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Programming language popularity: C++ bounces back at Python's expense

Broader compiler support is driving a resurgence in interest in the nearly 35-year-old C++ programming language, which replaces Python in Tiobe's top 3.
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Written by Liam Tung, Contributor on

There appears to be a resurgence in interest in 35-year-old programming language C++, which has risen to third place in Tiobe's index for April 2019. 

C++ was created in 1985 as an extension of C and the latest standardized version, C++17, has support from a range of major C++ compilers, including Microsoft Visual Studio, GNU Compiler Collection (GCC), and Clang. 

The International Organization for Standardization's C++ group, Working Group 21 (WG21), is this year working on finalizing 'C++20'. 

SEE: How to build a successful developer career (free PDF)

Microsoft's Herb Sutter, who chaired WG21's meeting in Februarysaid C++20 "will be C++'s largest release since C++11", which was released in 2011 and the first version that had been standardized. Two of the most important features coming to C++20 are 'modules' and 'coroutines'. 

C++ in April 2019 had a share of 8.83 percent in Tiobe's ratings, up 1.62 percentage points on the corresponding month a year ago. 

The ratings are based on results in Google, Bing, Yahoo, Wikipedia, YouTube, and Baidu. The index is meant to indicate a language's popularity among developers. However, it doesn't say anything about which is the best programming language or the language that has the most lines of code written in it. 

C++ this month overtook the increasingly popular Python for third place. Python usage has grown massively among developers in the past few years. 

Tiobe analysts noted that C++ reclaiming third spot from Python by no means indicates Python is on the decline. Python this month had a share of 8.166 percent, and it was up by an even larger 2.36 percentage points year over year. 

"Python is scoring all-time highs almost every month. It is just that C++ is also getting more and more popular," Tiobe wrote

C++ is still a long way off from its status in the early 2000s, when it had a market share of over 15 percent. 

Tiobe attributes its lower share these days to the "the complexity and the delay of releasing the new language definition C++0x pulled the language back at that time".

"That new language standard, eventually named C++11 after its release in 2011, has made the language much simpler, safer and more expressive at the same time." according to Tiobe. 

"It took some extra years before the C++11 standard was adopted because the community had to wait for proper compiler support. But now that the C++11, C++14, and C++17 standards are supported by the most important C++ compilers, ie, Gcc, Clang and Visual Studio, the popularity of C++ is reviving."

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

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C++ is back in third place, having swapped positions with Python.

Image: Tiobe

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