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Trending on the charts: Swift hits Top 10 for popular programming languages

Jane Elizabeth

Close up clink glasses image via Shutterstock

No bad blood, just mad love. Swift has finally hit the top ten popular programming languages and all we can say is about time.

It’s official. TIOBE released their latest index and for the first time, Swift has cracked the top ten programming languages list.

Here’s the full list for March 2017.

 Swift TIOBE March 2017 Index, via TIOBE.

The TIOBE Programming Community index is a monthly graph of popular programming languages. They trawl through over 25 popular search engines, including Google, Bing, and others to count hits for each language. (TIOBE is also very clear in stating that this Index is for finding the most popular languages, not the best.)

Nice to meet you, where you been?

Apple released Swift nearly three years ago to high expectations. Touted as “Objective-C without the C”, Swift is meant to be safer and more concise than the previous Apple language while maintaining flexibility.

The language has been a slow starter thus far; our programming language survey in 2016 showed that over half of respondents weren’t that interested in Swift. And in 2017, Swift made a modest showing in our popular programming language survey.

Programming languages trends 2017 — JAXenter survey

JAXenter survey 2016: About a fourth of our respondents were enthusiastic about Swift

TIOBE suggests this is probably because most of the legacy macOS and iOS code are being maintained in Objective-C and not being migrated to the new open-source language. New applications are being written in Swift, but all that legacy code is being maintained in Objective-C. And there’s a lot of legacy code.

Swift: A business decision?

It’s a tossup whether Swift will be able to rise up much further on this list. For one thing, the language is limited to the Apple ecosystem. However, some companies like IBM are considering using Swift as a server-side language, if only because of the speed and small memory requirements. That makes Swift theoretically cheaper than Java to run at scale on cloud infrastructure.

Plus, it’s still hard as all get out to use Swift on Android systems. When asked whether developers could write Android applications in Swift, Google bluntly responded, “No.”

SEE MORE: Go is a ‘free time’ programming language, survey shows

It’s been a while since I have even heard from you

TIOBE has been around since 2001, which means that they have some of the best longitudinal studies about programming language popularity.

Long-term Language Popularity via TIOBE

Looking at the graph, it’s pretty clear that Java is the winner and still champion supreme amongst all the programming languages. The long-standing runner-up C has shown a dramatic decline in the past year or so. If you look carefully, Swift is the light blue just at the bottom right of the graph.

It’s not just TIOBE. Swift also just cracked the Top 10 list for the PYPL Index this month. This data is all drawn from language tutorial searches on Google, so it’s a good way to spot upcoming trends in programming language.

‘Cause we never go out of style

Despite Swift’s recent rise to the top ten, it’s still got a long way to go if it ever wants to be a competitor for languages like Java or even C.

Julia Slige over at Stack Overflow did some research to see when languages are being used. Based on questions posed on Stack Overflow, she could sort out when people were asking about specific languages. This sorted out the hobby coders from the workplace developers.

Her results were pretty informative! Java is popular all day every day, whereas Swift tends towards the weekend. Other popular weekday languages included Microsoft related ones like C#, SQL and Excel, whereas popular weekend languages included C, PHP, and Python.

This just emphasizes Swift’s position in the coding ecosystem. This up and comer is doing well and it’ll be interesting to see how it develops as time goes on.


Do you use Swift? What do you like about it? Tell us in the comments below!

Jane Elizabeth
Jane Elizabeth is an assistant editor for

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