Python Tops Language Ranking Again
Written by Janet Swift   
Friday, 03 August 2018

The IEEE Spectrum ranking of the top programming languages has been published and, unsurprisingly, Python is at the top of the list for the second year in a row. The big surprise is that Assembly has entered the Top 10 in the default ranking, that is tuned to the interests of a typical IEEE member.


Commenting on changes since last year's results, which we reported in July 2017, Stephen Cass writes:

Python has tightened its grip on the No. 1 spot. Last year it came out on top by just barely beating out C, with Python’s score of 100 to C’s 99.7. But this year, there’s a wider gap between first and second place, with C++ coming in at 98.4 for the No. 2 slot (last year, Java had come third with a score of 99.4, while this year its fallen to 4th place with a score of 97.5). C has fallen to third place, with a score of 98.2.

Why is Python continuing to gain programmer mindshare? Two other changes in the Top Programming Languages may give a hint as to why.

First, Python is now listed as an embedded language. Previously, writing for embedded applications tilted heavily toward compiled languages, to avoid the overhead of evaluating code on the fly on machines with limited processing power and memory. But while Moore’s Law may be fading, it’s not dead yet. Many modern microcontrollers now have more than enough power to host a Python interpreter. A nice aspect of using Python this way is that it is very handy in certain applications to play with attached hardware via an interactive prompt or dynamically reload scripts on the fly. Growing into a new domain can only help boost Python’s popularity.

Another reason for Python’s increasing popularity may be seen in R’s small decline. R peaked at No. 5 in 2016, dropped to No. 6 last year, and is now in seventh place.

If you've not come across these rankings before, they first appeared in 2014 and now have 5 year's of data available. They use an interactive app, originally developed in collaboration with IEEE Spectrum by data journalist Nick Diakopoulous, that let you weight 12 different metrics from 10 sources of data. It also lets you switch in or out four different environments - Web, Mobile, Enterprise and Embedded. 

By using these toggles and adjusting the weightings you can tune the ranking for different types of developer. I used this customization to represent the target I Programmer audience:


This produces the following ranking:


Python leads by an even larger margin for our audience with C and C++ tied in 2nd place and Java not far behind. The main difference is that JavaScript is in 5th followed closely by PHP. 

In all 48 languages are listed in the 2018 rankings - with Forth having a ranking of 0.0 in the final slot and Actionscript at 1.6% being next to bottom. There are some odd inclusions, such as Arduino in 15th place when it clearly isn't a language even if it uses a dialect of C. One noticeable omission is VB.NET and another is Kotlin. Both would certainly be in I Programmer's top 48, so why aren't they in IEEE Spectrum's?

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Last Updated ( Friday, 03 August 2018 )