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Java: The Most Popular Programming Language

Forget the headline-grabbing revelations of new security flaws, the dogged dissing from Apple and the dire warnings from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security: Java is the world's most popular programming language. That's according to TIOBE Software's latest Programming Community Index.

TIOBE is a Netherlands-based provider of software quality assessment services based on the ISO/IEC 9126 standard. The company ranks the popularity of software languages based on "the number of skilled engineers world-wide, courses, and third-party vendors." The purpose of the Index, the company says, is to provide coders with a kind of contextual yardstick with which to measure their own language skills against current demand.

Ten months after being spanked by C, Java has risen to the top largely because of the popularity of Android mobile devices, the indexers concluded. Java accounted for 18.387 of market share in February, as measured by TIOBE, while C held onto a solid 17.080 percent, followed by Objective-C with 9.803 percent and C++ with 8.758 percent.

The Index also indicated that the popularity of Python is on the rise (4.949 percent, up 1.07 percent over the last half year), with PHP holding steady at 5.074 percent.

Altogether, TIOBE ranks 50 programming languages, though it follows many more. The company emphasizes that the Index measures only the popularity of a language, not its actual quality (no "bests") nor the number of lines of code written in it.

Java also made it to the top of a rival language popularity index: the latest PYPL (PopularitY of Programming Language) Index. This popularity indicator is published by pyDatalog, a provider of a pure-Python implementation of a declarative subset of Prolog, called Datalog. Java topped the PYPL Index in February with a 29 percent market share. PHP came in second with 14.6 percent. C# followed with 10.5 percent, Python with 10.3 percent and C with 9.6 percent (down .9 percent).

The goals of the PYPL indexers are the same as TIOBE's: "If you believe in collective wisdom," the Web site states, "the... index can help you decide which language to study, or which one to use in a new software project."

TIOBE, which has been around a while, tracks the popularity of languages by counting related Web pages; pyDatalog, the new kid on the popularity indexing block, counts how often language tutorials are searched on Google. One tracks availability; one tracks demand. I'm not sure which is the better methodology, but it's useful to be reminded that Java isn't merely a popular target.


Posted by John K. Waters on February 13, 2013