C Officially the Top Programming Language

The IEEE has voted C the top language of 2016. Better learn it quick before it goes out of fashion!
By James Pain Posted 08 August 2016

C Officially the Top Programming Language

C Officially the Top Programming Language

I'll cut to the chase; the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers has ranked C as their top programming language for 2016, after being two years[1] in second place. It is followed by Java, Python, C++, and R.

Working with data journalist Nick Diakopoulos, from 10 online sources we’ve chosen 12 metrics, each one of which gives insight along a different axis of popularity.

Which is code for 'we got a guy to Google it'.

This is one of the many reputable language rankings out there, alongside Github and Stack Overflow, but the IEEE's is aiming to be the collective and conclusive source.

Why is C the top?

It's worth defining what 'top' means.

Starting from a list of over 300 programming languages gathered from GitHub, we looked at the volume of results found on Google when we searched for each one

I wasn't kidding when I said they Googled it, although I'm not being critical. Google is a fine source of information. They take the top 48 results, and rank them based on the number of Google results it gets, and how many hits the language has on Twitter, Github, Stack Overflow, Reddit, among other sources.

This differs from other methods like language based commit activity on Github, or question catagories on Stack Overflow. Instead, it's legitimately a popularity contest.

The IEEE doesn't analyse why C has risen in popularity to the top of their list over the past year, although an article accompanying the results does study the runner-up languages and the rising trend in big data.

Why does this matter?

It's just another one of those easy stories, right? Some bigshot company makes the announcement that defines the year. Journalists jump on it as easy bait. The story is pradically already written for them. They'll post it to their non-techy editor to feel smart, and it'll get published with no problem.

That is what these stories generally are, journalist fodder, but I believe this is different, because I agree with it![2]

C is the language I encourage all beginners to learn as their first language. It's hugely prevalent and has influenced many other languages. It's a great base to learn many other languages from. As a long time developer, I wish I learnt C earlier than I did, since it was the secret behind many of the untold bits of assumed knowledge between all developers.

The moral of the story is, Go Learn C! Better yet, practice C on a *unix system and become a wizard at a new operating system at the same time.


[1] The IEEE annual list is only three years old, including this year. C has been in second place for the life of the list until this year.
[2] I agree with C being the Top Programming Language of 2016, all except for the '2016' part. I don't believe another language will have the effect C has had. Let's just call it the most ultimate, awesome language of all time and be done with all these annual surveys once and for all.
James Pain
James Pain
Software Engineer