Image: Getty / nikkimeel

The release of March’s TIOBE Index of the most popular programming languages saw a few notable changes across the board, notably Lua surging 18 spots in the span of a month to crack the top-20. One thing that did not change however was the retention of the top spot in the rankings by Python.

SEE: Business leaders as developer: The rise of no-code and low-code software (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Lua breaks the top-20

“In its heyday in 2011, Lua briefly touched a top 10 position,” said Paul Jansen, TIOBE’s CEO. “Whether this is going to happen again is unknown. But it is clear that Lua is catching up in the game development market. It is easy to learn, fast to execute, and simple to interface with C. This makes Lua a perfect candidate for this job. One of the drivers behind the recent success of Lua is the very popular gaming platform Roblox, which uses Lua as its main programming language.”

Lua is a lightweight, efficient, embeddable scripting language that has seen adoption in applications such as Adobe Photoshop Lightroom with an emphasis on embedded systems such as television and video games. In 2009, it was the most popular scripting language used in video game development. Jansen says that while Lua is seeing a resurgence in its usage numbers, it has not fully recovered from its highs of over a decade ago. Despite its lack of adoption en masse, Jansen says he expects the language to stay within the top-20 range.

“Lua is the same for C as Kotlin is for Java,” Jansen said. “It is the dynamically typed variant that makes development faster but a bit more risky. I predict that it is able to keep its top-20 position, but it is still not mainstream. So it will stay around position 20 for a long time.”

SEE: Hiring Kit: JavaScript Developer (TechRepublic Premium)

Risers and fallers

While Lua’s use in game design saw a spike in popularity for the coding language, Python not only kept the number one ranking of programming languages from last month, but also saw the biggest increase in usage from March 2021 to 2022, at a 3.95% increase year over year, also moving from the third-most utilized language to number one during that time. The top three overall remained unchanged from February to March, as Python, C and Java each occupied the highest spots in the rankings, respectively.

After Python, the next largest change in percentage belonged to C++, which jumped 2.14% over the last month.

While many programming languages saw an increase in their usage, some saw the opposite happen. Further down in the rankings, Jansen noted that several programming languages that were widely thought to be running for the top 20 dipped in the overall order this month:

  • Rust dropped from 24 to 26
  • Kotlin decreased from 28 to 31
  • Julia from 30 to 32
  • TypeScript from 38 to 40

Last month, Jansen was quoted as saying he thought languages such as Rust, Kotlin and Typescript would see a boost over the next half year or so, but these three saw a fall rather than an increase.