIOBE correctly point out that Delphi was in position 19 in March of last year and position 20 in March of 2020, but in the intervening months, its position has bounced between 18 and 12. I think the fluctuations are partly because TIOBE doesn’t report all of their results. This happens for all language groups that are made up of more than one individual language. The one with the most hits is reported and the others are discarded.

    And finally, TIOBE wrote Delphi off once before. In May of 2013, they wrote the following. It looks like they were hung up on Kylix then, too. Good to know I’m not the only one… Here’s hoping they’re still writing about Delphi for many years to come.

    “May Headline: Delphi is on its way out”

    “Delphi/Object Pascal was once far ahead of its time. The Delphi development environment supported software engineers to create cool applications in a fast way. Moreover, since the underlying language of Delphi was Object Pascal, the “generated” applications were scalable and relatively easy to maintain. This in contrast to its competitor of that time, the rapid application environment Visual Basic of Microsoft.”

    “Delphi’s major market is development of applications for the Windows platform (although they tried to get some Linux market share as well, remember Kylix). As a result they have to fight against the fierce competition of Microsoft’s Visual Studio. A battle that inevitably has been lost.”

  3. Gad D Lord

    oh, come on. PL/sql was 22 previous period. I heard noone talking Oracle is dead. There was a web site “delphiisdead”. The web site is gone, Delphi is still here. I have been listening to this chant for 15 years already.

  4. TIOBE is clearly bias and has an agenda. There has been this bizarre echo chamber saying Delphi is dead for the last 11 YEARS. You can even look at Quora from 2011 to see the silliness, with people asking over and over again is Delphi dead as the years go by. It’s like certain people and websites are stuck on stupid.

    The ignorance is continuously amazing. TIOBE can’t be bothered with researching the release dates of Delphi software (with the latest being in November 2019), checking for Beta versions (like 10.4), or upcoming release dates. Nope, Delphi dead, cause we say so. And Delphi is not Object Pascal, but a dialect of it. Of which, there are many dialects of Object Pascal, something those at TIOBE seem incapable of comprehending. There is Free Pascal and Lazarus, Oxygene (RemObjects), PascalABC, Smart Pascal (Smart Mobile Studio), various dialects of Pascal Script, etc… If Delphi did actually die, which Embarcadero has no intention of letting happen, there are plenty of Object Pascal dialects to take up the slack.

    Even how TIOBE gathers information about Object Pascal reeks with ignorance and bias. They don’t count related search terms such as Free Pascal, FPC, Smart Pascal, PascalABC, DelphiScript, PascalScript, Oxygene, PDScript, etc… Terms that all relate to the Object Pascal language and community.

    What people writing that trash article at TIOBE should have put up, is “We (TIOBE) Want Pascal To Die!” or “Why Won’t Pascal Die!” Because Object Pascal is going to live on for many more years to come.