Python overtakes Java to become the second-most popular programming language

For the first time in the history of TIOBE's index, Java has slipped out of the top two, leaving Python to occupy the spot behind reigning champion, C.

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The November edition of TIOBE's top programming languages list holds a surprise: For the first time in its 20-year history, C and Java don't occupy the top two spots, with Java slipping to third and Python taking its place. 

October's TIOBE index had C at No. 1 and Java at No. 2, and historically those two languages have simply traded spaces while the rest of the competition battled it out for the privilege to fall in behind the two perennial leaders. With Python finally overtaking Java in popularity, the future could be one in which everything comes up Python. 

TIOBE CEO Paul Jansen said: "Some time ago I had a flat tire and called the road patrol to help me out. The mechanic asked about my living and when I used the word 'software' in my answer, he smiled and started talking very enthusiastically about his own passion: Programming in Python. From that moment on, I knew Python would become ubiquitous." 

Jansen uses that incident to illustrate what he believes is the reason behind Python's ever-increasing popularity: General demand for programming skills. 

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"In the past, most programming activities were performed by software engineers. But programming skills are needed everywhere nowadays and there is a lack of good software developers," Jansen said. "As a consequence, we need something simple that can be handled by non-software engineers, something easy to learn with fast edit cycles and smooth deployment. Python meets all these needs."

Jansen said that he believes this is the case despite claims from others that Python's popularity is due to booms in data mining, AI, numerical computing, and other initiatives that commonly use Python's extensive data processing capabilities. 

As TechRepublic's R. Dallon Adams wrote in his piece on the October index, Python has been giving Java a run for its money for some time. October saw Python at No. 3 with the largest year-over-year growth percentage in the top 50 languages. Java, still at second place in October, had the largest negative year-over-year growth rate in the top 50 during the same period. 

Java and Python's shift was even being telegraphed in September, with Python solidly occupying the No. 3 spot while Java continued to post negative numbers. 

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Python has long been a top-loved programming language, as has Java, but if Jansen is correct there could be a long-term shift coming in which Python becomes dominant simply because of how it's been marketed as easier to learn and still capable of doing all the things that Java can.

Along with the big upset at the top of the index, R, Perl, and Go are all boasting positive growth. R is in 9th place, the same it occupied last month. R has experienced explosive growth in 2020, which has led TIOBE to consider it a contender for programming language of the year.

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