Every month, TIOBE updates their popular programming language list. I tend to ignore the monthly updates as longer term trends are normally more interesting. Last week, TIOBE released the updated yearly list for 2009. This is where you can see actual language trends. Much to my surprise, TIOBE announced that Google’s Go programming language was the language of the year with 1.25% growth. This is surprising for a few reasons. First, Go is very new and was released only back in November. Second, Go is now ranked 13th on the TIOBE list. And third, Objective-C, also known as the language of all things Apple, had growth of 1.24% just a slim 0.01% behind Go. Given this sort of growth, I would not be surprised to see much more interest in Go during 2010, and I will be keeping an eye on the job trends to see what changes.

TIOBE did provide an interesting perspective on the growth of Go as well:

It is astonishing to see that a programming language can rise so fast. Go was not listed yet last month and now it is already #13. This sudden change might be considered an inevitable consequence of our current culture, in which new information is spread and used around the globe at the speed of light.

If you think about this it does make sense, but programming languages move fairly slowly in terms of popularity. If you look at the data, you will notice that a move of 1% or 2% seems fairly large. So, here is the annual ranking according to TIOBE:

A definition of the ranking methodology can be found at TIOBE.
Current
Rank
Rank
Jan 2009
Language Current
Ratings
Delta
1 1 Java 17.482% -1.54%
2 2 C 16.215% +0.28%
3 5 PHP 10.071% +1.19%
4 3 C++ 9.709% -0.41%
5 4 (Visual) Basic 7.354% -1.81%
6 6 C# 5.767% +0.16%
7 7 Python 4.453% -0.28%
8 8 Perl 3.562% -0.74%
9 9 JavaScript 2.707% -0.65%
10 11 Ruby 2.474% -0.67%
11 10 Delphi 2.392% -0.91%
12 37 Objective-C 1.379% +1.24%
13 Go 1.247% +1.25%
14 14 SAS 0.809% +0.01%
15 13 PL/SQL 0.718% -0.29%
16 18 ABAP 0.641% +0.10%
17 15 Pascal 0.624% -0.04%
18 23 Lisp/Scheme 0.576% +0.14%
19 20 ActionScript 0.566% +0.11%
20 24 MATLAB 0.540% +0.11%

There is some interesting information in the table outside of the Go story. Java lost a significant amount in 1.54%. This could be due to the continued growth of PHP, but the numbers do not match up, so something else is happening. The 20 most popular languages account for almost 90% of the TIOBE data, while the top 10 account for almost 80%.  This means that the most popular languages (the top 10) are definitely the most widely used, but there are a lot of languages in use. Even in the top 20, you can see some niche languages like SAS, ABAP and MATLAB. These are more tool or industry specific languages, but are still in the top 20.

Generally, there was not a lot of movement, but there are some definite highlights. You have already heard about Go’s growth, but I have not talked about Visual Basic‘s decline. Thankfully, it has dropped 1.81% but there is not a major rise in a similar language to make me think Visual Basic programmers are moving to an alternative. PHP’s growth is expected as more people learn to program for web sites and applications like WordPress. PHP is fairly easy to learn, so its growth is not a big surprise.

Delphi’s decline will likely continue during 2010 as people move to PHP, Go and other web friendly languages. Objective-C was the other big mover as it powers most iPhone, iPod and Mac applications. This growth trend will continue as more people create iPhone applications. The appearance of Android, the Google mobile OS, does not seem to have changed the trends at all, but Google is making a big push this year so it could change things.

One important note is that the ranking methodology is probably a little different than expected. It is based on search queries across a few different search engines. This has no relation to job listings or some professional survey.

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