Python Tops IEEE Spectrum's Rankings For Fourth Time
Written by Mike James   
Monday, 27 July 2020

IEEE Spectrum has an interactive app that ranks the popularity of dozens of programming languages, well 55 to be precise. It has just published its rankings for 2020, the 7th year of this exercise. And if you don't like the results you can tweak them with your own custom settings.

If you'd asked me to predict the top four languages in the IEEE Spectrum Top Programming Languages 2020, I would have got it absolutely right - simply by saying "the same as 2019". Python comes top for the fourth year in a row and the same languages - C, C++, Java and Python, have occupied the top four slots ever since IEEE introduced its methodolgy in 2014. 

If you are looking for movement in the ranks you need to inspect more languages. Here are this year's top twenty across all four programming environments - Web, Enterprise, Mobile and Embedded using the default settings, i.e. those that represent the interests of the IEEE:


Of course, if you eliminate one or more environments what you see will differ. One thing I do find surprising, and rather gratifying, when looking at individual environments is that Python appears in the top slot for each of them - even embedded. 

I'm also pleased to find JavaScript in #5 across all environments and at #3 for Web only. The very first time I encountered these rankings, my question was:

"why isn't JavaScript the top web language?" 

Kotlin was only included in the list of languages included in 2019 and, with the IEEE settings, was #24  overall and #8 for Mobile-only. Now it is #18 overall and #7 for Mobile-only.

One phenomenon noted for 2020  by Stephen Cass, who comments annually on these rankings was the resurgence of COBOL. He notes:

... the COVID-19 pandemic has left some traces on the 2020 rankings. For example, if you look at the Twitter metric alone in the interactive, you can see that Cobol is in seventh place. This is likely due to the fact that in April, when we were gathering the Twitter data, Cobol was in the news because unemployment benefit systems in U.S. states were crashing under the load as workers were laid off due to lockdowns.

As already mentioned this ranking uses an interactive app that is available for us all to use. Originally developed by Nick Diakopoulous in collaboration with IEEE Spectrum it was rebuilt last year by Mythili Bagavandas and Gurdeep Singh to use a combination of 11 metrics from 8 sources—the IEEE, CareerBuilder, Google, GitHub, Hacker News, Reddit, Stack Overflow, and Twitter. You can tweak the results by changing the weightings using a slider to create and save a Custom Ranking:


But however much you tweak, it seems impossible to dislodge Python from the top position.






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