Lessons From Stack Overflow’s Developer Survey

If you want to find out what will be mainstream tomorrow, look at what developers are using today. Developers typically embrace new technologies years before they hit the data center. As technology continues to power competitive advantage, developers are increasingly in the driver’s seat when it comes to enterprise technology strategy.

One of the best sources of insight we have into developers thinking is the Stack Overflow Developer Survey. This survey has been running for more than 5 years and elicits more than 60,000 developer responses. It’s the most comprehensive insight into the minds of developers that we can hope for.

Technologies Developers Want

In the survey, developers share the technologies they are using and—perhaps more importantly—the technologies they want to use. These insights can help us understand the likely architectures of next-generation platforms.

JavaScript, HTML, SQL, Python, and Java remain the most commonly used programming languages. These veteran languages—mainstays of web programming for more than 20 years—remain the workhorses of web development. JavaScript continues to dominate front-end development and also has made significant inroads on the back end. Node.js appears to be more popular than .NET or Spring, suggesting that more websites are using JavaScript as a back-end technology than C# or Java.

However, these mainstays of development are not necessarily the popular choices. The most “loved” programming language is the relatively new Rust language, along with TypeScript, Python, Kotlin, and Go.

In terms of operating systems, Linux and Windows predominate, with more than half of professional developers using each. Twenty-five percent of professional developers use MacOS.

Favored Versus Dreaded

As far as cloud platforms, AWS seems to have a strong advantage—30% of respondents used AWS versus only 16% for Azure and 14.5% for Google Cloud. Twenty percent of developers want to learn AWS, while only 10% want to learn Azure. Sentiment for Google Cloud seems particularly poor—39% of developers “dread” Google Cloud.

Not surprisingly, mobile development platforms are widely used. Java appears to remain the dominant platform for Android development, with Swift and Objective-C the most popular for iOS development.

Container technologies have made substantial inroads—39% of respondents use Docker, and almost 13% use Kubernetes. Docker is the most highly “wanted” platform technology— developers not yet using Docker are very keen to learn it.

MySQL continues to be the most popular database technology, followed by PostgresSQL, SQL Server, SQLite, and MongoDB. Oracle, despite its massive lead in revenue share, is used by only about 16% of respondents. When looking at developer sentiment, we see that MongoDB and Postgres are the most wanted databases, while Db2 and Oracle are the most dreaded. When developers have a choice, they will move to these open source databases.

Tools and Techniques

DevOps, a collection of practices involving test auto­mation, and continuous integration and deployment, is con­sidered extremely or somewhat important to about 80% of respondents.

Not surprisingly, GitHub, Slack, and Jira are the most commonly used collaboration tools.

The Stack Overflow survey seems to reflect a development community that is consolidating around several important tools and techniques. DevOps appears entrenched in the mainstream. Container-based technologies such as Docker and Kubernetes continue to gain in importance. Open source databases are also gaining ground on commercial alternatives. And while top cloud vendors still battle for dominance, Amazon maintains a healthy lead.