Measuring programming language popularity

December 4th, 2008

What programming language skills are most in demand? Which languages are hot and which ones are in decline? Is COBOL on the endangered language list? Such questions are of interest to all of us in the IT field and maybe especially to students preparing for careers.

TIOBE programming language trends November 2008The TIOBE Programming Community Index tracks the popularity of popularity of 150 programming languages, from ABC to XSLT, based on the number of hits for a simple query (“ programming”) run against five web search engines. The top ten in their November 2008 index are, in order: Java, C, C++, Basic, PHP, Python, C#, Delphi, Perl and JavaScript.

They also provide trend data since 2001 for the top twenty languages (e.g., Logo) and an composite overview of the top ten. Finally, they provide some aggregate information by paradigm and type regimen as well as some analysis and observations.

“There are number of interesting changes this month. First of all Perl is at an all-time low, whereas Delphi is still on the rise. Delphi is competing for TIOBE’s “Language of the Year 2008 Award” together with C++ and Python. Another interesting trend concerns visual programming languages. These languages are becoming really popular. Most of them have an educational nature for new programmers. Logo, certainly the oldest visual programming language, enters the top 20 this month. The new StarLogo TNG implementation from MIT is probably one of the major causes of this success. Alice, developed by Carnegie Mellon, is new at position 34, whereas Lego Mindstorms’ programming language NXT-G is at position 37. In the tables below some long term trends are listed about categories of languages. The object-oriented paradigm is at an all time high with 57.9%. The popularity of dynamically typed languages seems to be stabilizing (see trend diagram below).”

This is a good resource, although their methodology only measures some aspects of language popularity and seems to include variations due to changes in the underlying search engines on which they rely. In the past when I have taught our undergraduate programming languages course, I used to estimate the demand for language-specific programming skills by running a set of queries against For students, knowing the current demand for skills is obviously of special interest.