R on track to be Tiobe’s programming language of the year

The open source language has seen skyrocketing interest in 2020, bringing it from relative obscurity to the top ten languages in Tiobe’s monthly index.

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The R programming language continues to hold on to a top spot in Tiobe’s August 2020 edition of its monthly top programming language index, leading Tiobe CEO Paul Jansen to say it’s on track to be Tiobe’s programming language of the year. 

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R’s resurgence has been reported in several places recently. TechRepublic covered it on the basis of Tiobe’s July index, TechRepublic sister site ZDNet covered it as well, and other tech industry publications have weighed in too. 

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As ZDNet said in the above article, the reasons for the resurgence are still a bit unclear. Tiobe’s explanation for the rise has to do with increased data processing needs due to COVID-19 (R is one of the data science programming languages of choice) but other language analysts have said R won’t ever crack the top 10 of their listings because it’s too specialized. 

Regardless of the reasons for R’s rise in popularity, Tiobe’s calculation shows a language that has rebounded since August 2019, when it held the 20th spot in the index. Now ranking eighth for the second month in a row, that’s a 12-spot jump, making it the only language to break into the top ten since last year. 

Tiobe gives its language of the year award to the programming language that has the highest rise in ratings over the course of a year, and unless something changes for R in the second half of 2020 it’s essentially a shoe-in. 

Looking at the Tiobe index you’ll see a relatively stable top 10: C and Java have swapped places since last month, while Python, C++, C#, Visual Basic, and JavaScript remain in the same places they were at this time in 2019. PHP dropped a single space, and SQL holds steady at number 10, where it was last year as well. 

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Only R, which rose from 20 to eight, and Objective-C, which dropped from ninth to 19th, made moves in or out of the top 10.

Most of the interesting movement, said Jansen, comes in the lower rankings. As mentioned in TechRepublic’s article about the July Tiobe index, the rankings can give developers a good idea of whether their programming skills are up to date, or whether they need to think about changing languages for an upcoming project.

There have been a number of changes in the order of the top 20 since July, with Scratch and PL/SQL leaving the top 20. Go and Perl both climbed slightly and are continuing their upward trajectory since August 2019. 

Ruby, MATLAB, and Classic Visual Basic have all slipped, but Apache’s Groovy programming language re-entered the top 20.

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