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Does anyone know why the Lua progamming language has seen such a rise in popularity recently? I am going by the TIOBE ratings. http://www.tiobe.com/index.php/paperinfo/tpci/Lua.html I've used Lua in the past when I worked at a game development shop, but did not think it was used outside of that arena. Now it is the 11th most popular language according to TIOBE http://www.tiobe.com/index.php/content/paperinfo/tpci/index.html Has there been any recent activity or news that might have caused this sudden surge?


EDIT: I am particularly interested in the extreme increase over the last year as shown in this chart: Lua History

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closed as not constructive by Jarrod Roberson, Thomas Owens Apr 10 '12 at 12:54

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Hi pauleck1, speculation isn't on-topic here. Is there a specific problem you're facing that's got you thinking about Lua's popularity? If so, can you revise your question to ask about that, instead? –  user8 Aug 26 '11 at 19:15
@Mark Trapp I have reworded my question and think it should be reopened. I am not looking for speculation but rather am hoping someone might have an insightful answer, backed up by facts. –  Paul Aug 26 '11 at 19:35
World Of Warcraft. Simple as that. :) –  Jetti Aug 26 '11 at 19:36
But why would that be affecting it so recently? WOW has been around for years. –  Paul Aug 26 '11 at 19:38
TIOBE's ratings are based on search results. Perhaps the spike was due to two Slashdot posts on May 18 and May 20, 2011. These dates appear to coincide with the spike shown in the graph you linked. –  Joey Adams Aug 26 '11 at 20:01

6 Answers 6

Lua doesn't actually have a popularity curve like that. It just shows that TIOBE's ratings are fundamentally inaccurate.

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Lua is used to script the interface for World of Warcraft. The popularity rises from having a huge install base (about 11,000,000 subscribers). There are a number of books specific to Lua and WOW. Looking at the chart, it shows a rise from about one year after WOW was released.

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I've always attributed Lua's popularity to WoW. –  IAbstract Aug 26 '11 at 21:42
Thanks for your answer. I was actually only referring to the rise in the past year or so. Also, the rise in popularity in 2007 actually seems to be about 2 years after it was released according to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_of_Warcraft –  Paul Aug 26 '11 at 22:34
@Alex: WoW's subscriber numbers were dropping before that. Cataclysm doesn't mark a large increase in the mod install base at all. –  DeadMG Sep 7 '11 at 17:13
also Civilization V in late 2010 –  Travis Christian Sep 7 '11 at 22:06

Ohloh.net indexes lots and lots of open source code repositories and shows the following Lua trends based on 52,085,097 total lines (42,924,454 code lines, 4,214,618 comment lines and blank lines 4,946,025) in 3,741 projects, with 5,805 contributers who've made 213,323 commits.

Monthly Projects (Percent of Total)
The lines show the count of projects with at least one line of code changed in a month.

Monthly Projects (Percent of Total)

Monthly Contributors (Percent of Total)
The lines show the number of developers who have contributed at least one line of code in each month.

Monthly Contributors (Percent of Total)

Monthly Commits (Percent of Total)
The lines show the count of monthly commits made by source code developers. Commits including multiple languages are counted once for each language.

Monthly Commits (Percent of Total)

As you can see, the charts all show roughly the same trend (with notable increases in 2006; World of Warcraft came out in 2004). They don't have the same peak as the TPCI chart.

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Note: This is really just my opinion based on experience and research, but I don't have any scientific facts readily available to back up my post.

There are a number of reasons why one would want to embed an interpreter into a compiled application (but that's not what you asked and is the subject of another discussion).

Out of the possible languages that could be used (i.e. Javascript, Python, Lua, etc), Lua has two great qualities:

  • The interpreter (AFAIK) is the smallest one out of the bunch
  • The simplicity of the language: Lua employs a lot less rules than the other mentioned languages and is therefore easier to pick up and hack something out with. You don't necessarily need to be an engineer to write Lua.

One of the things that I looked at when looking at embedding a scripting language into my own spare-time projects had to do with the second point: I just wanted to get stuff done, so spending a lot of time learning another language wasn't high on my priority list (Lua seemed great for that).

There are also a few debuggers available (such as Decoda), which help Lua stand out from the pack a little.

As a side note, Havok Script is a commercial Lua-compatible VM, so that may have helped the popularity a bit as well.

Having said all that, I'm sure that the fact that Blizzard has used Lua so successfully in WoW hasn't hurt the popularity at all ;)

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The TIOBE report cites the recent rise in popularity of mobile application frameworks like Corona which are Lua-based.

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The Corona SDK also uses Lua. The Corona SDK allows developers to create applications for Apple and Android devices. It's a language that looks and feels much like Actionscript. This helps Flash developers easily transfer their existing games into mobile games. I had to do a project last year (before Jobs decided to ax the third party developing environments) and the Corona SDK helped out a ton. I'm pretty sure that it takes the Lua code and converts it into native device code (Objective-C, Java, etc.). Here's a link to their site Corona SDK

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