Programming languages: Python could soon overtake C and Java as most popular

Python is battling for pole position, but Rust and TypeScript have made notable gains in popularity over the past year.

C and Java remain the most popular languages in the Tiobe community index, but Python is stalking them and will likely take top spot in the future. 

According to Tiobe's July 2021 index, the three most popular programming languages are C, Java and Python. 

ZDNet Recommends

The most popular programming languages and where to learn them

Upskilling will be a part of work's new normal. Here's a look at the most popular programming languages based on surveys and courses for them.

Read More

While the order hasn't change, Tiobe CEO Pau Jansen notes that the difference in apparent popularity is remarkably small, with just 0.67% between C and Python. 

"This means that the next few months will be exciting. What language is going to win this battle? Python seems to have the best chances to become number 1, thanks to its market leadership in the booming field of data mining and artificial intelligence," Jansen noted

SEE: Hiring Kit: Python developer (TechRepublic Premium)

Tiobe's index is based on search terms that developers, scientists, students and software engineers use on popular international search engines. 

It's a different methodology to developer analyst RedMonk, which looks at language usage on software projects hosted on GitHub and discussions on the developer Q&A site, Stack Overflow.  

RedMonk's Q1 2021 rankings place JavaScript in top place, followed by Python and Java. 

C, created at Bell Labs almost 50 years ago, is a mainstay among programmers knocking out machine-instruction code. Searches for C were down 4.83 percentage points compared to last July. Java searches were down 3.93% over the period, while Python gained 1.86%. 

The top 10 languages behind C, Java and Python are C++, C#, Visual Basic, Javascript, PHP, Assembly Language, and SQL. 

Another interesting shift is around Rust, the programming language created at Mozilla with the intent of providing memory safety guarantees that are lacking from C and C++. Rust is being eyed by tech giants because they struggle to keep pace with the volume of security bugs, most of which are memory-related.

The language is popular for systems programming and infrastructure programming, gaining support from Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook. 

There's a lot of momentum behind Rust right now, including Google's efforts to make it a key language for the Android operating system, and a push to make Rust a second language for Linux kernel development.  

SEE: What is Agile software development? Everything you need to know about delivering better code, faster

Rust jumped from 30 to 27 in the Tiobe index, while Microsoft's superset of JavaScript rose from 45 to 37

As for Python, which is likely to jump over Java and C for top spot, Microsoft has tipped its hat to the language as part of its Azure strategy. The company even hired Python creator Guido van Rossum, who said Microsoft has given him free reign to improve the performance of Python

Python uses too much memory and energy from hardware, he admitted. He also conceded that Python probably won't have a future in the browser, despite WebAssembly – a runtime standard that's supported by all major browser makers and is helping make more powerful web applications.     

tiobe-julyy-2021.png