Two different people or organizations will give different answers when asked what they believe are the most popular or the most used programming languages. Also, you won't get a straight-forward answer which programming language you should learn.
This is because ‘most used’ is something of a subjective term and one which can’t be answered without adding further parameters. For example, we could mean any of the following:
- Do we mean the most popular ones?
- Do we mean the languages that have the most lines of written code in existence?
- Or do we mean the languages with the largest GitHub community?
As you can see, it is essential to define what we mean by ‘most used’ before we get into our list of the most common programming languages.
We could list the most common programming languages according to any one of thousands of sources. For this article, I have decided to use the Tiobe Index, a world-recognized authority when it comes to programming language popularity that is released monthly by software company Tiobe.
What Is The TIOBE Index?
Since we will be ranking our most used programming languages on the Tiobe Index, we need to build at least a general understanding of how it works and what it takes into account.
The Tiobe Index takes data from hundreds of different sources, compiles it, and spits it out in list form. The Tiobe Index rankings are based on several metrics, including:
- The number of experienced engineers in the language worldwide. More skilled developers in a language mean that the language is going to be more popular.
- The number of courses available for a language. This indicates the demand for a particular language, the number of people who are learning it, and how widespread it is likely to be in the future.
- The search engine popularity of the language. Again, this indicates how popular a language is to the general public. More popular languages are more likely to be used.
The Tiobe language rating is calculated by taking the percentage of programming search engine hits that belong to that language.
For example, the rating for Java is 14,43%, meaning that 14,43% of all programming language pages in search engines are related to Java. Head here for a complete explanation of the Tiobe Index.
As you can see, this is by no means a perfect system. However, we believe that it is the best, which is why we have used it as a basis for the rest of this article.
Table of Contents
What Makes A Programming Language Popular?
There is a wide range of things that could contribute to a language becoming one of the most used programming languages. Some find themselves among the most popular programming languages simply because they are widespread and versatile.
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Others are at the top of the most in-demand programming languages list because there is a lack of experienced developers.
With this in mind, let’s look at some of the major factors which seem to be common among the most in-demand programming languages for 2021:
- Versatility: The top four on our list of popular programming languages - Java, C, C++, and Python - are all quite versatile languages that can be used for a range of things. This makes sense, as the most common programming languages are likely to be the ones that have several use cases.
- Ease Of Use: Most of the most popular programming languages are quite simple to use. They usually have a relatively simple syntax, large online communities, and are easy to troubleshoot.
- Speed: When it comes to developing things like websites or games, speed is essential. It, therefore, makes sense that some of the most in-demand programming languages according to the Tiobe Index are the fastest.
As you will see when we start looking closer at the most used programming languages, it is very rare for a language with narrow use-cases to be widespread. Usually, languages like this are confined to a small niche with a few active users.
What Are The Most In-Demand Programming Languages For 2021?
Now to move onto the most common programming languages of 2021 according to the Tiobe Index. We will provide a brief outline of each of the below languages, followed by a look at their most popular use cases and reasons why they have made it onto the list.
Following this, we will provide scenarios that may help you decide on the best programming language to learn. In some cases, we will also recommend courses to help you kick-start your programming journey.
C is one of the oldest programming languages around. Although it was released decades ago in 1972, it remains at the top of our list of the most common programming languages due to its incredible versatility. C has several features which put it at the top of this list, including:
- It is super versatile and is used for everything from mobile game development to car computer programming.
- It is fast, which means that it is arguably one of the most used programming languages when it comes to game development.
- It has been the basis for several other languages, including C# and C++. If you learn C, you will find it much easier to learn these other languages.
C was at the top of the popular programming languages list from the inception of the Tiobe Index (1987) until the rise of Java in the early 2000s. Since then, it has hovered around the 2nd position, regaining the title of the most used programming language briefly around 2013.
Since the start of the 21st century, Java has rarely lost its position as one of the top two most popular programming languages.
Java is one of the world’s most versatile and flexible programming languages. It is used by companies throughout the world to create desktop apps and for back-end website development.
One of the unique features of Java is that it can run on pretty much any operating system. It is the most popular language when it comes to Android app development, and it is also favored among larger websites due to its scalability.
The demand for Java developers is as high as it has ever been. In reality, if you are fluent in Java, you will never be out of work. The huge online community means that it is quite a simple language to learn - you will always find help when you run into problems with your code.
If Java strikes your fancy as the best of the most used programming languages to learn, then head over to BitDegree. The Interactive Java Tutorial will provide you with all the knowledge you need to start building apps and websites with Java.
Ahh, back to good old Python. A favorite among programming language learners throughout the world, Python arguably tops the list of the most used programming languages to learn to code. It is taught in schools, and many introductory programming courses teach it because of its simplicity.
Although it was developed in the 1990s, Python has been slowly rising the Tiobe Index for years. It broke into the top 5 languages for the first time a few years ago, and it currently sits just behind C++.
Python is another very versatile language which is used for all sorts of things. Along with traditional uses like web development and data analysis, it is becoming increasingly popular in the fields of Machine learning, artificial intelligence, and robotics.
As we have already noted, Python is super easy to learn, putting it at the top of the best programming languages for beginners.
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We have briefly mentioned C++ before, so you already know it derived from C. it first appeared in 1985. As another old language - it is almost as old as C - C++ has remained near the top of the Tiobe Index since its inception.
C++ is used for some things, including functional, procedural, and object-oriented programming. It is super flexible, and it can be used to write all sorts of programs.
One of the most common used for C++ is to create applications for use on a range of different devices or platforms. Since it is recognized by most operating systems and browsers, it is the perfect language for this.
