TIOBE chief claims COVID-19 is a factor after programming language R moves up the index

tiobe statistics

The TIOBE Programming Community index for July is now available, and pulls up statistical programming language R to eighth place, while Rust keeps climbing up the top 20.

Only last month’s edition of the index saw Mozilla’s Go challenger Rust making it to position 20 for the first time. Since then the language seems to have gotten a boost in popularity, pushing it a whole two places to #18. One of the reasons could be the release of version 1.44 at the beginning of June, which will surely have had some influence on the indicators measured for the compilation of the language list.

TIOBE calculates its popularity index by counting the hits achieved by querying +”<language> programming” in a variety of localised Google landing pages, Baidu, Yahoo, Wikipedia, Bing, Ebay, MSN, Hao 123, Freepik, and Slideshare. The motivating factors behind a high number of hits could be attributed to a variety of things (new releases, major grievances, etc), which is why the significance of rankings like these is widely debated.

Going back to the newly released version, another notable change is the new position of the R programming language, which made it from 9 to 8 this month – a step that becomes even more startling when compared to last year’s July positioning at 20. TIOBE CEO Paul Jansen puts the highest rank the language has ever seen down to the fact that Python and R slowly take the place of commercial analytics tools such as SPSS and SAS, proclaiming that the latter’s “days are over”. 

However, this has been a development that has been going on for a while and can’t completely explain the sudden hike in interest. Jansen has therefore come up with a second catalyst for the current demand: the surge in COVID-19 research. Most of the steps taken to understand its behaviour better and come up with a vaccine are quite data heavy and centered around analysis, which is why user-friendly statistical programming languages seem to arouse great interest.

Python, meanwhile, stayed stable at position 4 of the index, though it saw a slight increase in interest (+0.73 per cent) compared to June, putting it almost back at May’s level (9.09  per cent vs 9.12 per cent). The list leader is C, followed by Java, and C++. The rest of the top ten comprises of C#, Visual Basic, JavaScript, PHP, and Swift. Popular Go can be found at #12, compared to #16 this time last year.

A bit higher up the list, JetBrains’ Kotlin has moved from #30 to #27, which might be caused by it getting more tooling support and making a name for itself amongst Android developers thanks to Google’s glowing endorsements. Delphi/Object Pascal is one of the biggest losers of the month, apparently falling from #22 to #30.