Python ends C and Java’s 20-year reign atop the TIOBE index


There hasn’t been any other language atop the monthly index since 2001, making its topping of TIOBE just one more feather in Python’s ever-plumier hat.

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The top 10 languages in TIOBE’s October 2021 ranking

Image: TIOBE

Windows XP was new, BitTorrent had just been invented and the iPhone was still a twinkle in Steve Jobs’ eye when the TIOBE monthly index of programming languages was last topped by a language other than C or Java. That’s 2001 for reference, and now 20 years later C and Java have finally been toppled by none other than Python.

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“Python, which started as a simple scripting language, as an alternative to Perl, has become mature. Its ease of learning, its huge amount of libraries and its widespread use in all kinds of domains, has made it the most popular programming language of today,” said TIOBE CEO Paul Jansen. “The long-standing hegemony of Java and C is over,” Jansen said. 

SEE: The best programming languages to learn–and the worst (TechRepublic Premium)

Python ranked third as recently as last month, when Jansen said that Python had never been as close to the number one position as it was then. “If Python becomes number one, a new milestone has been reached in the TIOBE index. Only two other languages have ever been leading the pack so far, i.e. C and Java. Let’s see what happens next month,” Jansen said in September. 

TIOBE ranks programming languages based on popularity using a combination of the number of professional engineers skilled in that language, the number of courses available in the language, third-party vendors using the language and search engine rankings. It’s important to note, TIOBE said, that its index “is not about the best programming language or the language in which most lines of code have been written.” Simply which is most well represented on the internet and in developer communities. 

The monthly index released by TIOBE charts the top 50 programming languages (NOTE: TIOBE reuses the URL for its index monthly. If you are visiting this page after October, 2021, the rankings may be different), as well as comparing them with the same period the previous year.

In the case of October 2021, Python sits on top, while C and Java have slid to second and third places, respectively. Behind them are C++, C# and Visual Basic that are in the same positions they were a year ago, as is JavaScript, which is right behind them at number seven. 

Rounding out the top 10 are SQL (up two places since October 2020), PHP (down one spot), and Assembly Language, which rose from 17th in October 2020 to 10th place in 2021. 

The IEEE, which releases an annual list of its top programming languages, said in September that Python got its top spot as well, citing several of the same reasons Jansen said Python was the go-to language in 2021: It’s easy to learn and has a vast number of libraries that make it incredibly flexible. It may lack some of the depth of established languages like C and Java, but Python makes up for it in its modularity and ability to adapt.

SEE: C++ programming language: How it became the foundation for everything, and what’s next (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Python’s latest win is just another in its long line of toppling long-standing language leaders and it’s worth taking IEEE special project editor Stephen Cass’ words to heart: “Learn Python.” 

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