Two of the most popular uses of C++ are game development and video editing, which makes it a popular choice for people who are looking to get into these industries.
t is among the most used programming languages by the likes of tech giants like LinkedIn, Facebook, NASA, and Microsoft, so there will always be jobs available for experienced developers.
If C++ seems like an interesting language to learn for you, it is important to realize that it certainly isn’t one of the easy options. It is a complex language that will require significant time commitments. Do your research and make sure that you choose your courses wisely.
Visual Basic is an object-oriented, multi-paradigm programming language that was developed by Microsoft in 2001. Although it isn’t as common as it used to be, it is still a great language for people looking to get into web service application development.
It is quite a simple language to learn - as the name implies - and is therefore popular among beginners.
However, the fact that it is simple doesn’t mean that it is weak. Visual Basic is one of the most powerful and most used programming languages out there. It is a high-level language with very easy to follow Syntax, and it reads like English.
Visual Basic is one of the two major languages, along with C#, that targets the .NET framework.
In most cases, C# is now used instead of Visual Basic, so make sure that you do your research before learning it. Consider what sort of job you might find with it, and make sure that you are aware that it may provide you with limited opportunities.
C# peaked in third place on the Tiobe Index in 2012, and its popularity has been slowly declining since. However, it remains one of the most used programming languages due to its security and robust nature.
It is used to create Windows client applications, XLM Web services, database applications, client-side server applications, and a whole lot more. It runs on the .NET Framework, like C, has a very advanced, easy to use code editor, and makes debugging your code a lot easier.
As an object-oriented C language, C# can be quite difficult to learn, especially if you have no previous programming experience. If you already understand the basics of Java, you will find C# a lot easier, as they share similar syntax.
I recommend choosing a simpler language like Python or Java to learn first, and then moving onto C# later.
If you do decide to jump straight into C#, remember to do your research and to take your time learning.
Yes, C# might be among the most used programming languages, but it is also among the hardest ones to master. The BitDegree Beginner-Friendly .NET Tutorial provides a brief introduction to the C# language, and it could be a good place to start for programming beginners.
PHP is known as the language of the web. Although some companies are starting to move from PHP to more modern languages, over 80% of the websites on the internet still use it. PHP is definitely among the most in-demand programming languages, and it probably belongs higher on this list.
PHP facilitates back-end web development, allowing developers to build dynamic web applications complete with SQL database connections.
PHP is one of the most used programming languages by high-end developers throughout the world, which means that learning PHP would be a good place to start your programming journey. Some of the best features of PHP include:
- Very simple to learn, even if you are a complete beginner.
- Very understandable, easy to follow the syntax.
- Flexible and user-friendly, allowing you to write even complex code quickly and efficiently.
As you can see, PHP would be a great language for you to learn. If you think you would like to give it a go, check out this PHP course!
SQL is different from a lot of the languages on this list in that it has a very specific use case - to facilitate the analysis of consumer, sales, and other data from huge company databases.
Also known as the Structured Query Language, SQL allows you to interact with databases in the way that you want to.
SQL is among those most used programming languages that are used by pretty much all major eCommerce platforms - including eBay and Amazon - to inform major business and marketing decisions.
There are plenty of reasons why you should consider learning SQL, including:
- There is a high demand for SQL developers, which means that there is good money to be made.
- It is much easier to use than things like Microsoft Excel when it comes to data analysis, saving you time and money.
- It will make you a lot more employable as a programmer. SQL can significantly impact your career path, allowing you to potentially command much higher salaries and better jobs.
If you like the sound of SQL, have a look at this SQL course. This course will teach you the basics of SQL coding, how to access and manage databases, and how to analyze the data you have.
R is a newcomer in the top 10 list, spiking to 8th place from the 20th. This particular language was quite an underdog compared to the giants topping the chart but it definitely shouldn't be overlooked.
R is in a way similar to SQL. It is also mostly used for statistics and data analysis. While it might not be as popular among front-end developers seeking to make the site aesthetically pleasing, it definitely comes in handy for large-scale data computing.
So, if your priority in choosing a programming language is it being the one made for computing data, then you could definitely consider R as a top programming language for you.
Objective C ranks high among the most used programming language since it was the main programming language that was used to create and manage iOS.
It's an object-oriented programming language that serves all of the general purposes that most other languages do. Objective C added a feature of Smalltalk to the C programming language.
Objective C was created by the company Stepstone. It uses any of the compilers and syntaxes that come along with the different C-based languages.
Conclusion - Choosing The Most Useful Programming Language For You
So here we are, at the end of the list of the top most used programming languages. We looked over a variety of different languages, each of which had quite different use cases. Now the big question remains:
How do you choose the most useful programming language for you from this list?
There is no clear answer here. A quick look at any number of popular programming languages suggests that the best language for one person to learn will not necessarily be the best language for the next person. Consider the following when deciding on the best language for you to learn:
- What sort of work you want to do. Different languages are used for different things, which means that your career choice will guide your choice in a programming language.
- How much programming experience you have. Harder languages are best left to people who already have at least some programming knowledge.
- Where you want to work. It is important to realize that different programming languages are more in demand in certain parts of the world. Consider this when selecting a language to learn.
As you can see, there are plenty of things to think about when it comes to choosing the right programming language to learn.
Starting with a list of the most used programming languages, as outlined above, is a good idea, but remember - the right language for you will depend on your needs, wants, and commitment to becoming a programmer.
If you want to learn any of these programming languages, then head to edX for high-quality courses!