Measuring programming language popularity

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It is difficult to determine which programming languages are most widely used, and what usage means varies by context. One language may occupy the greater number of programmer hours, a different one have more lines of code, and a third utilize the most CPU time. Some languages are very popular for particular kinds of applications. For example, COBOL is still strong in the corporate data center, often on large mainframes; FORTRAN in engineering applications; C in embedded applications and operating systems; and other languages are regularly used to write many different kinds of applications.

Various methods of measuring language popularity, each subject to a different bias over what is measured, have been proposed:

  • counting the number of job advertisements that mention the language[1]
  • the number of books sold that teach or describe the language[2]
  • estimates of the number of existing lines of code written in the language—which may underestimate languages not often found in public searches[3]
  • counts of language references (i.e., to the name of the language) found using a web search engine.
  • counting the number of projects in that language on SourceForge and FreshMeat.[4]

One organization tracking the popularity of programming languages is Tiobe. Their monthly Programming Community Index has been published since 2001, and shows the top 10 languages' popularity graphically, the top 20 languages with a rating and delta, and the top 50 languages' ratings.[5]

The web site Programming Language Popularity aggregates statistics and charts on language popularity across a number of methodologies.[6]


  1. Survey of Job advertisements mentioning a given language
  2. Counting programming languages by book sales
  3. Bieman, J.M.; Murdock, V., Finding code on the World Wide Web: a preliminary investigation, Proceedings First IEEE International Workshop on Source Code Analysis and Manipulation, 2001
  4. Eric S. Raymond, The Art of Unix Programming, Chapter�14.�Languages,
  5. Tiobe Software Index
  6. "Programming Language Popularity". 
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