Python Extends Its Lead In IEEE Spectrum Rankings
Written by Mike James   
Thursday, 31 August 2023

This is the 10th year for the annual Top Programming Languages exercise. Python coming top isn't news. It has now done so eight years in a row. What is important is that it is even further in the lead than ever before.

Spectrum is the monthly journal of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, normally shortened to IEEE and pronounced "I-triple-ee". It was first published as a print magazine in 1964 and nowadays some of its content, including the report of the The Top Programming Languages 2023 is freely available to all on its website.

The exercise combines metrics from multiple sources, including Google, StackOverflow, GitHub, the IEEE Xplore Digital and its Job Site  to estimate the relative popularity of different languages. There were 59 languages included this year and  here are the top thirteen from the Spectrum ranking, which is weighted to reflect the interests of the typical IEEE member:

IEEE Sp TPL 23A 

Why thirteen? It's because that's the number that have a ranking above 0.1 when the top language is set to 1. In fact there's a step change at this point with the next group of languages, which includes Ruby, Rust and Kotlin being between 0.08  and 0.07.

The noticable change between this year's TPL and last year's is that the 2nd language in the list, which is Java, has a ranking of only 0.588. Last year when C came second it had a ranking of 0.968, and Java, which was in 4th place after C++ and C#, had a ranking of 0.702. So Python has seen a surge in popularity and importance since last year.

According to Stephen Cass, special projects editor at IEEE Spectrum and responsible for the Top Programming Languages app:

Python’s increased dominance appears to be largely at the expense of smaller, more specialized, languages. It has become the jack-of-all-trades language—and the master of some, such as AI, where powerful and extensive libraries make it ubiquitous. And although Moore’s Law is winding down for high-end computing, low-end microcontrollers are still benefiting from performance gains, which means there’s now enough computing power available on a US $0.70 CPU to make Python a contender in embedded development, despite the overhead of an interpreter. Python also looks to be solidifying its position for the long term: Many children and teens now program their first game or blink their first LED using Python. They can then move seamlessly into more advanced domains, and even get a job, with the same language.

Switching to the Jobs Ranking tells a different story. As last year, it is SQL that comes top but, while it too has increased its lead over other languages, now it is Python that comes second with a ranking of 0.891. Last year Python had a ranking of 0.882 putting it in 3rd place after Java, which then ranked 0.951 compared to 0.789 this year.

IEEE Sp TPL 23 Jobs

Only eleven languages had a ranking of more that 0.1 and there's a clump of languages around 0.07 - 0.08 - Go, Matlab Visual Basic, Perl,and PHP and R.

Thirteen languages are above the 0.01 boundary for the Trending ranking:

IEEE Sp TPL 23 Tend

Again Python is well in the lead with Java at 0.736 and JavaScript being the only others to be above 0.5. While I'm not sure that "trending" is the description I'd choose, this list seems to reflect very well the current reality for programming languages. Python is relevant across the board - from web programming and scripting to data science and AI. Java is still the workhorse for enterprise and JavaScript is the dominant language of the web. 

 

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Last Updated ( Thursday, 31 August 2023 )