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C++ overtakes Java in programming popularity index

Java is no longer among the top three most popular programming languages in the TIOBE Index, one of several not particularly definitive yardsticks by which such things are measured.

According to Paul Jansen, CEO of Netherlands-based TIOBE Software, the rising popularity of C++ has pushed Java down a notch. The index’s rankings are now: Python in first place, C second, C++ third, and Java fourth. C++ stepped up to third, and Java fell to fourth.

“C++ surpassed Java for the first time in the history of the TIOBE Index, which means that Java is at position 4 now,” said Jansen in the December update for the TIOBE Index. “This is the first time that Java is not part of the top 3 since the beginning of the TIOBE Index in 2001.”

This is the first time that Java is not part of the top 3 since the beginning of the TIOBE Index in 2001

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The surge in C++, perhaps in part helped by the stable release of C++ 20 in December 2020, is particularly ironic in light of the language’s recent dismissal by Microsoft CTO Mark Russinovich, which coincides with industry evangelism for Rust and its capacity for memory safety.

Popularity in this case is measured by queries related to programming languages that have been aggregated from 25 different search engines.

Assessed in other ways, Java fares better. Research company Slashdata in the Q3 2022 version of its State of the Developer Nation report found, “In the last two years, Java has almost doubled the size of its community, from 8.3 million to 16.5 million.”

That puts Java – growing at twice the rate of the global developer community during the past two years – at third in community size, ahead of C/C++ (12.3 million) but behind Python (16.9 million) and JavaScript (19.6 million).

The Slashdata report also notes that Kotlin and Rust represent the two fastest growing language communities, each having more than doubled in the past two years. Kotlin code runs on the Java Virtual Machine, so its rise lifts Java too.

In October 2022 programming language rankings by consultancy Redmonk – measured by number of projects on GitHub – Java continues to place third, behind Python and JavaScript.

“The big public cloud logo companies – Amazon, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure and now Oracle are all heavily investing in Java language, runtime support and managed and management services, seeking to win enterprise workloads for modernization,” observed co-founder James Governor in an April 28, 2022 post. “Why invest in Java? Because that’s where the money is.”

Amazon, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure and now Oracle are all heavily investing in Java language

For what it’s worth, Redmonk counts Oracle – steward of Java – as a client. Oracle describes Java as the “#1 language for today’s technology trends,” whatever that means.

Yet there are signs of slippage elsewhere, at least if you ask developers rather than measuring search results or repos. In its list of Most Popular Technologies, StackOverflow’s Annual Developer Survey from 2018 lists Java with the endorsement of 45.3 percent of respondents. In 2020, that figure had declined to 40.2 percent. And in 2022, Java had a thumbs up from just 33.27 percent.

GitHub’s 2022 State of the Octoverse report ranks Java third among top programming languages since it slipped from the number two spot in 2019. While not among the top ten fastest growing programming languages, Java gets its own special section in the report for defying premature declarations of decline.

Java isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. But neither is it top of mind among those pushing boundaries. It’s respectable. ®


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