Python set to overtake Java in latest programming language rankings

After 20 years at the top of the programming-language tree, Java looks set to be overtaken by Python.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Java's popularity continued to decline this month, almost clearing the path for Python to snatch its spot as the world's second most popular programming language, according to Tiobe's latest programming language rankings.   

If Python does overtake Java, it would mark the first time since Tiobe began its programming language popularity index in 2001 that Java would be outside the top two spots. 

As Tiobe CEO Paul Jansen notes, C and Java have held the top two spots consistently for two decades. But today 25-year-old Java is approaching its "all-time low" in popularity, falling 4.32 percentage points compared with October 2019. 

SEE: Hiring Kit: Python developer (TechRepublic Premium)    

In September, Jansen said Java "is in real trouble" because of its year-on-year decline of 3.81 percentage points. Python, which was created in 1991, has seen its popularity ascend thanks to its use by data scientists and the rise of machine learning.     

Tiobe bases its popularity index on the number of hits that searches for a particular language get across 25 search engines. It constitutes one estimate of the popularity of various programming languages, along those provided by IEEE Spectrum, RedMonk, GitHub, Stack Overflow and others. Each index uses different methodologies, so the rankings don't always align.        

However, Tiobe's October 2020 index appears to be tracking what RedMonk observed in its July 2020 rankings. RedMonk's rankings are based on GitHub and Stack Overflow data. 

RedMonk consistently places JavaScript in first place, but July was the first time Java dropped outside of the top two, thanks to Python's ascent to second spot.   

Tiobe's latest data shows that Java's ratings stood at 12.56% compared with Python's 11.28%, leaving a 1.3% gap between the two languages. 

RedMonk's Stephen O'Grady thinks Java will remain important. However, its place as a "language of first resort" is under threat as developers explore other languages. 

A report commissioned by Oracle noted that Java's steward, Oracle, must innovate Java to steer potential Java developers away from newer languages like Rust and Kotlin. Nonetheless, Oracle points out that Java is used by 69% of full-time developers worldwide.

Java was created in 1995 by James Gosling at Sun Microsystems. Gosling and fellow Sun engineers decided to create Java after witnessing processors becoming embedded in everything from cell phones to elevators, locomotives, factory process-control systems, and AV equipment.

In 1990 to 1991, after tours through Japan and Europe to visit big-name consumer electronics brands, he noticed many companies were making the same mistakes the computer industry had made 20 years earlier and decided there was a need for what would become Java.

SEE: Programming languages: Julia users most likely to defect to Python for data science

Tiobe's October top 10 programming languages in descending order are C, Java, Python, C++, C#, Visual Basic, JavaScript, PHP, R and SQL. 

Incidentally, Python 3.5, released in 2015, has officially reached its end of life, meaning no more bug fixes of security patches for Python 3.5.x. 

The last version from that series was Python 3.5.10, released in early September. Python maintainers are gearing up for the release of Python 3.9, which is due out later this month


In Tiobe's October language rankings, Python has closed the gap on Java in second place.

Image: Tiobe

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