Sunday, December 12, 2004

Java Slipping?

I received a question from Paul Jansen at Tiobe Software, which maintains a site that tracks the popularity of programming languages via search engine statistics. Paul noted that the popularity of Java seems to have fallen in the last 12 months, and wondered if I had any thoughts about why.

Although it is interesting to note that search engines are reporting less queries, I don't know if I would take that one data source as definitive. I note that this month, C is the most popular language on the Tiobe index. Although there are certainly plenty of C programmers out there I have a little bit of a hard time believing that is the case, especially since C++ is broken out from C in that analysis -- in my experience it has been very hard to tell if someone is a C++ programmer still programming in C.

It's certainly possible that Java is falling in popularity. However, I'm not going to draw a conclusion based on search engine feedback.

There are a number of possibilities that might explain lowered search engine stats:

  1. There is an awful lot of noise on the web about Java, and so if you do a search your results may also be very noisy. I know that I do a web search as a last resort, anymore, because it's so much work and so often it's fruitless. So perhaps people are just giving up on web searches and going to other sources.

  2. The aforementioned other sources have been getting better. Sun's own Javadocs are far better than what we traditionally had in C or C++, so those programmers may be compelled to hunt the web while Java programmers can hunt through Javadocs on their local machines. There are a fair number of other electronic resources, such as my own Thinking in Java.

  3. Java programmers may be going to specific web sites such as JavaRanch, JavaLobby, Artima, TheServerSide, etc. to do their searching, in order to produce better results because of point #1. Thus, you will not see this searching on

I'm not saying that it isn't possible that Java has "slipped in the ratings." Just that I won't draw that conclusion based on Google/Yahoo searches alone.