R programming language continues to grow in popularity

Interest in the open source R language keeps rising, making it the candidate for TIOBE's programming language of the year.

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IMAGE: iStock/metamorworks

C remains the top programming language, according to the August index from software QA automation company TIOBE. But the spotlight for up-and-coming language remains focused on R, which continues to rise in the ranks.

SEE: Top 5 programming languages for systems admins to learn (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

A free and open source development environment for statistical computing and graphics, R has been gaining in popularity and interest over the past year, jumping from 20th place in TIOBE's index in August 2019 to 8th place in August 2020.

But its boom has been especially felt since the start of 2020, surging from 0.81% in the ratings in January to 2.79% last month. The rating given to a language is based on the number of professionals who use it and the volume of hits it receives at common search engines worldwide.

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The top ten languages in TIOBE's Programming Community index for August 2020.

Image: TIOBE

Speculation has centered on just why R has become more popular as of late.

TIOBE CEO Paul Jansen has cited two reasons: 1) Universities and research institutes have moved away from commercial statistical languages like SAS and Stata in favor of open source languages Python and R; and 2) Analytics are increasingly being used to search for a COVID-19 vaccine. (R is one of the data science programming languages of choice.)

However, TechRepublic sister site ZDNet has pointed out the greater debate and lack of clarity over R's rise in interest, even referring to other language analysts who have said R won't ever crack the top 10 of their listings because it's too specialized.

Regardless of the reasons, R is still on track to become TIOBE's programming language of 2020, an accolade bestowed to the language that earns the highest rise in ratings over the course of a year.

Among all the languages in the top ten for last month, C remained in the No. 1 spot, having previously overtaken Java, which stayed in second place. Python took third place, with C++, C#, Visual Basic, JavaScript, R, PHP, and SQL rounding out the ten.

"It is also interesting to follow the ongoing fight for position No. 10 in the TIOBE index between Go, Swift, and SQL," TIOBE said in its report. "Swift lost two positions this month (from 10 to 12). SQL took over and is back in the top 10 this time. Also worth noting is Groovy's re-entrance in the TIOBE index top 20 at the expense of Scratch and the fact that Hack entered the top 50 at position No. 44."

Updated each month, TIOBE's Programming Community index gauges the popularity of programming languages. As TIOBE stresses, the index is not a reflection of the best programming language or the languages that contain the most lines of code. Rather, the ratings are based on the number of skilled engineers, courses, and third-party vendors geared toward a particular language as well as the hits from popular search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo!, Wikipedia, Amazon, YouTube, and Baidu.

For developers, the index can be a helpful way to determine if your programming skills are still up to date and to decide which language you may want to adopt when starting a new software project.

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