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C++ creator upbeat on its future

Bjarne Stroustrup claims that the programming language has never been bigger, but not everyone agrees.

OXFORD, England--The creator of the C++ programming language claims there has been a backlash against some of the newer programming languages such as Java and C#, with developers moving back to using C++.

Bjarne Stroustrup, who currently works as a professor at Texas A&M University and is creator of the C++ programming language, said Wednesday in an interview here at the ACCU Conference it is a misperception that C++ is being overtaken by newer languages such as Java and C#.

"C++ is bigger than ever," Stroustrup said. "There are more than 3 million C++ programmers. Everywhere I look there has been an uprising--more and more projects are using C++. A lot of teaching was going to Java, but more are teaching C++ again. There has been a backlash."

He claimed the main reason why people are not aware of this is because C++ doesn't have a "propaganda campaign." Sun Microsystems has touted the use of Java in the Mars Rover program, for example, but Stroustrup asserts that C++ was also used. For example, C++ was used for scene analysis and route planning in the Mars Rover autonomous driving system, according to Stroustrup.

Data from analyst firm Evans Data, which carries out regular developer surveys, appears to contradict Stroustrup's claim that C++ is growing. Evans Data has found that the percentage of developers using C++ has steadily declined over the last six years--from 76 percent in the spring 1998 to 46 percent in fall 2004. But it expects the rate of decline in C++ developers to be "considerably slower" in the next few years.

Janel Garvin, chief executive of Evans Data, said it found that Java use has declined slightly over the last few years. "Java use in North America continually increased until it peaked in 2001 or 2002," Garvin said. "Use has decreased slightly since then across the board, but remains strong."

John Rymer an analyst from Forrester Research said that Stroustrup's estimate of around 3 million C++ developers is "plausible." Forrester Research's latest survey found that C++, Microsoft Visual Basic and Java are used by many companies in their production systems. The survey, which spoke to more than 100 companies, found that C/C++, Visual Basic or Java was used in production systems by 59 percent, 61 percent and 66 percent of companies, respectively.

RedMonk analyst James Governor said it is misguided that Java and Microsoft languages such as Visual Basic and C# are the main languages in use.

"Basically the notion that there are only two languages--Java and something Microsoft--is just hogwash," Governor said. "C++ still has a role and dynamic scripting languages, such as PHP and Python, are growing, not shrinking, in importance."

Ingrid Marson of ZDNet UK reported from Oxford.