I’ve never taken the TIOBE Programming Community Index overly seriously. It’s not really a gauge of anything overly meaningful. As TIOBE itself explains:
The TIOBE Programming Community index gives an indication of the popularity of programming languages. The index is updated once a month. The ratings are based on the number of skilled engineers world-wide, courses and third party vendors. The popular search engines Google, MSN, Yahoo!, and YouTube are used to calculate the ratings.
In other words, the index is more of a hypeometer than anything else, and the results posted each month are more of an item of curiosity than anything substantive.
And this seems to be validated by the following statements which appeared in TIOBE’s May Newsflash:
Richard Bremner pointed out that ColdFusion is not a programming language. It is a framework comparable to JSP and ASP. As a consequence, ColdFusion has been removed from the TIOBE list. All its history has been deleted, which means that the history of the index has changed a bit as well.
I have no idea of who Richard Bremner is, or who made him the authority on the subject, but … he’s either mistaken, ignorant, or some combination thereof. Let’s analyze this brilliance:
The Wikipedia definition of programming language is: an artificial language that can be used to control the behavior of a machine, particularly a computer. Programming languages are defined by syntactic and semantic rules which describe their structure and meaning respectively. Many programming languages have some form of written specification of their syntax and semantics; some are defined only by an official implementation. ColdFusion is indeed used to control the behavior of a machine, it does have syntactic and semantic rules, and it does have a written form.
So, as per Wikipedia, ColdFusion is most definitely a language. But is ColdFusion a framework? Again, let’s use Wikipedia which defines software framework as: a code library that is designed to help software development. The idea is that all of the tedious, low-level details of creating an application are already in a reusable package. For a developer, this means you can spend your time worrying about specific problems related to your application, and not the actual building of the code behind it. For example, a developer can quickly and easily access a database using a framework, rather than having to write all of the code required to accomplish this simple task. Well, ColdFusion does indeed include a massive library of pre-written reusable code, and it does indeed attempt to prevent having to mess with tedious low-level details allowing developers to worry about what’s important for their application.
So, is ColdFusion a framework? I’d have to say not really. For starters, while ColdFusion may include a software framework, that is not a part of the core CFML (ColdFusion Markup Language). Yes, it is possible to use the provided functionality to simplify talking to databases, but that is not required. The libraries and packages included with ColdFusion are much like the standard libraries that come with all languages, from C to Java and more – they are pre-written libraries that are meant to help developers so that not everyone has to reinvent the wheel, but they are not part of the language itself.
Here’s another way to look at it. Imagine you had the ability to write code in plain text files and save them to disk. Then you could run a compiler which would process those files and generate Java bytecode which could be executed inside the Java runtime. Now consider the code you wrote, code that had to adhere to a defined syntax and structure, and which indeed used provided libraries where appropriate, and could then be executed to perform some action. Would you say that you used a language? I’d think so. And that language is called Java. Or, that language may be called CFML, which, just like Java, compiles to Java bytecode for execution. So, to be consistent, TIOBE must include CFML as a language just like Java, or it should remove Java from its index too, just like it did ColdFusion.
The bottom line is that CFML is a language, but ColdFusion is the combination of CFML language plus runtime libraries (what may be called the ColdFusion framework). In other words, if TIOBE truly wanted to improve the quality of their index, they could have simply used “CFML” (or ColdFusion Markup Language) instead of “ColdFusion” as the language name. But writing ColdFusion off as a language altogether demonstrates a remarkable lack of understanding as to what the product and technology actually is.

42 thoughts

  1. Ben,
    Is TIOBE run by a single dictator or is there anyone to which we can appeal this ludricous decision?

  2. Man, I was having an identity crisis. This morning I woke up with a dream that I was just a "framework developer" and that I had been living a lie all this time. Whew. Just a dream. I agree that someone at TIOBE is indeed, not paying attention.

