Programming language of 2019? Python beaten by trusty old C

Up and coming developers can do themselves a favor by learning the programming language C.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Programming language C might be 48 years old, but it's still hugely relevant for developers today and, by one measure, still more popular than Python. 

That's according to Tiobe's January 2020 language popularity index. Tiobe, which bases its rankings on queries on major search engines, awarded C the programming language of 2019 title because it saw an increase of 2.4% in queries over the past year, which was greater than C#'s 2.1% and Python's 1.4%. 

While machine learning and data science have propelled Python to new heights in 2019, Tiobe attributes C's continued popularity to the Internet of Things and the ton of smart devices being released these days.

SEE: Six in-demand programming languages: Getting started (free PDF)

"C excels when it is applied to small devices that are performance-critical. It is easy to learn, and there is a C compiler available for every processor," write Tiobe analysts. 

C is currently the second most popular language, according to the Tiobe January 2020 index, behind Java and ahead of Python. 

C ranked first in March 2015 but it has hasn't dropped below second spot since 2001. C was ranked by IEEE Spectrum as the third most popular language in 2019, behind leader Python and Java. 

The C language was created by tech pioneer Dennis Ritchie in the 1970s while at Bell Labs. He's also credited as the co-creator of Unix along with Ken Thompson. 

These days C is used in the development of operating systems, embedded systems, and applications. It's considered the first modern and portable programming language, having been ported to almost every systems architecture and operating system.   

Such was the importance of Ritche's contributions to tech and programming that ZDNet's Jason Perlow has argued there would be no Steve Jobs without Dennis Ritchie, who died in the same week as Jobs in 2011. 

C was the foundation of Objective-C, which was core to Apple's Mac OS X, and Microsoft created C# as its own derivative of C. 

SEE: Microsoft: We're creating a new Rust-like programming language for secure coding

Tiobe's other noted movers and shakers of 2019 were Swift, which rose from 15th position to 9th, and Ruby, which hopped from 18th to number 11. 

Tiobe's top 10 languages in descending order are Java, C, Python, C++, C#, Visual Basic .NET, JavaScript, PHP, Swift, and SQL.  


C, currently the second most popular language, ranked first in March 2015 but it has hasn't dropped below second spot since 2001.

Image: Tiobe

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