Scripting languages slip in popularity

Developers are opting for safer languages, despite ease of use offer by scripting languages like Perl, PHP, and Ruby

Prominent scripting languages, once viewed as the future of programming by offering ease of use, have slipped in the monthly Tiobe index of language popularity. Only Python and JavaScript still have some momentum.

Languages that have seen their fortunes decline include Perl, PHP, and Ruby. Software quality services company Tiobe’s suspected cause is a desire among developers for higher quality than is afforded in scripting languages: “Because quality demands are getting higher and higher, hardly anybody dares to write a critical and large software system in a scripting language nowadays.”

With scripting languages, most errors show up in runtime. And this is a problem, Tiobe says. Developers can write unit tests to compensate for this but it still is “quite dangerous” because these errors can happen while the application is in production. Statically typed languages, meanwhile, have responded to the threat of scripting languages by reducing type verbosity.

In this month’s index, which ranks language popularity based on a formula assessing searches on languages in popular search engines, Python was ranked fourth, one spot ahead of where it was last year, up 0.91 percent in that period. The language has enjoyed a reputation of being easy to learn and has become popular at high schools and universities. JavaScript, a critical cog in web development, was ranked sixth after having been eighth a year ago. It grew 0.27 percent since November 2016.

But further down the list, PHP was ranked eighth in the November index after being in seventh place the same time last year; its rating has slipped 1.23 percent from a year ago. Ruby finished in 13th place and lost 0.39 percent from a year ago, when it was in 14th place. Perl, meanwhile, was in 15th place, down five spots and 0.8 percent from a year ago. As a result, scripting languages in general gradually are moving out of Tiobe’s top 20.

Even JavaScript has had to evolve, with Microsoft introducing TypeScript, its statically typed version of JavaScript. JavaScript also has benefitted from frameworks such as Angular and React that have served to safeguard the language and add extra functionality, Tiobe notes.

Tiobe’s Top 10 programming languages

Elsewhere in the index, the leaders, Java and C, continue to take the first and second spots. The top 10 languages in this month’s Tiobe index were:

  1. Java, at 13.231 percent
  2. C,  at 9.293 percent
  3. C++, at 5.343 percent
  4. Python, at 4.482 percent
  5. C#, at 3.012 percent
  6. JavaScript, at 2.972 percent
  7. Visual Basic .Net, at 2.909 percent
  8. PHP, at 1.897 percent
  9. Delphi/Object Pascal, at 1.744 percent
  10. assembly language, at 1.722 percent

PyPL’s Top 10 programming languages

In the alternative PyPL Popularity of Programming Languages index, which examines how often language tutorials are searched on in Google, scripting languages still finish near the top but remain behind Java. PyPL’s top 10 languages for November were:

  1. Java, at 21.4 percent
  2. Python, at 18.6 percent
  3. PHP, at 8.2 percent
  4. JavaScript, at 8 percent
  5. C#, at 7.6 percent
  6. C++, at 6.3 percent
  7. C, at 6.3 percent
  8. Objective-C, at 3.9 percent
  9. R, at 3.8 percent
  10. Swift, at 3.1 percent

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