Why is Fortran Popular Again?

Fortran was in the top 10 of the TIOBE Programming Community Index in April and May, prompting a question from the TIOBE community. Why is this programming language, created in 1957, popular again in 2024? Otherwise, there hasn’t been much movement in the top 10 rankings compared to last month.

The TIOBE Programming Community Index shows trends in programming languages ​​based on search engine volume.

Year-over-year trends from the TIOBE Programming Community Index.
Year-over-year trends from the TIOBE Programming Community Index. Image: TIOBE Software

Why Fortran is back in TIOBE’s top 10

TIOBE Software CEO Paul Jansen noted there are multiple reasons why Fortran is popular again.

First, Fortran is especially good at numerical analysis and computational mathematics. Numerical and mathematical computing is growing because interest in artificial intelligence is growing, Jansen told TechRepublic in an email.

“All those models need to be calculated,” Jansen said.

Fortran has several advantages over other programming languages ​​that can be used in numerical and mathematical computing. Jansen wrote in the May update of the index: “Python: choice number one, but slow, MATLAB: very easy to use for mathematical computations but it comes with expensive licenses, C/C++: mainstream and fast, but they have no native mathematical computation support, R: very similar to Python, but less popular and slow, Julia: the rising new kid on the block, but not mature yet.” Therefore, Fortran is a relatively inexpensive, fast and versatile choice.

Second, Fortran is regaining popularity in the area of ​​image processing, such as that used in gaming and medical imaging, he said.

Fortran is still being updated; the ISO Fortran 2023 specification definition was published in November 2023.

The venerable language is “fast, has native mathematical computation support, mature, and free of charge,” Jansen said.

Other changes in the TIOBE Index in May

Elsewhere in the TIOBE top 10, Python, C and C++ comfortably keep their spots in the top three. Last month, Jansen predicted PHP’s popularity would fade, and he was right. PHP sat at 1.09% popularity in April and 0.97% in May, continuing its downward trend. PHP fell from number eight to number 16 over the last year.