Don’t be misled – Java is more popular than ever

Lucy Carey

Whilst certain popularity stats may have you believe the language is tottering towards its dotage, a little probing reveals that things are very much alive beneath the surface.

 As we’ve noted before, the TIOBE Index, a barometer of language popularity based on search engine result frequency, including data from Google, Bing, Youtube and Wikipedia, is a contentious beast. Recently, the fight for top spot between alleged arch rivals Java and C has been closer than ever, and every time C comes out on top, thre’s an inevitable chorus decrying “Java’s long and painful decline.”

Looking at the TIOBE stats from the last 13 years, you can’t blame people for drawing negative conclusions about the health of Java, which follows a largely dipping trajectory.

However, Kevin Farnham, managing editor, has taken a stand against this latest bout of Java eulogizing. Whilst the chart seems to indeed highlight the slow and steady plunge of Oracle’s language into the minor leagues, beneath the figures, argues Franham, there’s an entirely different story in play.

For a start, Java is a legacy language. It’s been around long enough that only the freshest minted devs would have to research it – unlike a crazy new programming concept that you might find getting Redditors all het up about.

What’s more, whilst the proportion of searches for Java relative to “interest” in all topics has dipped by a third since 2004, Franham observes that if you skew results on the basis of total interest in “Java programming”, searches on Google more than quadrupled between 2007 and 2013!”

There will always be cool new languages grabbing the Google stats, but how many people will actually start coding in it? Java has also chipped out a large niche in the enterprise world, sequestered away in legacy, proprietary systems that will remain important for decades to come. It’s highly unlikely that it’ll truly slalom into oblivion within the next decade or so.

Just a cursory look around for the most popular programming languages among recruiters shows just how in demand Java continues to be, topping the  StackOverflow Careers 2.0  with 22.26% of all search queries. Oh, and Java devs continue to be some of the best paid in the industry. In spite of the vertiginous troughs in TIOBE rankings over the years, stats from the real world speak more than any virtual number games ever could.

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