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.

13 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.

  5. Whenever anyone writes about Delphi, the “cult of Delphi” materializes to tell us that it’s still around. Some of those posting here have trotted out a figure of “three million users” in the past (which would put it on par with C, which would be ridiculous). One of the apologists recently claimed it has six million users, which would put it at 50% more users than Python, which would be even more ridiculous.

    The fact is that Delphi died some time ago and the only places it’s found anymore are in maintaining legacy software from the 1990s and in small, privately-held companies where a Delphi fanatic IT manager can get away with using it without repercussions (much like that one oft-publicized company that uses punch cards for its accounting, presumably as a publicity stunt).

    TIOBE is indeed a poor measure of use; what the Delphi defenders neglect to mention is that it OVER-estimates Delphi’s use! TIOBE counts web pages that may not have been updated or seen a hit since 1999. More comprehensive rating systems, such as IEEE’s, or RedMonk’s (based on Github and Stack Overflow data) put Delphi at a much lower ranking than TIOBE. Some Delphi fans pushed for Delphi to be added to the PYPL index (based on Google Trends data) and it has subsequently been ranked last every single month since addition. 🙁

    A wise Delphi user once said “A language doesn’t need to be popular to be successful”. This is true; I just wish more Delphi users could accept that rather than trying to convince us of an alternative reality.

    Lastly, please stop insisting that anything related to Pascal be lumped together to boost Delphi’s rating in TIOBE. If Oxygene should be counted as Delphi, than C and C++ should be joined together, and perhaps Java and Kotlin (and maybe C# too).

  6. It’s very clear that certain people don’t know Object Pascal, and have no idea what they are talking about. If you know Object Pascal, switching to almost any IDE or compiler of the language is very trivial. It’s NOT like jumping from C to C++. It’s like jumping from FreeBasic to PureBasic. Dialects of the same language. People who code in the language, know this.

    RemObjects makes it very clear that Oxygene is a dialect of Object Pascal. “Oxygene is built on the foundation of Object Pascal.” In fact RemObject and Borland/Embarcadero were in collaboration with each other, with PRISM (.NET version of Object Pascal). By the way, which might have a relationship to PascalABC.NET (Russian version that aligns closely with Delphi’s flavor of Object Pascal). Embarcadero (Delphi owner) makes it very clear they are implementing a dialect of Object Pascal. Straight from their website- “Delphi offers modern Object Pascal with native compilers and component libraries for Windows, macOS, iOS, Android and Linux.”

    The other dialects of Object Pascal have always aligned themselves closely with the Delphi dialect of the language. Free Pascal/Lazarus, Smart Pascal, DWScript, PdScript, PascalABC, etc… all do them. So while there isn’t an official standard of Object Pascal, the dialects stay close to each other.

    Object Pascal is vastly under counted, because of the labeling of the different dialects, and often bizarre bias. People know product names, and often have no clue about the actual language. PascalABC has an 18 year history in Russian schools and universities. Delphi and classic Pascal is still taught around the world in many school systems. In South Africa they kicked Java out and teach Delphi. Turkey’s minister of education selected Delphi for 1 million students in the country. Object Pascal transpilers are all over the place. What people might think is JavaScript, PHP, or C, could have originally been written in Object Pascal.

    Lastly, stop hating on Pascal or Delphi, or being an agent for Microsoft or Oracle. Object Pascal is clearly a viable programming language used around the world, that is not dying. Free Pascal/Lazarus and PascalABC.NET are both open-source, and aren’t going away for years to come. Delphi has a free Community Edition and has/will be selected by many schools (or Free Pascal or PascalABC), and among other things, Object Pascal is an excellent language for teaching programming.

