Java tops C in language popularity assessment -- but not by much

Java has been buoyed by Android's success, but C continues to close the popularity gap

Java is barely hanging on to its ranking as the most popular programming language, edging out C in this month's Tiobe index of programming language popularity.

Released on Sunday, the February Tiobe Community Programming Index had Java being used by 17.05% of developers. A year ago, 18.48% of developers used it, while 17.48% of developers used Java a month ago. C was slotted right behind Java, used by 16.52% of developers in the latest release of the index -- up from 14.98% the same time last year, but down from the 16.98% using it in last month's index.

[ Tiobe's previous prediction that Java could fall from the top spot has not come to fruition -- at least not yet. | Also, see Oracle's two-year roadmap for Java. | Get more Java news by subscribing to InfoWorld's Enterprise Java newsletter. ]

"Java has a chance to remain number one now that Android is the most frequently used mobile platform," said Paul Jansen, Tiobe's managing director. "On the other hand, lots of small devices (and there appear to be more and more of these in this world) are still being programmed in C. I expect that Java will remain number 1 for at least the next six months."

Ranking behind Java and C were: C#, used by 8.65%; C++, at 7.85%; Objective-C, at 7.06%; and PHP, used by 5.64%. But Objective-C, which is gaining popularity because of its association with Apple iOS application development, and PHP, for server-side Web development, are going in opposite directions. While Objective-C gained nearly 4.5 percentage points in a year, having been used by just 2.57% of developers a year ago, PHP saw its usage drop from 6.97% during the same time last year to 5.64% in the latest survey.

Tiobe pointed out that Visual Basic.Net, the follow-up to Microsoft's legacy Visual Basic language, is gaining in popularity as Visual Basic loses steam. Visual Basic was used by 4.32% of developers, down from nearly 5% that used it a year ago, while VB.Net increased from .59% a year ago to nearly .80%. But Visual Basic is the seventh-ranked language, while VB.Net is ranked 16th. It had been ranked 22nd a year ago, though. "It might be a coincidence, but while classic (Visual) Basic is slowly going off radar, VB.Net is still gaining in popularity each month. VB.Net now enters the top 20," Tiobe said.

Jansen, however, said he did not think there was a correlation between the decline of Visual Basic and the rise of VB.Net. "Visual Basic has no major vendor (except for a couple of smaller companies) anymore, so it will slowly die. VB.Net is not really promoted by Microsoft; it is way behind C# and C++. Even F# sometimes gets more attention of Microsoft than VB.Net. So I don't expect VB.Net to rise any further."

Tiobe rankings are based on the number of skilled engineers worldwide and third-party vendors using a particular language, with rankings determined by assessments of search engine results in Google, Bing, and Yahoo along with other sites, including Wikipedia, Amazon, YouTube, and Baidu. The index, Tiobe said, is not about the number of lines of code written or about the best programming languages.

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