Plenty of fish in the C, IEEE finds in language popularity contest

R: you ready for a top-ten spot?

It's no surprise that C and Java share the top two spots in the IEEE Spectrum's latest Interactive Top Programming Languages survey, but R at number five? That's a surprise.

This month's raking from TIOBE put Java at number one and C at number two, while the IEEE reverses those two, and the IEEE doesn't rank assembly as a top-ten language like TIOBE does.

It's worth noting however that the IEEE's sources are extremely diverse: the index comprises search results from Google, Twitter, GitHub, StackOverflow, Reddit, Hacker News, CareerBuilder, Dice, and the institute's own eXplore Digital Library.

Even then, there are some oddities in the 48 programming environments assessed: several commenters to the index have already remarked that “Arduino” shouldn't be considered a language, because code for the teeny breadboard is written in C or C++.

The IEEE reckons the big movers from 2015 to 2016 are:

  • Go – the Chocolate Factory's language hopped from position 13 to crash the top-10;
  • Swift – rose even further than Go, from 16th to 11th;
  • Arduino (actually it's not a language) – can at least be described as a hugely popular environment, since it also climbed from 17th to 12th.

Shell script programming lost a lot of adherents, falling eight places to be even less popular than assembly programming (Internet of Things anyone?). The IEEE notes that in a world where sys admins have to write scripts for tens, hundreds, or thousands of data centre machines, running up a Bash script probably isn't as useful as automating the scripts in orchestrators.

Also on the slide were Matlab, Perl and Visual Basic.

In Spectrum the IEEE also picks out Ladder Logic as interesting – while it's way down in the 30s, its status is a reminder that industrial programming is a pretty significant niche. ®

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