Fortran returns to top 20 TIOBE index

Here is described the TIOBE Programming Community Index Definition:

It is based on the results obtained with the query +"<language> programming" in 25 search engines. Note that most of these engines are Google and Amazon engines in different countries. But there is also the English Wikipedia.

Fortran is 18th in the October TIOBE Index with 1.08% (it was 17th in September with 1.01%). It is now above 1.0% since June.

Here is the current graph:

It’s still balancing at the level of the peak from 2005. If it solidly overtakes it, then we might have something.

Reading a blog post
Things I’ve learned in my 20 years as a software engineer
that was upvoted on Hacker News, I saw this:

14. Look for technological sharks

Old technologies that have stuck around are sharks, not dinosaurs. They solve problems so well that they have survived the rapid changes that occur constantly in the technology world. Don’t bet against these technologies, and replace them only if you have a very good reason. These tools won’t be flashy, and they won’t be exciting, but they will get the job done without a lot of sleepless nights.

Fortran is a shark :slight_smile:



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The other way to understand the phrase

Old technologies that have stuck around are sharks, not dinosaurs.

is the Lindy effect, by which “the future life expectancy of some non-perishable things, like a technology or an idea, is proportional to their current age.”.

So Rust is 10 years old, I bet it will be around in another 10 years, but in 30 years? Who knows. Fortran is 65 years old and still around, so I would say the chance is decent Fortran will be around in 30 years. Just based on this heuristics.

My only comment is:

These tools won’t be flashy, and they won’t be exciting

Actually I think they can be. With proper modern tooling if the old technology genuinely (objectively) becomes better than younger technologies, people will get excited about it again.

Currently Fortran is better in a sense of easier to write and still usually performing (although not always…), but the tooling around it is so bad that it cancels this slight advantage completely for many use cases. However, by fixing the tooling and compilers to ensure Fortran is always the best performing, on any platform and easiest to write and use (dependencies, interactive/non-interactive use, …) — then we are talking. And I think that is doable and my goal.


Excellent points, agree with you completely here.

My other point is that with just a few enhancements (see this thread) to the language standard also, Fortran can verily become feature-complete for scientific and technical computing. And it will pay rich dividends for the next several decades. I truly wish the standard can get things such as Fortran-suitable Generics, Exception Handling, etc. included ASAP.

Then with improved tooling and the ecosystem and standard facilities, Fortran can be at the top as the *lingua franca of scientific and technical computing.


The RedMonk programming language ranking seems to make more sense.


In this ranking, the position of Fortran is very stable for the last 2 years. See the author’s posts:

Combining the Tiobe index and the RedMonk index may be a more accurate way to measure Fortran’s popularity. But that will still miss the activities in the Fortran forums, including the disclosure.

I looked at the Fortran tagged questions in Stack Overflow. The dude called Vladimir F has answered so many questions. Kudos to him.


CC @VladimirF. I learned much about Fortran from Vladimir’s SO answers and posts elsewhere.


Almost all my questions asked about Fortran on SO got responses from @VladimirF and Ian Bush (is he here?). I also had the privilege of being responded to by Dr. Fortran @sblionel. I have learned a lot from them, and of course from everyone here on the discourse. Many thanks!

It seems that the Top Programming Languages by IEEE is also a quite trustworthy ranking. Fortran ranks 25 in the 2021 edition. I hope to see it mounts steadily with the efforts of the community.

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yeah, this one seems more comprehensive and less biased.

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At Open Hub you can rank languages by projects, contributors, and commits. They divide Fortran into free-format and fixed format:

Fortran (Free-format)

Projects 1,133
Contributors 5,452
Commits 286,146

Fortran (Fixed-format)

Projects 938
Contributors 3,229
Commits 52,258

Since they divide the Fortran community like this, the ranking of either Fortran sub-group is low. The numbers do suggest caution in removing fixed format from the language. I wonder why many projects persist with fixed format.


It is interesting to see that the number of projects is similar but the number of commits to is about 5 times higher for free format.

Fun fact
Is Fortran falling or rising in the TIOBE Index? :thinking:
The more it rises (rating), the more it falls (ranking), or vice-versa :upside_down_face:

Month Ranking Rating
Sept. 2021 17th 1.01%
Oct. 2021 18th 1.08%
Nov. 2021 19th 1.19%

See the curve:

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This is probably our last month in top 20. Enjoy it while it lasts!!

Here is the current graph: Fortran | TIOBE - The Software Quality Company

According to it, the last point is at 1.19%, while the peak in 2005 is 1.06%. We have now overtaken all the peaks in 2005, 2008 and 2015-18.

I don’t know if this is some signal, or still noise.

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Judging by past two years, the winter months (on the northern hemisphere) have been quite productive for Fortran-lang. I think we have the momentum necessary to keep the upwards trend.


I added December below. The rating did dip from November but is up strongly from a year ago, and Fortran remains in the top 20.

| Month | Ranking | Rating | Change YOY |
| Sept. 2021 | 17th | 1.01% |
| Oct. 2021 | 18th | 1.08% |
| Nov. 2021 | 19th | 1.19% |
| Dec. 2021 | 17th | 1.04% | +0.59%

Looking at the long term history below, I don’t think Fortran rose from 6th to 3rd in usage from 1986 to 1991, only to plunge afterwards – the downward trend was probably more steady. Maybe Fortran 90 becoming an ISO standard in 1991 caused the bump in that year.

Very Long Term History

To see the bigger picture, please find below the positions of the top 10 programming languages of many years back. Please note that these are average positions for a period of 12 months.

Programming Language 2021 2016 2011 2006 2001 1996 1991 1986
C 1 2 2 2 1 1 1 1
Python 2 5 7 8 20 27 - -
Java 3 1 1 1 2 15 - -
C++ 4 3 3 3 3 2 2 5
C# 5 4 4 7 11 - - -
Visual Basic 6 13 - - - - - -
JavaScript 7 7 10 10 9 20 - -
PHP 8 6 5 5 10 - - -
Assembly language 9 10 - - - - - -
SQL 10 - - - 35 - - -
Fortran 20 26 29 21 25 7 3 8
Ada 28 30 17 17 18 11 4 2
Lisp 32 27 13 13 16 8 7 3
(Visual) Basic - - 8 4 4 3 8 6

I think Fortran is actually very comparable to Lisp. I don’t know if they include all Lisp variants (like Scheme, Racket, etc.) in it. If so, then it’s surprising how it is going down. It used to be on par with Fortran, then both dipped. But Fortran might have stopped the fall, I am still not completely sure, but it looks promising. Lisp, on the other hand, keeps falling. I also think Lisp is facing a lot of unfair bias against it, just like Fortran. Both are old languages, perhaps with archaic syntax, and people often have strong reactions to both. But if you are able to look past the syntax and evaluate the language on its merit, Lisp has its uses, it’s actually an interesting and influential language. As is Fortran, in different domain.