Programming languages: Which was most popular each year?

Java, C, and Python top the list of most popular programming languages now, but it wasn't always that way, according to the TIOBE Index.

How Python became the fastest growing programming language in the world Chief Reporter Nick Heath provides an overview of his Python cover story, which charts how the programming language was curated, its early days, and what the future holds for Python.

While Java, C, and Python top the list of the most popular programming languages right now, the developer world remains ever-changing, as seen by the fluctuating popularity of top coding languages each year on the TIOBE Index, which released its August edition this week. 

The TIOBE Index estimates the popularity of programming languages worldwide based on results from major search engines, including Google, Bing, Wikipedia, Amazon, YouTube, and Baidu. While it is not a perfect measure, its rankings are broadly in line with others, TechRepublic's Nick Heath noted.

SEE: Six in-demand programming languages: getting started (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

In terms of the month-to-month of 2019, there was little movement in the index from July to August.  Java, C, and Python remain the most popular programming languages, followed by C++, C#, Visual Basic .NET, JavaScript, and PHP. The only change in the top 10 was Objective-C and SQL swapped places to become no. 9 and no. 10, respectively. 

It should be noted that the index is not meant to rate the best programming language, but rather to check whether a developer's programming skills are up to date, or what language should be adopted for a project.

TIOBE also compiled a programming hall of fame, naming a "Programming Language of the Year" for each year dating back to 2003. The award is given to the coding language that saw the highest rise in ratings in a given year.

Here are the most popular programming language of each year, according to the TIOBE Index: 

  • 2018: Python
  • 2017: C
  • 2016: Go
  • 2015: Java
  • 2014: JavaScript
  • 2013: Transact-SQL
  • 2012: Objective-C
  • 2011: Objective-C
  • 2010: Python
  • 2009: Go
  • 2008: C
  • 2007: Python
  • 2006: Ruby
  • 2005: Java
  • 2004: PHP
  • 2003: C++

While Python has received a lot of attention in the past couple of years—reaching an all-time high ranking on the index of 10% in August—this isn't the first time the language has peaked. The language's more recent rise is due in part to the explosion of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and data science in the enterprise, as well as the large developer community around it. But, it's clear from the index that this kind of growth may wax and wane over time. 

For more, check out How to become a developer: A cheat sheet and Python: 5 use cases for programmers on TechRepublic.

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Freelance programmer or developer working at home and typing source code with laptop

Image: iStockphoto/comzeal

By Alison DeNisco Rayome

Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.