Programming languages: Why this former favourite is sliding down the rankings

A web development favourite slides in popularity, but it's still a hugely popular programming language.

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PHP, a programing language popular for web and backend development, was once one of the most popular languages. Still, it's showing signs of dropping down the rankings, according to software-testing firm Tiobe. 

Tiobe's November 2021 list of the most popular languages puts PHP in 10th position. The language has fallen two places since last November. Today, it's overshadowed by Python, C, Visual Basic, and JavaScript. 

"PHP was once the master of web programming, but now it is facing a lot of competition in this field. This is not to say that PHP is dead. There are still a lot of small and medium enterprises relying on PHP. So I expect PHP to decline further but in a very slow pace," notes Tiobe CEO Paul Jansen


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PHP, a scripting language, was created in 1994 and peaked as the third most popular language in 2010 in Tiobe's rankings. On Microsoft-owned GitHub, PHP remains popular too but has been eclipsed by Microsoft's JavaScript superset language Typescript. TypeScript has a type system that compiles into JavaScript and is popular for larger web applications.    

Tiobe bases its rankings on queries made on several search engines about programming languages. It's one of several sources that developers can use to track what languages are worth investing time into learning. 

However, there are some quirks to Tiobe's list. JavaScript, for example, is in seventh place now. Developer analyst RedMonk has placed JavaScript at the top spot for several years and had PHP in fourth place in the first quarter of 2021. Python's biggest mover across both indexes has enjoyed growing adoption because of machine learning and data science in recent years. 

Tiobe's top 10 list of most popular languages in descending order is: Python, C, Java, C++, C#, Visual Basic, JavaScript, Assembly Language. SQL, and PHP. 


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The remainder of the top 20 includes Classic Visual Basic, Groovy, Ruby, Swift, R, Perl, Delphi, Go, Fortran, and MATLAB. 

SlashData, a firm that offers recruitment services for freelance developers, found that JavaScript was by far the most popular language. JavaScript had a developer population of 16.4 million, followed by Python (11.3 million), Java (9.6 million), and PHP (7.3 million).   

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Tiobe