Once-declining Java cements its lead in language popularity index

Once-declining Java cements its lead in language popularity index

Last year's Java 8 release boosted the aging language, helping it open up a big lead over C

Once-faltering Java is beginning to run away with the Tiobe language popularity index, with the language getting a shot in the arm from last year's Java 8 release.

Previously mired in second place behind the C language for more than a year, Java resumed the top spot in the Tiobe index in April and continues to put distance between itself and C.

"Java is now almost 4.5 percent ahead of the rest of the pack," a report accompanying this month's index, posted Thursday, said. "We have to go back to 2008 to see such a big difference between Java and the number 2 of the Tiobe index. Java version 8 is clearly a success. This is mainly thanks to the functional programming idiom that has been added to this latest version."

Tiobe bases its index on a formula that looks at searches on specific languages in indexes like Google, Bing, Wikipedia, and Yahoo. Specifically, Tiobe calculates the number of skilled engineers, courses and third-party vendors pertinent to a language. Java this month received a 19.274 rating this month, while C was in second place with a 14.732 percent rating. Last month, the margin between the two was just a bit more than 1.5 percentage points, with a 17.728 percent rating for Java and 16.147 percent.

Analyst Jeffrey Hammond, of Forrester Research, sees both Java 8 and Java's role in Android application development boosting Java's standing. "I'd say both are factors at play," he said. "Oracle moving Java forward again is reassuring large companies and helping drive demand as they extend the infrastructure tier of existing applications to support new mobile apps and responsive web sites. On the front end, it helps that Android has such a strong world-wide share for both smartphones and tablets."

Tiobe sees Java as having overcome the doldrums it experienced after Java founder Sun Microsystems was acquired by Oracle in 2010. "Java went in decline when Oracle bought Sun Microsystems (and thus Java) in 2010. Several Java gurus left the company, being afraid that this was the end of Java," Tiobe's report said. "Indeed, Java was verbose and way behind languages such as C# in terms of expressive features. But the doomsayers appeared to be wrong. The first few years, nothing much happened to the language, but the release of Java 8 in 2014 is a big leap forward."

Tiobe sees Java consuming market share being lost by Objective-C, which is being superseded by the Swift language on Apple platforms. "Surprisingly or maybe not, Java is consuming a large part of the market share that Objective-C is losing, while Objective-C's successor Swift was supposed to do this," Tiobe said.

In an email response to questions, Paul Jansen, managing director at Tiobe, sees Java as the big winner while Swift has yet to gain massive adoption. "Objective-C has lost more than 6 percent the last 12 months. This 6 percent hasn't been consumed by Swift, which only won 0.5 percent during the same time. Java, on the other hand, won more than 4 percent. From industry, I receive no signs of massive adoption of Swift yet, whereas we experience a general urge to use Java."

Swift is ranked in 17th place in this month's index, with a share of 1.179 percent. Of course, the language only debuted in June 2014. In third place in this month's index was C++ (7.735 percent), followed by C# (4.837 percent) and Python (4.066 percent). Objective-C was sixth (3.195 percent). This month's rival PyPL index, which analyzes how often language tutorials are searched on in Google, again has Java tops with a 24.5 percent share, followed by PHP (11.4 percent), Python (11.1 percent), C# (9.2 percent) and C++ (7.7 percent).

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