Programming languages: This old favourite tops the charts again

But that doesn't mean that nothing changes in the world of coding.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer
Programmer working in a software develop company office.

C accounted for 16.34% of all searches that Tiobe tracks.

Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

What's the top programing language? Is it JavaScript for the web? Or do data scientists rule the roost these days with Python? No. According to Swiss software house, Tiobe, the nearly 50-year old language C is the top language today. 

C hails from Bell Labs and was created nearly 50 years ago, back in 1972, by American computer scientist Dennis Ritchie. He also co-created the Unix operating system. 

As ZDNet noted when Ritchie died in in 2011, C is the "heart of programming … as the quintessential expression of coding elegance, power, simplicity and portability." It's also a language that's close to the hardware, requires minimal memory, and doesn't necessitate a compiler for running on a processor. 

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C, a general purpose language, accounted for 16.34% of all searches that Tiobe tracks across search engines including Google, Bing, Yahoo!, Wikipedia, Amazon, YouTube and Baidu. C in February 2021 was ahead of Java, Python, C's descendant C++, and Microsoft's C#. 

These days, engineers at Amazon, Microsoft and Google are interested in Rust, a language created at Firefox-maker Mozilla, which promises to help correct some of the memory-related security issues that come with C and C++ code.  

Nonetheless, C is a mainstay of the top 10 languages and is relatively stable compared to other languages, according to Tiobe chief Paul Jansen. 

"Some say that the IT industry is changing continuously. Every day a new IT buzzword pops up somewhere. But if we take a closer look at the top 8 of the TIOBE index, it appears to be unchanged for the last 7 years," he said. 

That doesn't this mean that the programming language world hasn't changed, he points out. 

"Of course it has changed. Except for language C, all programming languages in the top 8 are releasing new versions frequently. For instance C#, which releases a language update almost every year. Or JavaScript, which changes so fast that hardly anybody can follow. C++ is changing less frequently (once in 3 years), but its latest release contains the introduction of modules, which will cause a major shift in C++ programming," he said.

Jansen notes that the top 8 programming languages are stable, but positions 9 and 10 frequently change. 

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Languages that have occupied these positions include database language SQL, low-level Assembly, statistical language R, Java-friendly Groovy, Google's systems programming language Go, and Apple's app development language Swift. 

The only notable change in Tiobe's February 2021 index is that Java dropped out of first place compared to last year. Java accounted for 11.29% of searches and declined 6.07% compared to this month last year. 

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