Rust Rockets Up TIOBE Index’s Popular Programming Languages

The Rust programming language has broken into the top 20 of the TIOBE Index, which attempts to rank the world’s most popular programming languages on a monthly basis. 

In doing so, Rust jumped from 38th place to 20th over the past year—a solid showing on the Index, where many languages tend to only move a few slots every 12 months (especially those in the top 20). The reason behind that rise is simple: Developers love Rust’s simplicity. “All the verbose programming and sharp edges of other languages are solved by Rust while being statically strongly typed,” TIOBE Software CEO Paul Jansen wrote in a statement accompanying the data. “Its type system prevents run-time null pointer exceptions and memory management is calculated compile-time. So no garbage collection that suddenly kicks in.”

Eventually, he added, Rust and other, newer languages may eventually threaten some of the ubiquitous, old-school languages that dominate the Index’s very top ranks: “We have D, Lua and Julia trying to beat C and C++ but Rust seems to be the first one to come really close.” 

In creating 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 attracted its share of critics over the years, who argue that the rankings are more a measure of these languages’ “buzz” than actual usage.  

Rust has long been one of the “most loved” languages among software developers, according to Stack Overflow’s annual developer survey. In this year’s edition of that survey, some 86.1 percent of respondents named Rust as a language they loved, well ahead of TypeScript (67.1 percent), Python (66.7 percent), Kotlin (62.9 percent), and Go (62.3 percent).

Stack Overflow’s comments about that love echo Jansen’s. “Rust promises performance, control, memory safety, and fearless concurrency—an enticing combination, especially for systems programming,” read Stack Overflow’s note accompanying its data. “It has also brought some interesting features—like affine types and hygienic macros—into the mainstream discourse.”

If all that collective love makes you interested in learning the ways of Rust, rust-lang.org offers lots of handy documentation. There are also some handy (free) tutorials available via Medium. If you’re looking for a new language to learn during these continued lockdowns, you could do far worse.