TIOBE Index for November 2017

Python ascending: Where have all the scripting languages gone?

Jane Elizabeth
scripting languages
© Shutterstock / BABAROGA

The ascendancy of Python masks a serious question: where are all the other scripting languages? According to the TIOBE Index for November 2017, other dynamically typed languages like Perl, PHP, and Ruby may be on a gentle decline.

Not too long ago, scripting languages were all the rage. Dynamically type languages were easy to write and easy to run, making languages like Perl, Python, PHP, and Ruby pretty popular on the charts and on our websites. But, a closer look that the TIOBE Index for November 2017 shows a different story.

Today, Python is the only strong contender left from the group. Python’s fortunes are rising; GitHub recently crowned it as the second-most popular programming language. Stack Overflow called it the fastest-growing major programming language. And it’s even considered the most popular language for machine learning. That’s an awful lot of superlatives.

On the other hand, many of the other scripting languages are slowly moving out of the top 20. But why?

TIOBE has an explanation:

Most errors in scripting languages occur run-time. They show up when a program is run. Despite the fact that one can write all kind of unit tests to compensate for this, it remains quite dangerous because such errors might happen while running the application in production. Since quality demands are getting higher and higher, hardly anybody dares to write a critical and large software system in a scripting language nowadays.

They go on to point out that even JavaScript was forced to evolve into a safer form. After all, TypeScript and frameworks like Angular and React were all developed to safeguard the language and add extra functionality.

SEE MORE: Swift’s popularity has gone into free fall, TIOBE index shows

Additionally, statically typed languages blatantly copied the best features of dynamically typed languages, starting with reducing their type verbosity. “It all started with the “var” keyword in C#, followed by type inference in Java and auto specifiers in C++.” Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Besides, if someone has a great idea for improving functionality, why wouldn’t you want to use it?

A quick comparison

Things are a little different if we look at the PYPL index for November 2017. While Python is also second on this list, it’s followed by PHP at a distant third. However, other statically typed languages like Ruby and Perl are slowly falling off.

We can probably put this difference down to the different parameters of each list. After all, the TIOBE Index measures web pages with the language name. PYPL analyzes how often people search for a particular language’s tutorials in order to get a sense of how much a language is growing.

If you look at this data from PYPL, it clearly illustrates the ten-year trend lines:


PYPL Index, November 2017

Interest in Python continues to rise, whereas PHP, Ruby, and Perl are on a slow and steady decline. Worldwide, Java is the most popular language, Python grew the most in the last 5 years (10.9%), and PHP lost the most (-5.5%).

However, this is hardly a death knell for scripting languages. We still can’t agree on when a programming language is dying, let alone agree on a time of death. In the meanwhile, it’s best to keep on coding, in whatever language you like and think is best.

Jane Elizabeth
Jane Elizabeth is an assistant editor for

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