  3. It’s probably another case of "I’ve never used CFML but I presume to know all about it"… I think we should all be used to these ridiculous misconceptions by now 😛

  4. Thats the most idiotic thing I have ever heard.
    I can understand that saying ASP and JSP are not languages on their own as they are part of VB and Java respectively. But CF isn’t part of any other language it IS indeed a language just because it’s tag based doesn’t mean it isnt a language hell PHP is still up there!
    Someone should get a hold of the of folks at TIOBE…hopefully they have a backup…

  5. Ben,
    This blog post is very well written.
    I found confusion in their reasoning…. I mean, on the one hand, they exclude CFML because of some reasoning but keep others that fall into the same reasoning….
    A duck is a duck.
    To quote their own guideline "ASP and ASP.NET are also not programming languages because they make use of other languages such as JavaScript and VBScript or .NET compatible languages"….
    Okay…. uh…. I don’t know if you guys at TIOBE are aware… but you’re site is made in PHP.. and seems to be using a fair bit of JS…. etc…. I’m not sure how PHP passes your "Turing completeness" rule by your own standards!
    ??????
    I’m not sure if I could take anything else they write seriously ever again….

  6. The problem is that the naysayers and cfbashers that live over on slashdot take tiobe seriously because it reinforces their bias against CF.
    I would suggest that they re-evaluate their entire index if they have removed cfml then they really need to remove php and a bunch of others in the bottom of the list.

  7. Email tpci@tiobe.com and tell them that CF IS a programming language (CFML). We are called ColdFusion programmers, not CFML programmers.
    Befre they removed it from the list, CF was number 20 in popularity and rising fast.
    I have been a ColdFusion programmer for 10 years and have to tell you that ColdFusion IS a programming language and should be included in the programming index.
    Please send your emails to tpci@tiobe.com

  8. Email tpci@tiobe.com and tell them that CF IS a programming language (CFML). We are called ColdFusion programmers, not CFML programmers.
    Befre they removed it from the list, CF was number 20 in popularity and rising fast.
    I have been a ColdFusion programmer for 10 years and have to tell you that ColdFusion IS a programming language and should be included in the programming index.
    Please send your emails to tpci@tiobe.com

  9. Ben, your blog post comes across to me as very disingenuous. Did you give TIOBE a chance to respond before you posted this? Did you even contact them?
    If you’ve never taken TIOBE Programming Community Index seriously, why is the omission of ColdFusion so serious? Would you be saying the same thing if ColdFusion had jumped to the top 10?

  10. I’ll just throw in that I took David’s challenge and emailed the folks, saying they should have just renamed it to CFML. Let’s hope they’ll listen if they get enough push back.

  11. OK, I sent my email to them. Included the below sentiment.
    ——————
    It’s so odd that we used to get a bad wrap for being "that server side-scripting language (implemented in C++) that doesn’t scale well".
    And now that our "language", CFML, get’s compiled down to Java byte-code and run in the JVM, it somehow isn’t a language at all anymore.

  12. Gary, I hear you, and have indeed heard the same from others. But I personally have not run into anyone who really places much stock in the TIOBE index one way or the other. If you know otherwise then I’d be interested in hearing more (and I’d be rather dismayed too, I think).
    Patrick, actually, I have only ever mentioned the TIOBE index once before, back in January 2006, and I did indeed point out back then that I have little faith in the numbers or what they mean. And when TIOBE did report a jump in the CF number recently (putting CF in the Top 20) I did not mention it here at all. So yes, I think that does make me consistent, and not at all disingenuous. And no, I did not contact TIOBE before making my post (not now, nor when they have reported CF rising in the index), but several others did. I did, however, send them a link to the post after I posted it just so they should be aware what was being said about them. Regardless, my point simply is that if they are positioning themselves as the experts, and if they have faith in their own numbers, then a little knowledge about the subject matter should be a prerequisite.
    — Ben

  13. You’re right to call TIOBE hype. One of their "methodologies" is to search resumes and count the number of people who claim to know a particular language. Nearly everyone claims to know Java, C, and VB. The number of people actually proficient in those languages is significantly lower (as anyone who has tried to hire a programmer knows). As a result, TIOBE’s rating for Java, C, and VB is greatly exaggerated. I have no doubt that these are the most popular languages, but their ratings are exaggerated nonetheless.
    On the other hand, ColdFusion (and some of the other languages on their list) are known and used by only a few people. Nobody even bothers to put Coldfusion on their resume unless they’ve actually used it. Certainly, with ColdFusion, there is no epidemic of people who have read, "Learn VB in 8 hours for Dummies" books and then put it on their resume because they want to seem cool. If someone says they know ColdFusion, there’s a good chance they actually do. As a result, their rating for ColdFusion might actually be accurate.
    And their rating (before they pulled it) showed ColdFusion’s popularity increasing.
    Bottom line: TIOBE is mostly hype. The signal-to-noise ratio for the majority of their ratings makes those ratings useless. However, the CF rating might be accurate, and that rating was favorable toward CF.

