The TIOBE Index: How do you measure which programming languages are the most used?

In Paradigma Digital we are passionate about programming (it’s our bread and butter) and we love to find out what are the latest advances in the most used programming languages so that we can offer our clients state of the art solutions.

However, it’s not easy to quantify which languages are being used globally. There are multiple tools on the internet that have designed algorithms in order to measure, in a relatively accurate way, which are the most commonly used languages and which have more developers backing them up and developing them. Amongst them, one of the most well-known is the TIOBE Index.

If you like to read, maybe the title will seem familiar to you. The name hidden within the Acronym is the title of one of Oscar Wilde’s most famous pieces of work, written in 1895 and which is about social customs.

TIOBE Software BV is a company based in Eindhoven (Holland) that has taken upon itself since 2001 to develop and improve an algorithm based on the execution of infinite queries in the main search engines in the world (Google, MSN, Yahoo!, Baidu, Wikipedia or YouTube, amongst others) With the obtained results, its algorithm is able to quantify the use of different programming languages. It’s necessary to highlight that under no circumstances is this ranking based on the quality of the languages, it simple quantifies their use and ranks them from most used to the least.

A while ago they published January’s report which gave the figures for the end of 2015. According to this report, the 20 most used programming languages were the following:



As you can see, the presence of web development languages in the index is very significant: Java, C, Python, PHP, JavaScript and Ruby are all in the top 10 and show us that web development is more popular than ever.

Java and C had no real competitors in 2015. Between them they accumulated more than 37% of the overall use by the programming community, this figure should not go unnoticed. However, this year there are various programming languages that have burst onto the scene and are having a significant impact in this raking, the following have to be highlighted:

  • Python has seen considerable growth in 2015. It started the year by entering the top 10 most used languages and during the course of the year, it has reached as high as 5th position and it continues to grow month by month in the ratings. Without doubt it is on the rise and will continue to grow in 2016 and we should follow its progress very closely. You can see Python’s development through the following link.
  • Ruby is one of the traditional languages that might not have taken off as much as for example Python but has still been well accepted amongst the developer community. It was in decline since approx. 2009 (coinciding with the announcement by twitter to eliminate Ruby from its font code and replace it with Scala code) but in 2015 its usage increased greatly. You can see its year-on-year development here.

2015 has also been the year where Objective C has disappeared from the rankings, known as the language used by IOS apps. The change by Apple to Swift for developing their apps has resulted in the 2 languages spliting what is entered in search engines. In 2016 without doubt we will see that Objective C will leave the Top 20 and almost certainly Swift will be placed in one of the highest positions of the ranking.

Complementing the results of the TIOBE Index with other rankings is necessary to have a more realistic global vision. A good complementary indicator to TIOBE is GitHut, an open source script that allows you to analyze the statistic files that are available on GitiHub about the repositories that it keeps (you can see further information here) and carries out a similar ranking to TIOBE based on different events such as the number of active repositories or the number of commits.




We can see from the TIOBE Index that those at the top of the list are languages like C or C++ (2nd & 3rd position). However the most well-known programming languages such as Javascript have fallen away (decreased to 8th position), meanwhile the statistics shown by GitiHub give us opposite results with Javascript at the head of the rankings and C++ in 7th position.

Being an online repository, GitiHub is better represented in online developments than the TIOBE index, and for this reason, you can see in the top 5, languages intimately related with online development. A second reading indicates that programming languages hold very high positions in the different rankings and it shows their great importance within the app development universe.

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