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Don’t. Panic.

Demand might be high for C++ and Java developers, but according to one index at least, these staples in the coder’s skillset are slipping in popularity. Is it the end of the development world as we know it?

That depends on how bad you feel about Java slipping to second place while C++ languishes at number four in the TIOBE Community Index, a monthly beauty contest for programming languages. That these are their lowest rankings since the index started in 2001 suggests there’s no threat to developer bread and butter just yet – but it’s interesting to take a look at what might be going on.

One possible explanation for this slippage is the growth of new fields of biomedical, statistical and big data crunching – all of which are coming with their own domain-specific languages. But more likely – in the case of C++ at least – is complexity and cost; C++ requires solid programming skills and can’t compete on price with a broad spread of top-end, open source Java tools.

Those lower-cost tools aren’t just good for business, they’re good for a generation of young people looking to learn new skills, making Java more appealing. On the other hand, those high end skills your knowledge of C++ demonstrates can also lead to higher salaries…

Garbage in? Garbage out?

And without wanting to open a war-of-words on whether a language this powerful – or a developer that skilled – needs it, C++’s garbage collection chops can’t compete with Java or C#. Meaning that maybe – just maybe – it’s a very early sign of the times for the 35 year old language. Then again, there are still plenty of COBOL programmers earning a good living maintaining systems that businesses can’t live without, even if they can’t remember who installed them.

Ultimately, it’s all a function of popularity – Apple’s Objective-C, for example, is in third place; the much fanfared Swift is yo-yoing from a high of 16th, into the 20s and back into the teens again. Would you bet your career on it? With so much riding on consumer sentiment for the products you’re developing for, it’s hard to know.

Which brings us back to the TIOBE index, which is based on analysis of global skilled engineer numbers, web search terms, courses and vendors. You can use it to check out whether your coding skills are up to date and maybe formulate a strategy around which language to learn or use next.

Or you can search using ‘Java jobs in Ireland’, find several million results and read into that what you will.

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