Is Java Losing Ground to Other Popular Programming Languages?

For nearly 30 years, Java has remained one of the world’s most popular programming languages. But is that popularity slipping? Are more software developers and engineers giving up Java for other programming languages?

The TIOBE Index, which provides a monthly update of the world’s most popular programming languages, has some data that suggests Java is indeed falling behind other, ultra-popular languages. “In April 2020, Java was still number 1 on the TIOBE Index,” reads the organization’s latest note. “In that same month, Java had to give up its first place to C. Later on, in 2021, Python became unstoppable and surpassed Java as well.”

Now C++ has overtaken Java. “The C++ language is revised every three years,” the note added. “Such revisions contain ground-breaking new features, which get the language on par with C# and Java, but without the performance penalty of a garbage collector. Let’s see where C++ is heading the next few months.”

For those unfamiliar with the TIOBE Index, it leverages data from a variety of aggregators and search engines to determine rankings, 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. While that isn’t the most scientific means of determining a programming language’s popularity, it’s a straightforward way of seeing which languages have “buzz.”

That’s not to say Java is in danger of fading away entirely—at least not anytime soon. In late 2021, Oracle rolled out Java 17, an update with “thousands” of performance, stability, and security upgrades. At the time, Oracle also shifted Java onto a six-month update schedule, potentially accelerating the language’s evolution. Meanwhile, the language remains a favorite of many developers, particularly in the mobile context, where it powers Google Android (which, lest you forget, is the world’s most-used mobile operating system).  

If you want another sign of Java’s enduring popularity, the median Java developer salary is $102,000, according to Burning Glass, which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country. That suggests a high level of demand for those who know their way around the language.

In other words, other languages might surpass Java in terms of popularity—but the language remains a mainstay of the programming world. If you want to start learning it, check out this list of handy tutorials