Apple Swift Losing Momentum, Says TIOBE

October’s update of the TIOBE Index, which attempts to gauge the world’s most popular programming languages, has a bit of a surprise: Swift, Apple’s new(ish) language for building iOS and MacOS apps, is losing steam.

Since October 2016, Swift has fallen from 12th to 16th place in TIOBE’s rankings, managing to stay just ahead of its predecessor, Objective-C, which tumbled from 10th to 17th place during the same period.

The reason for the decline, in TIOBE’s analysis, is frameworks. “Until recently it was quite common to program Android apps in Java and iOS apps in Swift/Objective-C. This is quite cumbersome because you have to maintain two code bases that are doing almost the same,” read the firm’s analysis. “So frameworks for mobile hybrid apps were developed and now that they have grown mature these are becoming very popular.”

The market leaders, TIOBE continued, are “Microsoft’s Xamarin (C#), Apache’s Cordova (JavaScript) and Ionic (JavaScript).” As a result, “languages such as C# and JavaScript are gaining popularity at the cost of languages such as Java and Swift.”

It’s important to note that the relative rankings of Swift and Objective-C don’t correlate directly with the popularity of iOS as an app platform. Developers clearly want to build for iOS, which can pay a healthy premium over Android (according to Dice’s Salary Calculator). But as with any platform, their choice in tools can evolve according to their needs.

TIOBE’s popularity ratings are based on data from a variety of aggregators and search engines, including Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, and Amazon. In order for a language to rank, it must be Turning complete, have its own Wikipedia entry, and earn more than 5,000 hits for +”<language> programming” on Google.

The top of TIOBE’s rankings remained largely unchanged from last month: Java headed up the list, followed (sequentially) by C, C++, C#, and Python. But even these languages have seen a degree of market-share erosion as developers embrace a broader collection of languages in order to accomplish their tasks. The TIOBE rankings could look very different in just a few years.

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