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The rise of smaller languages may be due to the number of programmers increasing or to search engine ranking algorithms changing.

In this month’s TIOBE Programming Community Index, the top 10 programming languages list rankings have stayed steady since November. However, according to the index’s ranking system, Python dropped slightly in popularity, losing 2.80%; C lost 5.12%; and C++ lost 1.92%.

This may seem contradictory, but the index is ordered based on overall ratings, not the month-over-month changes. The top 10 programming languages losing popularity points while smaller languages such as Kotlin gradually gain them has been a trend this year, said TIOBE Software CEO Paul Jansen.

Each month, TIOBE Software ranks 100 programming languages by their popularity with the programming community.

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The landscape is changing for small programming languages

“It might look a bit strange that most of the top 20 languages lost popularity in 2023,” Jansen wrote in the December 2023 TIOBE Index. “So what happened? The answer lies in the long tail, where all the small languages reside. Those are all moving up a bit and are getting closer to the big languages.”

For example, as Jansen pointed out, the 50th most popular language on the index (ML) had a score of 0.14% in December 2022; this year, the 50th most popular language (ActionScript) sits at 0.24%.

SEE: Top 10 list of programming languages from this month’s TIOBE Index and previous months in 2023 (TechRepublic)

In an email to TechRepublic, Jansen proposed three ideas about why smaller programming languages might be gaining more popularity while larger ones are decreasing in popularity.

  • The number of programmers is increasing, including around the world, contributing to variety.
  • Search engines TIOBE uses to calculate its points, including Google and Amazon, may have reduced the variance in hits in their algorithms and therefore made the difference between languages smaller.
  • General changes in the programming landscape are allowing for a steady churn of new languages.

“The programming language landscape is gradually changing,” Jansen said. “New languages are working their way up to the top.”

C# is the front runner for programming language of the year

The TIOBE Index’s top programming language of the year is the language that had the highest rise in ratings in one year. This year, Jansen said, C# is the likely candidate.

“Yes, I know, we have been here before,” Jansen wrote in the December TIOBE Index. “At the end of 2022, it looked like C# would become the programming language of that year. But at the final moment, C++ took the title unexpectedly.” This was also impacted by the rise in popularity of smaller languages.

Another factor in C# gaining as many points as it has is that Java is losing ground, Jansen told TechRepublic.

“Most programmers move to Kotlin and C# (instead of Java) because these languages are more expressive and have a more favorable license model,” Jansen said.


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