    • Arkadiusz

      Author’s emotional approach to Delphi’s death is beyond me. Statements like “Delphi has plunged into 20th place, down from 19th a year ago” means nothing. There is no source of information besides TIOBE index, which uses lazy search engine results.
      There are many engineers, who use programming languags as complementary tool to solve their engineering problems and those engineers are not counted. That’s why TIOBE is not reliable.
      Is TIOBE made for career planning? Maybe, but it’s not necessary… young programmer shall focus on first big players (C, Java, Python, C++) to be safe in his career. Learning Rust praised by TIOBE (“the most loved programming language”) is risky, since its popularity 0.64% is not much different than Delphi’s 0.59% (Are all programming languages below 1% actually dying? LOL).
      I don’t care if Delphi dies (I will switch to similar C++ if needed), but I still use it since 1995 LOL. I have seen other languages born and disappeared (e.g. Perl, Ruby).
      What author does not understand is availability of Delphi’s code in the world. It may be not the best programming language (it is perfect in my opinion, but I’m probably biased because I use it) but I can quickly create useful tools instantly… Windows service application, Excel’s Add-In, Web server, Database server etc.
      C is most popular programming language; still C++ did not manage to replace it. It’s not about language efficiency, it’s about end result efficiency.
      Interestingly Embarcadero’s Delphi costs a lot of money. How is this possible when there are many free alternatives? Simple… there are hundreds of commercial products which will allow you to do anything in Delphi. Sure, you will pay thousands for licenses but your business will earn much more in profit.
      Why this article is suspicious… author praises Go language by quoting: “Go is the top language that developers want to learn next, followed by Python, Kotlin, and Typescript”. What!? Python 8.36%, Go 1.02%, Kotlin 0.45%, TypeScript 0.2%.
      Again… it’s about end result efficiency (money) and not emotional approach to your beloved languages.

  7. Robert Thompson

    I am a huge Delphi fan, and have programmed in it for years. I think it is a shame that it has lost popularity, and an even bigger shame that you can’t find a Delphi job anywhere in sight! Do a search for “Delphi jobs” and it returns the same result as for any other job… DevOps Developer, Full Stack Java Developer, REST API, Spring Boot, Angular, NodeJS, Python, and a hundred other things like that. Do they know any other words? I, for one, would love to see a Delphi job come back to my area and get the opportunity to apply for it.

  8. Delphi is an unmatched good tool to ….
    – keep your staff turnover rate low
    – develop crossplatform (though with caveats)
    – get jobs done
    – develop Frontends(FATGUI, Web, Voice, IoT) that amaze
    – develop Backends which rock considering performance and memory efficiency
    – realize successful projects …

    It would probably be much more popular if it was less expensive (I guess they loose quite a some customers at the moment) … but the .NET Framework and JAVA .. and a lack of visibility that it is also is a quite decent Web Development Tool cause also a problem for more adoption. The biggest issue will be however in the next (probably recessional post Corona) years its high price and the lack of Dollar in regions where it used to be popular.

  9. Long Live Delphi! I have been using Delphi since version 3 and had I abandoned Delphi for a more trendy language, I would not be retiring 7 years early, trust me. Delphi jobs pay relatively higher and as a contractor, the rate at which I can develop any type of software, full stack, blows the competition away. I praise Turkey for their foresight. I don’t care what all these yippity-yappers have been talking about. They’re obviously wrong!

  10. pascal developer

    TIOBE has split “object pascal” from Delphi and “pascal”. If you correspond with them about it, they mumble something about wikipedia.

    Apparently, wikipedia defines what constitutes a language, and if you don’t like it, you simply must start an edit war.

  11. All these people commenting about how good Delphi is??? We’ve been using it for a very long time and hate how problematic it is. It seems good for small 32 bit projects but we waste lots of time working around issues with it for our main projects, especially the IDE, crap 64 bit debugging, still poor high DPI support, crashing, freezing. It’s annoying waiting for a ‘stable’ release, 2007 was a good one, I think XE6 may have been but we weren’t on that one for long.

    The only thing stopping us moving away Delphi is the work involved but we’ve wanted to for a number of years and each year it keeps getting more and more likely.

    With regards to Delphi as an unmatched tool for low staff turn over – part of that is that you probably have to pay your staff well and look after them because very few people want to use it due to the problems and thinking they’re ending in a dead end career – especially evident with the number of responses to job ads we get if we say we’re using Delphi.