May 10, 2012, 3:40 PM — The C language, which displaced Java as the most popular language in the Tiobe Programming Community monthly assessment in April, has maintained its number 1 spot in the May report released this week. But a high-profile member of the PHP community is questioning the accuracy of the index itself.
The May release of the index, which gauges the popularity of programming languages, had C used by 17.346% of developers, as opposed to 16.599% using Java. The index is based on the number of skilled engineers worldwide, courses, and third-party vendors interested in the particular languages. Examinations of search engines including Google, Bing, and Yahoo are used to calculate ratings; other sites such as Wikipedia, Amazon, YouTube, and Baidu are factored in as well.
But Andi Gutmans, who is a key developer of PHP and CEO of PHP tools maker Zend Technologies, dismisses Tiobe's index, citing its tendency to fluctuate. "It's very questionable how they come up with those numbers," Gutmans said. Tiobe's index for May has PHP as the sixth-most-popular language, but used by just 5.711% of developers. Gutmans insists PHP usage is growing quickly. He cited other industry figures showing 50% of the Web running PHP.
Tiobe Managing Director Paul Jansen defended the index, saying most criticism comes from declining programming communities. "Of course, we use a very simple algorithm so it is easy to shoot at if [it] doesn't fit your expectations, but it shows something about the visibility of each language on the Internet over time," Jansen said. "It is not scientific but at least it is the best try I have seen so far. If Andi Gutmans has some suggestions [for] how to improve the Tiobe index, I really would like to know. We are willing to adjust the index if he shows up with a good suggestion."