February 2008


Feb 3, 2008: 21. Popularity of programming languages


Long time, no see. The reason is my health, which varies.

The programming languages I know most about are here and are these, alphabetically: Assembly, Basic, Pascal, Prolog, Smalltalk. These refer to groups of languages, all of which have many implementations, and indeed of the five mentioned I know for each language of quite a few implementations and several dialects.

At the moment - the last months, at least - I am actively concerned with Assembly, C, and Smalltalk, which I will write more about in BitsAndPieces if my health is up to it.

There is a regular investigation by Tiobe that concerns the popularity of programming languages, which item Tiobe claims to be tracking since 2001 in a serious fashion.

Here are their main results for 2007, from january 2008 the TIOBE index can be found here, and I give just a part of their table

Jan 2008
Jan 2007
Jan 2008
1 1 Java 20.849%
2 2 C 13.916%
3 4 (Visual) Basic 10.963%
4 5 PHP 9.195%
5 3 C++ 8.730%
6 8 Python 5.538%
7 6 Perl 5.247%
8 7 C# 4.856%
9 12 Delphi 3.335%
10 9 JavaScript 3.203%
11 10 Ruby 2.345%
12 13 PL/SQL 1.230%
13 11 SAS 1.204%
14 14 D 1.172%
15 18 COBOL 0.932%
16 46 Lua 0.579%
17 22 FoxPro/xBase 0.506%
18 19 Pascal 0.456%
19 16 Lisp/Scheme 0.413%
20 27 Logo 0.386%

It is not clear to me how this was compiled, calculated etc. but I suppose the folks at Tiobe have done their best, and that the above is some fair indication of the popularity of programming languages, and has been compiled from quite a lot of data.

And it turns out that my own concerns in programming are mostly in programming languages at the fringes, though it is true the above lists Pascal and Delphi, and that I consider Delphi myself still to be a dialect of Pascal, and also Basic, and that it so happens that I have written some code in 10 of the 20 languages listed, in the last 20 years.

Also Assembly has been kept from the listings by Tiobe, but it is clear that in terms of popularity it doesn't score high at all.

What is fairly striking is the rapid fall in percentages, which also can be illustrated by the table for the languages on places 21-50 in popularity:

Position Programming Language Ratings
21 ColdFusion 0.353%
22 ActionScript 0.342%
23 Ada 0.337%
24 Fortran 0.305%
25 RPG 0.251%
26 MATLAB 0.241%
27 Awk 0.213%
28 Prolog 0.212%
29 ABAP 0.195%
30 LabView 0.169%
31 Groovy 0.168%
32 Transact-SQL 0.155%
33 Smalltalk 0.133%
34 Bash 0.133%
35 Tcl/Tk 0.130%
36 Haskell 0.119%
37 Forth 0.116%
38 CL (OS/400) 0.114%
39 Natural 0.105%
40 ML 0.092%
41 Focus 0.091%
42 Ch 0.088%
43 PL/I 0.088%
44 Lingo 0.087%
45 Factor 0.084%
46 REXX 0.075%
47 Objective-C 0.071%
48 IDL 0.059%
49 Erlang 0.057%
50 VBScript 0.056%

Here we find Prolog and Smalltalk at 28 and 33 respectively, with small percentages indeed, and I find that I don't know anything about circa half of the languages listed on places 20-50, and that I have written only some code in Fortran and Forth, both long ago, apart from Prolog and Smalltalk.

Tiobe says about the languages on places 50-100:

"The following list of languages denotes #51 to #100. Since the differences are relatively small, the programming languages are only listed (in alphabetical order).

  • ABC, Algol, Alpha, APL, Applescript, AspectJ, Beta, Boo, Caml, cg, Clean, Csh, cT, Curl, DC, Dylan, Eiffel, Euphoria, F#, Felix, Icon, Inform, Io, Limbo, MAD, Magic, Maple, Mathematica, Modula-2, MOO, MUMPS, Oberon, Occam, Oz, Pike, PILOT, Postscript, Powerbuilder, PowerShell, Progress, Q, R, REALbasic, Rebol, S-lang, Scala, SIGNAL, SPSS, VHDL, XSLT."

Of these I know of 13, and wrote some code for Algol (1970-ies), Eiffel, Euphoria (an awful language and IDE, when I tried it: definitely the programming language plus "IDE" I have been by far the least euphoric about the last 20 years), and Oz (that I know of as Mozart).

Anyway... I found this an interesting review of programming languages and their current popularity, and it gave me a little perspective on where I stand and what I know and don't know with regards to them.

You can find out more here: Tiobe, from whence the above was quoted with permission, and where you can find more details.

Maarten Maartens


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