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Survey Says: 'Python Going Through the Roof'

I haven't reported on the TIOBE Index in a while, but that headline is a real attention grabber. Since 2001, TIOBE Software has published the results of its monthly search for the languages in which the most lines of code were written. And year after year, Java and C++ have topped the list—but not always, and when they don't, obituaries for these two venerable languages spread like crabgrass.

Which is crazy. The enterprise is effectively running on Java, and… okay, C++ is pretty long in the tooth, but it's been around for 40-plus years, which means, currently generating new lines of code or not, there are millions of programs out there written in C++.

And the rising popularity of Python is not exactly news. It's an interpreted, high-level, general-purpose programming language that's easy to learn, so it's the go-to language taught in beginning computer programming courses in high school. And its readability, extensibility, and maintainability have made it a popular second or third language for the pros.

But it is worth noting that Python ranked No.1 in the TIOBE Index for August with an all-time high of 15.42%. Paul Jansen, CEO TIOBE Software, has described Python as "unstoppable."

"It is hard to find a field of programming in which Python is not used extensively nowadays," Jansen wrote in the intro to the latest index. "The only exception is (safety-critical) embedded systems, because of Python being dynamically typed and too slow."

In a previous posting, Jansen offered his theory about the spread of Python. "I believe that Python's popularity has to do with general demand," he wrote. "In the past, most programming activities were performed by software engineers. But programming skills are needed everywhere nowadays and there is a lack of good software developers. As a consequence, we need something simple that can be handled by non-software engineers, something easy to learn with fast edit cycles and smooth deployment. Python meets all these needs."

The TIOBE Index ratings are based on the number of skilled engineers worldwide, language courses, and third-party vendors, the company says. TIOBE uses 25 search engines to collect key words from the highest ranked websites of Web traffic monitor Alexa and calculates the most lines of code written in a given month to determine its percentage share of developers' attention. Google, Bing, Yahoo!, Wikipedia, Amazon, YouTube, and Baidu are all used to calculate the ratings.

Since the last TIOBE Index posting, Swift and PHP swapped places at No. 10, Rust is getting close to the top 20, and Kotlin returns to the top 30. Google's new experimental replacement for C++, called Carbon, entered the TIOBE Index at No. 192. C came in behind Python at 14.59%, up 2.03%. It was followed by Java at 12.40%, up 1.96%, C++ at 10.17%, up 2.81%, and C# at 5.59%, up 0.45%.

I do think the Index can be useful if you want to get a quick read on whether your programming skills are still up to date, and if you look at a few of them (the company publishes old ratings) they might help  with a strategic decision about which programming language should be adopted when starting to build a new software system.

A detailed definition of the TIOBE Index can be found here.


Posted by John K. Waters on August 24, 2022