Python's Unstoppable Rise
Written by Janet Swift   
Thursday, 06 September 2018

We keep on reporting on the popularity of Python and now it has passed two new milestones. It has displaced Java at the top of the PYPL Index and has reached the rank of three in the TIOBE Index, pushing C++ into fourth place.

Python was the top programming language in IEEE Spectrum's  2018 ranking of programming language popularity for the second year running but it came only third in RedMonk's latest ranking behind JavaScript and Java. The reason for the discrepancy is they rely on different metrics and the fact that for September 2018 Python is top on the PYPL PopularitY of Programming Language Index but only third on the TIOBE Index can be explained in the same way - differences in methodology and in what consitutes popularity. 

Whereas the TIOBE Index tracks 150 languages PYPL is limited to 22. The main difference is that PYPL's raw data comes from Google Trends and the search includes the name of the language and the word "tutorial" while TIOBE counts hits across 25 search engines for the query:tiobesearch

So, in the case of TIOBE a very wide range of results will be counted - jobs, courses, questions and so on - whereas PYPL casts a much narrower net but one that does reflect interest in learning about or gaining expertise in programming languages.

Here are the top six languages for September 2018 as reported by PYPL. The percentage changes are compared to a year ago:


To include all these languages from TIOBE we need to look at the top eight languages:


As we've previously noted TIOBE's methodology seems to discriminate against JavaScript - which is the language with the most lines of code on GitHub and therefore came top for RedMonk.  

Both PYPL and TIOBE Index reports their results about the changes in popularity of languages on a monthly basis and maintains a chart of trends over time. These charts are interactive allowing us to choose which languages we want to include. So let's look at TIOBE's new top four - Java, C, Python and C++:



and the same languages on PYPL:


Whereas C and C++ are separate in TIOBE's chart they are combined in PYPL's on the grounds that C++ has the same popularity as C on Google trends. 

It is immediately obvious that there is less spikeyness in PYPL's trends and that the curves are "flatter". This is because the chart shows the proportion for each language of the whole set of searches for programming tutorials. 

So is Python now the most popular language or does it come behind Java and JavaScript? It really does depend what you are interested in - each of them can be top concurrently if you focus on different spheres. For this you can use Spectrum IEEE's Ranking app which allows you to choose to include or excleude 12 weighted data sources and to alter their weighs to alters the rankings. And as noted at the start, its default ranking puts Python top again for 2018.




More Information

PYPL PopularitY of Programming Language


Stack Overflow Trends 

Related Articles

Python Tops Language Ranking Again

Language Ranking Almost Unchanged Over Time

TIOBE Index - Top 10 Languages Slump

Explore Your Favorite Topic With Stack Overflow's Interactive Trend Tool

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Last Updated ( Thursday, 06 September 2018 )