Programming languages: C++ just jumped in popularity. Here's why

C++ is currently the fastest growing programming language in Tiobe's popularity index and it's probably due to the arrival of C++20.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

35-year-old programming language C++ is undergoing a revival, according to Tiobe Software, which says it is the fastest growing language of any right now. 

C++ is "doing very well", Tiobe CEO Paul Jansen, says in the company's September 2020 index for the world's most popular programming languages. C++ currently ranks fourth, behind C, Java, and Python. 

Tiobe's index is based on programming-related search queries on 25 search engines, including Google, Yahoo, Wikipedia and Bing. It's not a perfect system, but it is meant to reflect changes in a language's popularity as measured by the topics developers new and old are searching for. It's also meant to serve as an indicator for what languages developers should learn and use for their next projects. 

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As Jansen notes, C++ hit a high point in 2003 with a 17.53% share that put it in the top three programming languages. One possible reason for the resurgence in interest in C++ is the arrival of C++20.

The International Organization for Standardization's (ISO) C++ group, Working Group 21 (WG21), this week voted in favor of approving the finalized version of 'C++20', the first major update to the programming language since C++17 from 2017 under its three-year release cycle. 

Microsoft engineer and chair of the WG21, Herb Sutter, has described C++20 as "largest release since C++11". 

But after 2003 C++'s popularity went downhill, according to Jansen.

"After 2005 it didn't hit the 10% [mark] anymore and in 2017 it scored an all-time low of 4.55%. But if compared to last year, C++ is now the fastest growing language of the pack (+1.48%). I think that the new C++20 standard might be one of the main causes for this."      

Two key features coming to C++20 are 'modules' and 'coroutines'. Jansen notes that the "new modules feature … is going to replace the dreadful include mechanism."

Java is on the opposite trajectory to C++, seeing a 3.81% percentage point decline compared to its rating a year ago. 

Other languages in Tiobe's current top 10 list behind C++ include C#, Visual Basic, JavaScript, PHP, R and SQL. 

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Google's Go language rose three spots from a year ago to become the 11th most popular language this month, while Apple's Swift rose from 16th to 12th spot over the period. Google's Dart programming language, a companion to its Flutter UI framework, also rose from 24th to 20th spot. 

The other big winner in this month's rankings was Rust, which took a blow in August after Firefox-maker Mozilla cut 250 roles and essentially shut the team behind the Servo browser engine, which was an early and important user of Rust.      

Tiobe currently ranks Microsoft's TypeScript superset of JavaScript in 42nd place. Developer analyst RedMonk, which bases its language rankings on GitHub and Stack Overflow data, rates TypeScript as a top 10 language

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