Python will continue to dominate, PHP will keep slipping in popularity, and we might see at least slightly less interest in Java.
That, in a nutshell, summarizes some of the key programming language trends that are likely to play out in 2023.
For a more detailed look at what to expect in the world of programming languages over the next year, here are IT Pro Today's predictions for major programming language trends heading into 2023.
Related: 5 Software Development Trends to Watch in 2023
Python's Popularity Persists
Perhaps the least surprising — but nonetheless noteworthy — programming language trend that we anticipate for 2023 is continuing popularity for Python, the general-purpose programming language that became the world's most popular language in recent years.
As I've argued previously, I'm not convinced Python deserves that top spot. I think Python is too slow, too rigid in its syntax, and too unproven as a language for truly large-scale projects.
But Python's persistent popularity would suggest that I'm in the minority here. Clearly, most programmers love Python, and there are no signs that that trend will change in 2023.
PHP Keeps Slipping
Another continuing programming language trend that is unlikely to end in 2023 is PHP's decline. The language that played a foundational role in building the modern, interactive web is just no longer as popular as it once was.
That doesn't mean PHP will disappear entirely. Don't expect platforms such as WordPress to switch to a new language anytime soon. But do expect to see increasingly few new projects using PHP.
Java Doesn't Recover Its Popularity
In a similar vein, Java — a language that was also central to the emergence of the software industry as we know it today — increasingly appears to be past its prime.
Related: Should Developers Still Learn Java Programming Language?
Java slipped out of the top spot on the TIOBE index — a position it had held for nearly two decades — a couple of years ago. As of 2023, there's every indication that that slippage was not temporary. Although Java will likely remain widespread over the coming year, it's hard to imagine it returning to its former stature as one of the very most popular languages. On the contrary, we suspect Java will continue to decline in popularity over the coming year and beyond.
Rust Remains Hot
Statistically speaking, Rust, the open source language with a focus on security and efficiency, remains relatively unpopular, with a twentieth-place ranking on the TIOBE Index. But Rust has a strong following of devoted acolytes — in fact, it's the "most loved" programming language according to Stack Overflow, even if it's not the most commonly used.
We expect that trend to hold for 2023 — not only because of Rust's strong community, but also because Rust has obvious appeal in a world where cybersecurity challenges remain widespread. Using Rust won't guarantee protection against attacks, but it's one step developers can take to make their software a bit more secure.
Assembly Language Grows More Popular
A little-noticed programming language trend on the TIOBE Index in recent years is a slow but steady increase in the popularity of assembly language.
Assembly language (a generic category that could include multiple specific languages) first entered the top 10 list of most popular languages in 2016. It's now in ninth place, which is a slight decrease from last year, but that still puts it ahead of languages such as PHP, Go, and Swift.
Why would so many programmers work with assembly code? It's hard to say for sure, but we imagine that a need for high performance is one factor. Assembly language's popularity may also reflect the growing adoption of specialized hardware, like internet of things (IoT) devices, that may require developers to write assembly code to access functionality that's not supported by higher-level languages on those devices.
Everyone Always Loves C
A last-but-not-least programming language trend to watch in 2023 is the persistent popularity of C.
C's not quite as popular as Python, but it's close. And given that C has now been around for over a half-century — which makes it nearly twice as old as languages like Python and Java — C stands out as a tried-and-true stalwart language that will probably retain its central importance to software development for decades to come. If you had to choose the single most important language to learn for the long term, C would be a good choice.
There you have it: the top programming language trends to expect to play out over the coming year.
Admittedly, we don't foresee any earth-shattering changes in 2023 in the world of software development. We'll mostly be seeing more of the same trends that have been in place at least for the past few years. But because some of those trends — like the decline of PHP and the unexpected popularity of assembly code — were a bit hard to see coming, they're worth continuing to follow through the coming year.
About the authorChristopher Tozzi is a technology analyst with subject matter expertise in cloud computing, application development, open source software, virtualization, containers and more. He also lectures at a major university in the Albany, New York, area. His book, “For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution,” was published by MIT Press.