  14. We all emailed them asking them to provide a more detailed explanation of why CFML is not a programming language, riiight? I did. Well actually I didn’t. I just explained that they are wrong.

  15. Ben,
    It is clear that Tiobe has been mislead by this Richard Bremner guy, whoever that is. Here is a snippet from their FAQ:
    "ASP and ASP.NET are also not programming languages because they make use of other languages such as JavaScript and VBScript or .NET compatible languages. The same is true for frameworks such as Ruby on Rails, ColdFusion, Cocoa, and technologies such as AJAX."
    ColdFusion does NOT "make use" of other languages like ASP does. It is written in Java, but then again the same could be said for most of the languages on their list (they are written in another language, but the developer doesn’t generally know or care about that). Unlike ASP, we write our code in ColdFusion. ASP developers write their code in C# or VB. The comparison doesn’t hold water.
    I can see their point about Rails or Ajax, but comparing ColdFusion to Rails just doesn’t make sense. It would be better to compare FuseBox or Model Glue to Rails, and exclude those from the list.
    I’ve been toying with the idea of making a REAL community index project, something that could be managed by a community and that would have real science behind it. But who has time for such things? For now I’ll just ignore Tiobe, like most everybody else…

  16. I just used tiobe’s search on Richard Bremner – his name has never been published on their site before.

  17. To further add to your Java/CF argument, there’s another language, called Scala, that compiles to Java bytecode. It is listed at position 50 on the index.

  18. I wonder why Delphi is listed? I thought Delphi was a software development package that uses Object Pascal and at the end of the day is compiled down to .NET byte code.
    Clearly Delphi is not a programming language.

  19. Ben,
    I read your previous post on TIOBE, and yes, you could not be more consistent.
    But it doesn’t sound like you and several others gave TIOBE a chance to correct the gaffe before pouncing on them and Richard Bremner. I don’t think that reflects well on the ColdFusion community.

  20. Apparently, CFML is now a programming language according to TIOBE. However, they (the Standards Company) cannot restore the data.

  21. Ok, so Tiobe responded with a lame ass comment at the end of the FAQ page. Here’s the thing – "ColdFusion" lists at #20, and "CFML" lists at #135 (according to the FAQ). So, how is this index calculated? It looks like its just a search of the web for references – therefore, if we all blogged more about it, CFML would all of a sudden be a more widely used language?
    More importantly, how to we game this system? Its broken, and we all know that, so now its time to show it up as a sham. What would we need to do, collectively, to jump "CFML" back up into the top 20, and then put egg on TIOBE’s face?
    Cheers,
    Davo

  22. Ben – do you think the same conclusion could be made about "SAS" on the tiobe index? While there is a SAS Programming language, SAS is defined on Wikipedia as "an integrated system of software products provided by SAS Institute that enables the programmer to perform:
    * data entry, retrieval, management, and mining
    * report writing and graphics
    * statistical analysis
    * business planning, forecasting, and decision support
    * operations research and project management
    * quality improvement
    * applications development
    * Data warehousing (extract, transform, load)
    * platform independent and remote computing"
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SAS_System
    That’s quite a menu for just one little programming language – it seems tiobe isn’t quite as judicious when it comes to SAS as it was with ColdFusion.
    Cheers,
    Davo

  23. @David
    I got the same lame response, but they STILL claim ColdFusion is a framework in the updated FAQ. Grrrr. Ignorance is bliss… I guess…

  24. Are they counting CF in java then? or just CF coding doesn’t count anywhere anymore?
    I think I have to talk to my boss and tell him that I m not a programmer anymore.

