RebelLabs Java Community Survey: IntelliJ, Kotlin Popularity Growing

About this time every year RebelLabs, the independent research arm of Java toolmaker ZeroTurnaround, publishes its annual Developer Productivity Report, which is based on a survey of more than 2,000 Java developers. And each year the surveyors tweak their inquiry to provide a unique focus. This year they asked the question, "Why do you use the Java tools you use and how satisfied are you with them?"

It's a good question.

"We're a tools vendor, so obviously this information is very interesting to us, and useful for our business," said Simon Maple, ZeroTurnaround's director of developer relations and co-leader of the London Java Community. "But we also think it's good for the community to have a clearer picture of overall trends, and that's why we share it."

Maple and company have added a new feature to this year's report: a link to the raw data. "We offer our representation of the data and we made the data and our analysis open, so you can check our claims, maybe do some additional research, and draw your own conclusions," he said.

"If you are interested in any findings not covered in this report," wrote the report's coauthor, Oleg Šelajev, in a blog post, "just clone a repository, fiddle with the SQL queries a bit and publish any interesting nuggets of information you find interesting." Šelajev is an engineer, author, speaker, lecturer, and advocate at ZeroTurnaround.

This year's report focused on several categories of tools: Integrated Development Environments (IDEs), programming languages, application stacks, databases, and project architectures. It also looked at why some teams are implementing DevOps culture and some are avoiding it. The most surprising finding for Maple: the rapidly growing popularity of IntelliJ IDEA and the relative decline of Eclipse.

Among the three Java IDEs, all of which were relatively well represented in the report data, IntelliJ IDEA was the clear choice among Java developers, with a whopping 54 percent. The Eclipse IDE got the nod from 33 percent, and 13 percent said they use NetBeans.

"When I saw this, I was very surprised and said, hang on, let's plot this against all the trends we've tracked in previous years," Maple said. (This RebelLabs' sixth annual survey.) "When we did that, we could see that this was not an anomaly."

Maple allowed that most of the respondents to the RebelLabs survey were probably developers able to buy their tools, which could skew the results away from users of the free Eclipse and NetBeans IDEs. But the trend, he said, is unmistakable.

One surprising result: Kotlin, a relatively new language that targets the JVM, Android, and JavaScript, and also compiles to native code, proved to be the most well-liked programming language among survey respondents, earning a satisfaction average of 9.1 (out of 10), and it was the most frequently named technology; respondents were clearly excited about it and happy to work with it

Among the survey's other results:

  • Java 8 adoption continues to grow; almost 72 percent of the respondents said their main programming language is Java 8
  • 47 percent of respondents reported using Spring as their application stack
  • 27 percent of respondents said the reason for implementing DevOps is to deliver features to the customer faster
  • 47 percent of respondents said performance directly influences the bottom line of their project
  • Project architecture was cited as the most common bottleneck in development productivity; 28 percent of respondents said changing it would provide the biggest boost, more than changing anything else
  • Only 3 percent of respondents saw changing their IDE as key to their productivity problems

Tartu, Estonia-based ZeroTurnaround is probably best known for its JRebel plugin, which integrates with the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) with app servers on the class loader level, allowing developers to make on-the-fly code changes in Java class files.

There's a lot more in this colorful, 39-page report. It can be downloaded for free from the RebelLabs Web site.

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].