Python “Surpasses” Perl?

There has been some buzz going around about Python “surpassing” Perl in terms of “popularity”:

http://mail.python.org/pipermail/python-list/2008-November/517191.html

However, they’re basing their results on the TIOBE survey, which is, in my opinion, even dodgier than my own, at http://www.langpop.com . It’s really difficult to pin this sort of thing down, but I think that by utilizing more data sources, my own numbers bear some relationship to what my “ear to the ground” tells me about what’s going on, and certainly more than TIOBE’s, which place D, Logo and Lua above things like Tcl/Tk. I know Tcl is not the hottest thing out there these days, but…Logo? D is gaining in popularity, but how many companies are hiring D programmers, how much code is out there written in D? I’m not saying that D is “bad” or “not worthy” because of that – quite the contrary, I think it’s on its way up, but there are a lot of things you have to look at in order to take a stab at creating some meaningful numbers, and even then it’s important to remember that popularity isn’t everything! In any case, picking a precise moment in time when one language “passes” another is also a bit more theater than science, in my opinion.

Getting back to Perl and Python, I thought I’d look at some numbers of my own. Unfortunately they only go back a year, but they already give us an idea of what’s going on. In order to concentrate on something fairly concrete, let’s look at Freshmeat projects:

Perl is still clearly more widely used. However, I think there’s an important distinction to be made in terms of popularity. Since many systems that function ok stay around for years, there’s a big difference between what’s being used for new systems, and what’s out there already. Perl has a lot of code out there already, but how fast is it growing in comparison to Python?

Python’s definitely got the edge – it’s growing, whereas Perl was very nearly static. To me that does indicate that Python has got momentum right now, where Perl is sort of coasting.

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