Why programming language C is rising in popularity

According to the TIOBE Index for May 2020, C is now the most popular programming language in the world after overtaking Java.

According to the index, C also showed the highest year-on-year growth of any language in the top 20 rankings.

The last time C reached number one was in 2015, said TIOBE, adding that the rise of C to the top may be due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Embedded software languages such as C and C++ are gaining popularity because these are used in software for medical devices,” said TIOBE CEO Paul Jansen.

He added that languages such as Python and R are also growing, which Jansen believes is because these languages are used in the data sciences – making them more popular while many look for a cure or vaccine for COVID-19.

According to computerscience.org, C is used primarily to develop low-level applications.

Medical devices, which have risen in necessity during the pandemic, use embedded software languages like C.

C also remains the dominant language for the development of drivers, word and spreadsheet processors, and operating systems – all critical functions that are unlikely to be neglected even during the pandemic.

In contrast, higher-level solutions could be taking a back seat as they are not as critical – slanting the numbers in C’s favour.


Additionally, C is perceived by many to be one of the most popular and important programming languages in IoT.

This is because it can communicate with simple sensors, making it more efficient than alternative languages.

IoT is a sector that may also benefit from the pandemic, as reduced workforces increase the value of using IoT to track and monitor assets.

According to SqwidNet MD Phathizwe Malinga, the “digitization imperative” has become real to many businesses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and IoT businesses like SqwidNet are best positioned to enable and enrich this.

“Driving innovation through IoT will ultimately be good for our business,” said Malinga.

PYPL rankings

The PYPL rankings, however, offer a different assessment of the most popular programming languages in the world.

These rankings claim that Python is comfortably the most popular programming language as of May 2020, followed by Java and JavaScript.

C and C++ have only a combined 5.67% share, compared to the 31.17% market share boasted by Python.

May 2020 rankings

The top 10 programming languages for May 2020, according to the TIOBE Index and PYPL rankings, are detailed below.

May 2020

TIOBE Index Change YoY PYPL Ranking Change YoY
C +2.82% Python +4.3%
Java +0.28% Java -2.4%
Python +1.29% JavaScript -0.3%
C++ -1.97% C# -0.2%
C# +0.3% PHP -1.0%
Visual Basic -1.01% C/C++ -0.3%
JavaScript -0.01% R -0.1%
PHP -0.00% Objective-C -0.4%
SQL -0.47% Swift -0.1%
R +0.9% TypeScript +0.3%

Calculating the rankings

  • PYPL – The more a language tutorial is searched, the more popular the language is assumed to be. The raw data comes from Google Trends.
  • TIOBE – The ratings are based on the number of skilled engineers worldwide, courses, and third-party vendors. Popular search engines are also used to calculate the ratings.

Now read: Massive drop in IT spending due to coronavirus

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