Software

Could Python replace Java as the most popular programming language?

Python breaks into the top three programming languages in the Tiobe Index for the first time.

The popularity of Python shows no sign of waning, with the programming language entering the top three in the Tiobe Index for the first time.

Python has climbed one place to number three, just behind C at number two, and Java in pole position, in the September index.

Tiobe describes the index as "an indicator of the popularity of programming languages", with the index attempting to count the number of engineers, courses and vendors for languages worldwide, based on results from major search engines.

"Python is becoming increasingly ubiquitous," Tiobe writes in an analysis of the September figures.

"It is already the first choice at universities (for all kinds of subjects for which programming is demanded) and is now also conquering the industrial world. Python's selling points are easy to learn, easy to install and easy to deploy."

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The top 10 in the September Tiobe Index.

Image: Tiobe

Python is already in the top three in both the RedMonk Programming Language Rankings and in the top four most popular programming languages in the 2018 Stack Overflow Developer Survey, once you discount domain-specific languages like SQL and markup languages like HTML. While the top languages in these rankings differ in order, Java and JavaScript also head up these lists.

SEE: Job description: Java developer (Tech Pro Research)

Python's rise has been gradual, first entering the Tiobe Index in the 1990s, taking a decade to enter the top 10 and a similar length of time to break into the top three.

However, last year developer hub Stack Overflow declared Python was the world's fastest-growing programming language, a phenomenon it said was largely due to the boom in machine learning and Python's popularity among the growing number of data scientists.

Outside the language's role in big-data analytics, Python's versatility is evident in its range of uses, from web and desktop apps to orchestrating system operation.

As a first language Python has many positives. Python code is relatively easy to read and understand, supports multiple programming paradigms, has a wide range of software libraries that can be dropped into code, and can be scaled to large applications. There are many high-quality free tutorials, courses and videos available online.

Obviously every language also has its cons, and Python is criticized for its slow performance, being a poor choice for mobile development, and for limitations in how it handles database access.

Other rapid risers in the September Tiobe Index from the previous month include Mozilla's C++ alternative Rust, up from 36 to 31, Groovy, from 44 to 34, and the popular relative newcomer Julia, from 50 to 39.

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • Python has now climbed to number three, just behind C at number two and Java in pole position, in the September Tiobe Index of programming languages.
  • Tiobe says Python is "conquering the industrial world" and that it is "easy to learn, easy to install and easy to deploy".

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About Nick Heath

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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