Open Source Developer Survey: Java Still on Top, Mobile Hot, Cloud Not

The Eclipse Foundation has published the results of its annual survey of developers about their usage of Eclipse and other open source tools. Some of the surprising results in "The Eclipse Open Source Developer Report 2012" include the finding that less than half of the respondents reporting that their organizations are deploying applications to the cloud; there's little interest in cross-platform tools for mobile development; and there's serious momentum behind Git as a primary source code management system, which increased to 27 percent from 13 percent last year.

Not-so-surprising: Java continues to be the primary computer language typically used to develop open source software (76 percent), with C/C++ coming in a distant second (7 percent) and dynamic scripter PHP coming in third (5 percent). Also, the popular Maven repository was named as the build and release management product typically used by 42 percent of respondents, up from 31 percent last year. Subversion continues to be the most popular version control system by a mile. And Android and iOS continue to be the most popular targets for mobile development.

This is the fourth year the Foundation has commissioned a survey of developers using open source tools.

"One of the challenges with open source is little direct contact with your customer base," Ian Skerrett, director of marketing for the Eclipse Foundation, told ADTmag. "Finding out what people are doing can be a bit of a challenge. The survey gives us -- and companies building commercial products around Eclipse -- a better understanding of what the Eclipse community is doing."

The Eclipse community was invited to participate in the survey between April 23 and May 15 of this year. Skerrett says the Foundation promoted the survey primarily through social media (Facebook, Twitter) and online forums. Of the 840 people who responded, 732 completed the survey, and it's their responses that led to the results.

The cloud results were somewhat surprising to Skerrett, who suggested two interpretations: "One: there's just a lot of hype around the cloud. Another: people that came to the survey just aren't building that type of application. But it's not exactly what I expected to see."

Skerrett acknowledged that the mobile development numbers in this survey are likely to be skewed, because Google encourages people to use Eclipse for their Android development. But he was struck by the responses to the question: "What mobile frameworks and platforms do you use?" The top answer: "None, only use the Mobile OS SDK" (59.6 percent).

"Developers using open source seem to care less about cross-platform development in the mobile space," Skerrett said. "They're not really using the frameworks, and seem to be happy to target the mobile platforms using the SDK to develop directly for them. It might also mean that the frameworks (jQuery Mobile 28.6 percent, PhoneGap 17.9 percent, Sencha Touch 7.9 percent, Dojo Mobile 4.9 percent, Appcelerator 2.8 percent) have a ways to go to be truly cross-platform. But this is a trend I want to watch. I'd expect over time to see these numbers change."

The accelerating usage of Maven, Skerrett suggested, was probably the result of efforts to integrate the repository with Eclipse. "It's just a lot easier to use," he said.

He also allowed that the enormous popularity of Java over other languages among respondents in this survey probably doesn't reflect the industry as a whole. "That's an obvious bias in this survey," he said.

This year's survey included two new questions: "Why do you contribute or participate in an open source project?" and "Do you spend time developing software/applications on your own personal time?" Most respondents (71 percent) reported contributing or participating in open source projects. And most respondents (84 percent) said they spend at least some of their personal time coding.

The complete survey details are available for download in spreadsheet form in .xls and .ods formats. Also, Skerrett has blogged about the survey.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].