TIOBE Suggests Scripting Languages are Fading

November’s update of the TIOBE Index makes a startling assertion: scripting languages (which include Perl and JavaScript) are fading in popularity.

TIOBE bases its rankings 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 Turing complete, have its own Wikipedia entry, and earn more than 5,000 hits for +”<language> programming” on Google.

Although scripting languages are enormously popular (Python, for example, places fourth on November’s list), TIOBE believes that scripting languages are too prone to errors that only show up during run-time, making them a bit too problematic for high-pressure development environments where failure is not an option.

“Since quality demands are getting higher and higher, hardly anybody dares to write a critical and large software system in a scripting language nowadays,” read TIOBE’s note accompanying the data. “Even a scripting language such as JavaScript that is inevitable while doing web programming was forced to evolve to a safer language.”

But none of the most popular scripting languages have imploded over the past year, rankings-wise; indeed, JavaScript and Python have both crept up a spot in TIOBE’s rankings during that period. Nonetheless, the analysts at TIOBE seem to think that scripting languages as a category will need to evolve in order to head off an inevitable decline, citing JavaScript as an example: “Microsoft introduced a typed version of JavaScript called TypeScript and all kinds of frameworks such as Angular and React were developed to safeguard the language (and also add extra functionality).”

TIOBE’s analysis aside, it seems unlikely that scripting languages as a category are going anywhere: many are easy to learn, even for neophyte programmers, and feature a layer of abstraction that hides many of the thornier aspects of development. And as long as end-users continue to use these languages to construct a wide variety of apps, they’re unlikely to fade away—errors or no.

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