TIOBE Index for May 2020

C passes Java and becomes number 1 programming language

Sarah Schlothauer
c programming
© Shutterstock / Yuliyan Velchev

Another month, another update to the TIOBE Index. The Index tracks the popularity of programming languages according to search engine results. This month, C moved up past Java and entered the number one position.

In 2019, C won the coveted Programming Language of the Year award. Now, nearly halfway through 2020, is it in line to win the award again?

The TIOBE Index updated their rankings for May 2020 and there’s a new number one. (Or, should we say an old number one? C was the number one programming language throughout 1985, 1990, in 2000, 2005, and 2015!)

SEE ALSO: HTML: The origin and evolution as a major markup language

C programming

TIOBE’s top 10 programming languages for May 2020. Source.

C is #1

Welcome back to the top spot, C. The TIOBE Index update suggests a current reason for the slight uptick in searches for C:

Java and C were already very close in April, but this month C surpasses Java again. The last time C was number one was back in 2015. We can only guess why C is number one again. One of the reasons might be the Corona virus. This might sound silly but some programming languages really benefit from this situation. Examples are Python and R in the data sciences area because everybody is searching for an antidote for the virus. But also embedded software languages such as C and C++ are gaining popularity because these are used in software for medical devices. On another note, it is also worth mentioning that Rust is really getting close to the top 20 now (from #27 to #21 within one month).

Paul Jansen CEO TIOBE Software

Another reason for C’s popularity might be because of the language’s use in embedded devices and its cross-platform programming.

As the Internet of Things continues to gain prominence, C will also likely grow along with it, as well as continue its use as a general-purpose programming language.

C first appeared back in 1972 and 48 years later, it still inspires other languages’ syntax today.

Dethroning Java?

This reshuffling of the top languages pushes Java down to the silver position. Of course, next month all can reshuffle again and Java can climb back up.

But, is Java on the decline? There’s no shortage of Java in the enterprise; for the foreseeable future Java will remain a top programming language.

However, especially in mobile app programming, Kotlin is on the up and up. According to The RedMonk Programming Language Rankings for January 2020, Kotlin is growing fast. Data from GitHub and Stack Overflow suggests that it is now the 19th most commonly used programming language. Big names such as Duolingo have migrated their source code from Java over to Kotlin, reducing their line count.

SEE ALSO: What Rust features are still missing? – Interview with Steve Klabnik

Scratch continues to climb

As far as the monthly TIOBE Index update goes, there aren’t many more notable changes. Rust is edging closer into the top 20 and if it maintains its trajectory, we could see it make the list soon.

Perl, on the other hand, might be on its way off of the charts, if it continues its downward trend. This month it saw a rate of change of -0.51%. It is currently number 18 on the list, but in May 2019 it was number 13.

We spoke about Scratch’s entry to the top 20 programming languages last month. The educational language teaches kids (of all ages!) some basic coding concepts and critical thinking skills through game making. It is now in the 19th position with a change of +0.32%.

Sarah Schlothauer

Sarah Schlothauer

All Posts by Sarah Schlothauer

Sarah Schlothauer is the editor for She received her Bachelor's degree from Monmouth University, West Long Branch, New Jersey. She currently lives in Frankfurt, Germany with her husband and cat where she enjoys reading, writing, and medieval reenactment. She is also the editor for Conditio Humana, an online magazine about ethics, AI, and technology.

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