Python Again Tops IEEE Spectrum’s Programming Language List

By John Russell

July 22, 2020

What’s your go-to programming language? As judged by IEEE Spectrum, it is (again) Python and comfortably so according to an article posted today. C++ finished fourth. HPC-centric Julia (#19) and Fortran (#25) also held their own.

“Since it’s impossible for even the most aggressive spy agency in the world to find out what language every single programmer uses when they sit down at their keyboards—especially the ones tapping away on retro computers or even programmable calculators—we rely on combining 11 metrics from online sources that we think are good proxies for the popularity of 55 languages,” wrote Stephen Cass, IEEE Spectrum senior editor.

Here’s a quick except from Cass’s article.

“Our default ranking is weighted toward the interests of an IEEE member, and looking at the top entries, we see that Python has held onto its comfortable lead, with Java and C once again coming in second and third place, respectively. Arduino has seen a big jump, rising from 11th place to seventh. (Purists may argue that Arduino is not a language but rather a hardware platform that is programmed using a derivative of Wiring, which itself is derived from C/C++. But we have always taken a very pragmatic approach to our definition of “programming language,” and the reality is that when people are looking to use an Arduino-compatible microcontroller, they typically search for “Arduino code” or buy books about “Arduino programming,” not “Wiring code” or “C programming.”)

“One interpretation of Python’s high ranking is that its metrics are inflated by its increasing use as a teaching language: Students are simply asking and searching for the answers to the same elementary questions over and over. There’s an historical parallel here. In the 1980s, BASIC was very visible—there were booksmagazines, and even TV programs devoted to the language. But few professional programmers used it, and when the home computer bubble burst, so did BASIC’s, although some advanced descendants like Microsoft Visual Basic are still relatively popular professionally.”

The online IEEE Spectrum tool is cool and lets you play with ranking criteria to make a custom ranking. Have fun.

Link to IEEE Spectrum article and ranking tool: https://spectrum.ieee.org/at-work/tech-careers/top-programming-language-2020

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