Facebook's PHP dialect makes inroads among popular programming languages

The Hack language has made its first appearance in the top 50 of Tiobe's index of language popularity, while the D language is poised for a big leap

Hack, Facebook's PHP dialect, is gaining popularity, but don't expect it to rival PHP anytime soon.

In this month's Tiobe index of language popularity, Hack cracked the top 50 for the first time, coming in 47th place albeit with a rating of just .325 percent. Still, showing up on the index means that developers are starting to take notice.

Hack is more scalable, faster and safer than PHP, a report accompanying the index emphasizes. "The Hack programming language contains modern programming paradigms such as generics, nullable types and collections," Tiobe said. "The big question is of course: can Hack replace PHP in the future? Deployability is still quite hard (e.g. because it is not available on hosted web servers by default), otherwise it could certainly become PHP's successor."

ActionScript and Clojure also entered the top 50 this month, ranked 44th and 49th, respectively with ratings of .342 percent and .262 percent. 

While languages like Java, C and C++ take the top spots in the monthly index with regularity, other languages, such as D, Dart, Scala, and Rust surface in the index's second tier, which ranks languages from 21st to 50th. The D systems programming language, ranked 22nd this month with a rating of 1.413 percent, may see its fortunes rising soon, with the language's compiler having just gone open source. "Open-sourcing language implementations is always a good thing to become more popular," said Paul Jansen, managing director at Tiobe. "The main reason is that the community has more confidence in the future of such a language because if the initial developers step out, somebody else can take over."

Dart, coming in just behind D in 23rd place with a 1.357 percent rating, is not expected to again break into the top 20, where it had been previously, but it should stay in the top 30. While Dart was once positioned as a potential rival to JavaScript, Google late last year began repositioning the language for mobile development.

Scala, ranked 31st with a .727 percent rating this month, has a realistic chance of breaking the top 20, said Jansen, though the object-oriented functional language, initially built for the JVM, has been mired in the top 20-40 space for many years. Meanwhile, the Mozilla-sponsored Rust systems language continued its steady gains and was ranked 41st this month with a rating .375 percent.

In the index's first tier this month, Java again finished first with a 15.568 percent, which was down 5.28 percentage points from a year ago, with the language now vying with a multitude of other languages for the hearts and minds of developers. C was second 6.966 percent rating, and C++ finished third, rated at 4.544 percent, though both also have seen their shares head downward. Finishing from fourth to 10th were: C# (3.579 percent), Python (3.457), PHP (3.376), Visual Basic .Net (3.251), JavaScript (2.851), Delphi/Object Pascal (2.816), and Perl (2.413). The index gauges popularity based on a formula examining searches on languages in popular search engines, assessing the number of skilled engineers, third-party vendors and courses pertinent to a language.

The alternative PyPL Popularity of Programming Language index, which assesses searches on language tutorials in Google, again had Java finishing in its top spot with a 22.6 percent share. Following it were Python (15.1), PHP (9.4), C# (8.3), JavaScript (7.8), C++ (7), Objective-C (3.9), R (3.5), and Swift (2.8).

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