The 10 most popular languages remain the same, but numbers toward the bottom of that group are shifting, with PHP dropping and assembly language continuing to rise.

TIOBE’s programming index top 10 for November, 2021

Image: TIOBE

Software quality company TIOBE has released its monthly index of the top programming languages for November, 2021, and there’s a shakeup happening: PHP is on the verge of losing its place in the top 10.

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Paul Jansen, TIOBE Software CEO, said of the change that it indicates growing competition in the web programming field, where PHP was once dominant. “This is not to say that PHP is dead. There are still a lot of small and medium enterprises relying on PHP. So I expect PHP to decline further but at a very slow pace,” Jansen said.

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TIOBE ranks the top 50 languages in its monthly list, which gathers data from search engines, the number of engineers verified to have proficiency in a language, the availability of online courses and more. TIOBE began publishing its index in 2001, and in that time PHP has never been outside of the top 10.

PHP was even TIOBE’s language of the year in 2004, and it peaked in popularity at number three on the list in 2010, but has had a gradual decline in popularity since then. November 2021 marks its lowest point to date.

To further put the pressure on PHP, Ruby and Groovy, which Jansen describes as two of PHP’s competitors, both gained three positions this month, with Ruby moving from 16th to 13th, and Groovy from 15th to 12th.

Other interesting movers include embedded applications language Lua, which moved from 32nd to 26th, web and mobile app language Dart (40th to 31st) and Google’s preferred Android language Kotlin rose from 38th to 33rd.

Python, which was the big story of the October 2021 index with its overtaking of C and Java for the top spot, remains unmoved atop the list, as do the six languages following it, making for a relatively stable top 10. The bottom three rankings are where changes have been taking place: Assembly language leap frogged over SQL and PHP to take the eighth spot, bumping the other two down a notch.

Assembly language has been rising in popularity since 2016, when it first cracked the TIOBE top 10 after years in the lower tiers of the list. The reason for its leap in popularity is because it’s often necessary to use low-level assembly languages when programming IoT device hardware.

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Eighth place marks the highest position assembly language has risen to since its inclusion in the index in 2011. That’s a pretty rapid rise for what is essentially a term used to describe old, low-level, and difficult programming languages. PHP may be ready to fall out of the top 10, but assembly language’s advancement up the ranks might even be bigger news, especially for developers looking to learn a new skill.

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