IEEE Spectrum Ranks Languages
Written by Mike James   
Friday, 02 September 2022

IEEE Spectrum has repeated its annual exercise to rank programming languages in terms of their popularity and once again it is Python that emerges as the front runner in its rankings. However, Python is relegated to third place in terms of Jobs behind SQL and JavaScript.

This is the 9th annual ranking of the Top Programming Languages which combine multiple metrics from different sources to estimate the relative popularity of different languages. While there are 57 languages included in the exercise here are the top twelve:


Python has come top in the IEEE Spectrum ranking every year since 2017 when it ousted C from the top spot. This year C comes a close second with a ranking of 96.8, up one place since 2021  and then there's a gap before C++ and C# at 88.58 and 86.99 respectively. After a more substantial gap we reach Java at 70.22, well down from it previous ranking of 95.4 when it occupied second place.

While SQL only came in 6th place in the default ranking, which is heavily weighted toward the interests of IEEE members, it tops the ranking when applying the Jobs weighting:

IEEESpectrum22 5jobs

Analyzing SQL's success in this ranking in an article that argues that SQL has become:

the second programming language everyone needs to know

Rina Diane Caballar asks and answers:

So what’s behind SQL’s soar to the top? The ever-increasing use of databases, for one. SQL has become the primary query language for accessing and managing data stored in such databases—specifically relational databases, which represent data in table form with rows and columns. Databases serve as the foundation of many enterprise applications and are increasingly found in other places as well, for example taking the place of traditional file systems in smartphones.

Personally I don't rate SQL as a language on a par with the rest. It may be Turing complete but it's hardly general-purpose.

Java being in second place in this ranking aligns with other survey data we've reported and Python, JavaScript and C# placing in 3rd, 4th and 5th places seems entirely valid.

Looking at the top 5 in the Trending ranking, which puts more weight on social media sources gives Python an even bigger lead over its nearest rival Java. SQL isn't in the top 5. With a very similar score (45.51) to that in the Spectrum ranking (47.37) it comes 7th.

IEEESpectrum22 5trennding


This year only 5 languages had a score above 50 in any of  rankings and over 40 had ranking of less than 5 on at least one ranking. In contrast in previous years 20 or more languages scores above 50 and very few scored below 10. This suggests that this year's 9 metrics and their weightings must differ a lot from last year's 11 even though the sources remain substantially the same. This year the list includes GitHub, Google, Stack Overflow, Twitter, and IEEE Xplore plus the IEEE Jobs site and CareerBuilder. The only change I detect from last year is the omission of Hacker News. All three of this year's rankings do, however, seem pretty convincing. 

Another change is that this year the facility to customize the rankings by selecting which sources to include and tweaking their relative weightings has been removed. In a blog post Stephen Cass, the editor at IEEE Spectrum who is responsible for this annual exercise said that  advantage from IEEE Spectrum's point of view is that: 

Taking it out allows us to precompute the preset rankings instead of serving an app that contained the data from all the metrics and then computed the rankings in the browser on the fly. Quite apart from making the app large, and thus slower to load, we also ran into the problem that different browsers could produce slightly different results, thanks to variations in floating-point implementations!  

The change is justified on the grounds that very few people took advantage of custom rankings - but as one of those who did I regret its discontinuance.    


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