  25. Oddly enough, I don’t find this surprising and I think this may be symptomatic of a deeper issue regarding CFML, ColdFusion and perception.
    In fact, in a way it’s not much different than the "ColdFusion is dead" meme that floats around every 6 months.
    ColdFusion is dead!
    No it’s not!
    ColdFusion isn’t a programming language!
    Yes it is!
    That underlying perception issue is what really needs to be dealt with…

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  27. I’m sure you all feel pain. I’m sorry. Let’s let the mourning process start.
    "I’ve never taking the TIOBE community seriously." Since they bashed my beloved.
    [I] "included the below sentiment." Did that help??
    It might be time for the 4 of you all CF developers to move on to a real language….like Powershell!!

  28. Oh, come on, Cliff. CF jobs are like 0. (Keep in mind we’re in a recession because of elitists. You know, pay-to-playists.)
    And, isn’t there some connection to oil? (Maybe government use of ColdFusion is clogging the pipes. Let’s reduce costs, bro, not INcrease them.)
    Too bad all of these ColdFusion government developers MAY be out of work. Blackwater rearranged may spell ColdFusion!!!

  29. I was just kidding about the powershell remark. But I don’t believe anyone should be using something as expensive as CF to deploy apps. Honestly, maybe places are realizing they can no longer pay-to-play.
    Just to follow up. Let’s see…in my area, within 200 miles, but since gas is so high, maybe I should reduce this to within 4 miles:
    Parameters:
    Site: monster.com
    City: (Central New York), NY
    Within: 200 miles
    keywords: coldfusion (maybe it’s because I spelled it wrong, e.g. caps, that it didn’t return so many results.)
    cfDUMP: 29
    Here are the results returned for php. Sure, this can be many things. People hire someone they think knows php, there could be other than things related to the term "php" or, who knows, it could be people are using a REAL programming language instead of a framework, like, well, PHP.
    Site: monster.com
    City: (Central New York), NY
    Within: 200 miles
    Keywords: php (Didn’t spell this one right either to make a point.)
    $ results: 254
    Just to be fair:
    Java: 931
    .NET: 601
    "C Program": 284 (the keyword C would bring back to much obviously.)
    C++: 515
    Visual Basic: 563
    PERL: 339
    Python: 70
    Having ColdFusion in the TIOBE results would do nothing more than skew it. A growth of 1 percent means much more when the number of people use it jump from 10 to 11!

  30. Hey Zeb – thanks for replying to your own comments, I really appreciate that. Just so we’re clear, can you define "expensive" for us? To help you out, lets say we have a team of three developers that have a total cost of, lets say, 75k each (including benefits etc).
    Cheers,
    Davo

  31. Glad to be of service. 🙂
    Expensive: Not worth its intrinsic value.
    One dedicated server: $9,600 per year.
    One CF enterprise-level distribution license: $7,500.
    Spending 16 months, and finally, finding a person from CFUnited to take one of three jobs open: $6,500.
    Pretty standard rate of hiring and preparing person with institutional knowledge: $15,000.
    Underpaying person and having what appears to be substandard insurance if total employee cost is 75K/year which causes person to leave a year after starting to find a job at a "Web design firm" that’s closer to home thanks to inflated fuel costs, if he or she is so lucky: priceless, I guess.
    YMMV

  32. OK, so the dedicated server is something you would need regardless, so there’s no win/loss there vs. java, php, etc.
    I don’t know what your personal experience is in finding the right talent – I’m afraid I have never had the same experience, but I’ll grant you that $6,500 for any employee through a search firm is about right at this level. Finding the right person is essential no matter what technology you use, I’m sure you’ll agree.
    Not sure where the 15k comes from, and the 75k was a pure example – I know its underpaying, so no need to bring that into it. Is that 15k the "getting up to speed" hit in productivity when you hire someone initially? If so, then that applied across the board.
    It seems like the only figure that we differ on right now is the cost of an enterprise license. We can bear in mind that not everyone needs enterprise licenses, but lets use that number for now.
    What you are representing is 7.5k out of a 225k employee investment, over a two year period (upgrades would be about half that, thereafter). Or, to put it another way, the difference is a 1.6% increase per annum on the initial investment (and half that, thereafter).
    "Expensive" is a relative term, but for me, a 1.6% investment doesn’t cut it.
    Cheers,
    Davo

