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C is number one!


Right next to my desk in a bookshelf is my 1988 copy of Kernighan and Ritchie’s the second edition of The C Programming Language. I’ve kept this book, the ur-text of C programming, because C has always been the first language of Unix and Linux and I like to be able to read source code. I knew that, over the years, C had declined in use. What I didn’t know was that, old as it is, C has actually maintained more of its popularity than I had thought and that now it’s once more the number one programming language in the world.

In a survey of programming language use by TIOBE Software, an analysis company focusing on software quality, they found that “After more than 4 years C is back at position number 1 in the TIOBE index.” It’s not, however, that C has suddenly gained new developers. No, “The scores for C have been pretty constant through the years, varying between the 15% and 20% market share for almost 10 years.” The real reason C’s is back on top is because Java use has been declining.

Still, as the company observed, while “Java has a long-term downward trend. It is losing ground to other languages running on the JVM. An example of such a language is JavaFX script that is now approaching the top 20.

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