Python Continues Its Rise on TIOBE Index
Written by Sue Gee   
Wednesday, 10 August 2022

The TIOBE Community Index which ranks programming languages in terms of their popularity has just had its regular monthly update and the August headline reads "Python going through the roof".

TIOBE822CHART

Looking at the current state of the chart this might seem something of an exaggeration, but it is in the nature of the data, captured once per month to have a very jagged appearance. If you isolate the Python curve - which you can do on the TIOBE index page simply by clicking on it, you can see more clearly how it it rose pretty consistently between September 2017 and March 2020, going from a share of  2.98% to 10.11%. Since then the curve has see-sawed, coming back more strongly after each setback. As we reported Python, became a top-three language in late 2018 when it overtook C++ then tied with Java in second place at the beginning of 2021 and finally surpassed C in October 2021. At that time its share was 11.27% but now it is 15.42%, an all time high for Python.

As we've said before the whole picture is that during Python's time in the doldrums, before it embarked on its seemingly unstoppable rise, the previous front runners, Java and C saw dramatic slumps - the steepest and deepest being C going from a share of 17.15% in November 2015 to 6.48% in August 2017.

In terms of percentage change in ratings over the past year, August 2021 to 2022 August, it is Python that has seen the largest movement - a gain of 3.56%. C++ and C have also seen appreciable gains, explained by Paul Jansen because of their superior performance, that is their extra speed from being statically typed. Java also added almost 2% during the past twelve months.

TIOBE822

Jansen's own comment on this edition of the index, taking it in its entirety, is:

not that much happened last month. Swift and PHP swapped places again at position 10, Rust is getting close to the top 20, Kotlin is back in the top 30, and the new Google language Carbon enters the TIOBE index at position 192. 

When he reported on Carbon last month, Mike James refrained from speculating whether we need another new language, which was his first response to both Go and Kotlin. Maybe it was his experience with Kotlin, which he quickly came to consider as a "better Java" that tempered his behavior and there is certainly room for a better C++. However, discovering its place in the index reveals how much of a uphill struggle Carbon will face to become popular in the terms of the TIOBE index.

As each edition of the index reminds us, the TIOBE index isn't about the "best" programming language or even the dominant one in terms of lines of code. It bases its concept of "poularity" on on the number of skilled engineers world-wide, courses and third party vendors and uses search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo!, Wikipedia, Amazon, YouTube and Baidu to calculate the ratings. 

As always, I am struck by how stable the index is. Once you go below the top four all the changes are sub one percentage point and many languages occupy the same position over many years - take JavaScript whose position at seven seems a severe underestimate of its true popularity - well perhaps that's the price it pays for being the language with two names and dozens of close variants. And it lacks third party vendors, something that you can't say about Matlab which seems to have inflated popularity in 17th position. 

So we do need to exercise some caution when relying on the TIOBE index but I think it is fair to say that having Python in first place. It is a good all-purpose language and has depths that I've been introduced to by reading the Programmer's Python Something Entirely Different series of books by Mike James, I Programmer's editor. Having C in second is perfectly justified and if you want to know how it outperforms other langauges see  Harry Fairhead's book, Fundamental C.

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More Information

TIOBE Community Index

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PHP - Essential But Underappreciated

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 10 August 2022 )