  33. Hi Davo,
    Thanks for the conversation.
    "I’m afraid I have never had the same experience…"
    As mentioned, your miles may vary.
    "Finding the right person is essential no matter what technology you use, I’m sure you’ll agree."
    Agreed.
    Re: the 15k cost for hiring. A study was released a few years back that indicated that figure as a good baseline for which to compensate when budgeting for hiring. I think that one just stuck in my noggin. Subsequent studies have indicated more of a percentage of the gross annual salary – low 12%, high, I saw, 25%. TechRepublic also released a report a couple of years back that indicated something similar, e.g. for a 24K/year position, cost was closer to 38K after all was said and done. These are primarily centered around the wetware costs, not hardware/software costs. (Sure, Aptana is free but little else is, including that which shall not be named.) (I’m also not sure if those figures include the share in legal fees for non-compete/-disclosure/-yadda/-yadda and lastly, yadda. Nor do they go into "bad seed" syndrome.)
    As you mentioned, a 1.6% investment doesn’t count as "expensive". I’m not seeing the investment the same. I’m seeing 225K not resulting in enough sales to warrant continuing a product for a niche audience. Since, back to my original point that there are 25 jobs potentially going to use it. (Granted that number is my immediate area in my immediate time but, hey, it’s a bit of an interesting number in my opinion.)
    I’d be better of selling PHP apples on a Windows off-ramp.
    Thanks again!
    Zeb

  34. Right Zeb – I thought thats what the 15k was about, and that makes sense. My point is that regardless of the technology you choose, you will have to "assume" (for want of a better word) that cost, so be it PHP, Java or ColdFusion you’re still on the same level.
    That essentially means the the only difference in the costs you outlined – and I think you got the major ones – is the additional cost of ColdFusion.
    Now, the 225k (75kx3) was purely a speculative number – you yourself made note of how low it was in a previous comment – but I was just trying to get SOME number out there that we could work with. You also agree that 1.6% is not expensive. (if the developers get paid more the %age comes down, of course)
    So, it seems we’re just down to a different interpretation of the investment part. You mention "225K not resulting in enough sales to warrant continuing a product for a niche audience." and I’ll ask you for help with this.
    If you use PHP, ASP or CF, your resulting products are web based, browser accessible product. I don’t use ColdFusion as a product to sell services to other ColdFusion developers – I am developing all sorts of interactive, web based products. I can see your argument if, say, my business model was to create paid components for CF. I’d probably try to create paid components for PHP and ASP/.Net because there is a bigger target market. But you wouldn’t be using CF to do that anyway, you’d be writing your components in Java and taking advantage of the Java market also.
    So, as far as I see it, the decision to use ColdFusion comes down to whether you think the tool set you are paying for, gives you that extra 1.6% productivity per annum, across your team, to deliver web based products to the business world as a whole.
    If not, then it would indicate that you don’t see the point in investing in ColdFusion – that’s different from it being "expensive" and coining it as such because it has to be paid for.
    Cheers,
    Davo

  35. Hey Davo…
    Your wushu is strong.
    (Understood. The 225K was rhetorical. We can let bygones be bygones on that one.)
    But, let’s come back to the definition I used – "not worth its intrinsic value." When one can shovel poo with a steel shovel – or wood shovel for that matter, I mean, we are shoveling poo in this example – why would one want to shovel poo with a gold-plated shovel only *marketed* to be a better poo-shoveler. You said it doesn’t come down to the worker, because the investment is the same. It doesn’t come down to the dedicated server, because the investment is the same. So, it would come down to the tool. Right? Other shovels cost less, don’t they? That is, they’re less expensive.
    I agree with you. To me, you said it all with your statement, "…[I] don’t see the point in investing in ColdFusion."
    However, I’d like to respond a bit, it is expensive when there are other tools out there that don’t require purchase of a <cfgoldenpooshovel>. The <cfgoldenpooshovel> isn’t expensive to some – I’ll give you that. But, ColdFusion, in my opinion, is nothing more than the bourgeoisie trying to convince the world that $300 shoes are better than $20 shoes from stuff-mart. They’re made of the same material, they wear out in the same time; what, exactly, makes the $300 – read, more expensive, shoes better?
    You’re right. I do not see the point in investing in ColdFusion because it is expensive. It is expensive because it has more of a cost – beyond what you mentioned previously, e.g. developers, servers, etc. I am only speaking of the cost of ColdFusion. Excluding those other things you mentioned, it is more expensive than other solutions, is it not? (I’m actually still not willing to give up that it’s more difficult to find someone to actually perform.)
    To be clear, I’m not a <cfhater> – good name for a blog though. To be honest, <cfgoldenpooshovel> would be a good name for a blog too! (Actually, I think <cfgoldenpooshovel> should replace <cfdump> in the next release.) 🙂
    Take care!
    The always non-sequitur,
    Zeb

