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I recently found this article/table: http://www.tiobe.com/index.php/content/paperinfo/tpci/index.html

It shows a big rise in Lisp's popularity. Does anyone know more about this? What applications is it gaining popularity in? Are there more Lisp jobs out there lately? Why isn't there a similar increase in Scheme?

I am an enthusiast of Lisp and Scheme so I'm excited to see this. I've never used them professionally but I'd love to oppurtunity to. If anyone knows more about this I'd love to hear it.

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A big rise? It's up 0.38% last month and now commands almost, nearly, a whole 1% of the programming language pie. Looking at stats for previous years, usage is so slight that any minor change in usage gives a wild fluctuation in the graph. Lisp is still a rounding error and that hasn't changed. –  Ant Apr 2 '11 at 15:24
it raised six positions, and im pretty sure that the .38 percent rise means it has gained .38% of total share, not that it has increased .38% of itself. (ie = 1% to 1.38%, not 1% to 1.0038%) –  jon_darkstar Apr 2 '11 at 15:27
out of the many many languages out there, being ranked 15th total is significant IMO –  jon_darkstar Apr 2 '11 at 15:36
@jon_darkstar - No, not really. I mean, even Go is higher than that. It is nothing to be excited about - first, tiobe indes, is not a good measure as has been shown many times before. And second, as Ant said, we're still dealing with values that fit into a statistical error. –  Rook Apr 2 '11 at 16:05
I think what's more significant is the trend line that can be observed from the various languages' charts. Java is obviously losing users over time, as are C and C++. C# seems to be benefiting as it is consistently trending upwards. Lisp is all over the place. One month it's massively more popular than the last, then it plunges again. Overall I can't see that Lisp is doing anything other than bubbling along the same as it ever has. –  Ant Apr 2 '11 at 16:07

3 Answers 3

The methodology behind TIOBE's index really isn't vastly more sophisticated than Googlefight, so I'd take it with a very large grain of salt. Especially, as Ant said, when dealing with numbers as small as sub-1% where random fluctuations can make it look like big things are happening.

Don't believe me? Look at the history for Lisp over TIOBE's history. Up and down like a yoyo. Is it really true that in mid-2004, well over half of the Lisp users in the world abandoned the language? And then within six months, they'd all picked it up again? No, you can't learn anything much of use from such inaccurate measurements.

..but having said that, Lisp's popularity probably is on the rise, and by far the biggest driver of this that I have observed is the attention focused on Clojure.

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It's not inaccurate, it's just like a penny stock - very small changes in the absolute quantity translate to a high % change from previous. –  Aaronaught Jun 14 '11 at 21:11
If we had a perfectly accurate histogram, it would be a little noisy, but nowhere near that noisy. –  Daniel Jun 14 '11 at 23:24

Lisp is fun but can be scary to certain people (I admit, before I took the time to learn it I was intimidated by the parentheses). With languages like Clojure gaining in popularity, it may make people look towards other Lisps.

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As an online discussion of expressive languages grows longer, the probability of a re-post of the XKCD LISP cartoon approaches 1. –  Tim Post Apr 2 '11 at 16:06
@Tim Cartoons plural, though! –  Mark C Jul 29 '11 at 4:39

I think that experience we have collectively accumulated in the software industry is starting to prove that a lot of Lisp concepts were very good ideas from the beginning. Lisp-like features are being adopted by all sorts of languages (REPLs, code-as-data, dynamic typing, functional programming, code generation with macros etc.). Hence we're seeing a general revival of interest in all thing Lispy.

I've personally found it to be a very enlightening experience to learn Lisp in the form of Clojure over the past year (after a lot of experience with Java and C#). Main reasons for this are:

  • It has quite a strong emphasis on functional programming (more so than most other Lisps). The author and BDFL Rich Hickey has cited Haskell as one of his inspirations for the language design which means you get things like fully immutable persistent data structures and lazy infinite sequences etc.
  • Macro metaprogramming - the Lisp "code is data" philosophy is hard to understand unless you've actually experienced it, but it's one of the reasons Lisps are so expressive and productive
  • Fantastic support for multi-core concurrency - I actually think Clojure is the best language for concurrent programming right now. See http://www.infoq.com/presentations/Value-Identity-State-Rich-Hickey for an enlightening presentation about this

It also seems to be a practical choice for real production use for the following reasons:

  • Running on the JVM with very easy Java interoperabilitiy gives you access to all the libraries and tools in the Java ecosystem - a massive advantage for a new language!
  • It's a dynamic language by default, which makes it very convenient for development and rapid prototyping with hardly any boilerplate. However you can add static type hints to get pretty good performance where you need it.

I personally know of people using Clojure in a couple of investment banks and startups. I've also chosen Clojure as the primary development language for my own startup, so I'm willing to put my money where my mouth is :-)

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