  36. Hi zeb and David,
    I just wanted to throw this out… as I’m following your conversation from far…
    Zeb, I believe that David made this as his point about not seeing the point in investing in CF….
    "ColdFusion comes down to whether you think the tool set you are paying for, gives you that extra 1.6% productivity per annum"
    +
    "If not, then it would indicate that you don’t see the point in investing in ColdFusion"
    I’m not sure that that David was comparing poo shovels, but saying that if he can actually conclude that if the company’s production is up because of the golden poo shovel…. then the cost (or investment) can be well justified.
    That’s my 2 cents….

  37. This should be more relatable to reality than a hypothetical situation, shouldn’t it? What you’re saying is that CF can be worth the cost relative to a rhetorical situation. Abso-smurfly! I agree. It can even be worth it in a real world situation.
    However, within the definition I used, the worth is directly related to the intrinsic value. The intrinsic value is based on the cost of CF as a programming tool. This intrinsic value would be in relation to the intrinsic values of other programming tools.
    What I’m saying is, it is a fact there are other utilities, e.g. Programming Tool A, Programming Tool B, etc. Each of these tools has an intrinsic value associated as well, otherwise known as a cost. In this case, ColdFusion, is, in fact, expensive in comparison to other tools out there that perform similar, if not the same, functions.
    I’m surprised it wasn’t picked up when Davo said, the only difference in costs I outlined was the cost of ColdFusion. Despite the tangent on best business practices, the cost of ColdFusion was what stimulated the debate based on my original point.
    I do apologize for allowing myself to go down the path discussing business best practices. I should have worked harder to keep the discussion on track.
    Thanks again! Have good days!

  38. Zeb, I don’t see your last comment having any effect on what we’ve discussed already. Yes, real life examples would be great, but everyone has a real life example, so that comes down to personal situation – we could be here all day talking about stories from the trenches. However, we *have* touched on the most important points thus far.
    I understand and agree with your comments about "intrinsic value" – and that was what my previous comments attempted to answer.
    IF you can find a product that offers all of the features that CF does, AND it costs less, then yes, CF is expensive when compared with that other option. IF you don’t need the features that CF has included and will never use them, AND you can use a development tool for less than the cost of a CF license, then YES, CF is expensive. There’s nothing earth shattering there (I hope you agree). ColdFusion in those instances would be the expensive *option* at your disposal.
    Lets get a little more complicated than running shoes and shovels – a friend of mine bought a mini van last year, the cost was about 25k. Now, that is "expensive" when compared to a no-frills Honda Civic, however, my friend has 5 kids (God bless them!) and a civic just wasn’t an option. He wasn’t comparing the cost of the mini van to a civic, he was comparing it to other mini vans.
    Now, with ColdFusion, if you can’t get a 1.6% increase in productivity (compared to using other development tools), across your team, every year, I can only assume you are not using any of the productivity features included in ColdFusion. And that’s cool, but a blanket statement that ColdFusion is "expensive" just isn’t correct (the statement I originally took exception to).
    I don’t think we’ve gotten off subject – I think we’re heading in the right direction, and, again, I think we mostly agree with each other. It seems to me that the next logical progression of such a conversation would be to discuss the feature sets of the various tools, and where they apply to business needs. I think that horse has been rode, elsewhere, and I’m sure you can find plenty of people out there that will re-hash the argument. But I do think it comes down to, as you said, a personal situation.
    Cheers,
    Davo

  39. @Zeb, I was writing this when I saw David’s last note pop up. I’ll still go ahead and share this.
    The point that seems to be lost, instead, is that we’d argue that the productivity and features that CF brings to the table would
    Ben here has

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