Developer Survey Reveals Greater Linux Development

Eclipse Foundation survey shows Linux development up, Windows down.

The Eclipse Foundation has released its 2010 Eclipse Community Survey results, which reveal an interesting snapshot of one slice of the development community.

Taking the results at face value, the likely respondent from the 1696 total is a male programmer who works for a high-tech company with fewer than 100 employees. Oh, and their favorite IDE is some flavor of Eclipse.

Which, of course, reveals one huge bias in this report: though non-Eclipse users could participate in the survey, the report's creators freely stipulate that most respondents were users of Eclipse and therefore answers would be biased accordingly. I'm not knocking this bias--in fact, I have higher respect for surveys like this when they are up front about such things. But it's nonetheless important to point out the context of these results, since this is just one sector of the larger developer community.

Clearly, the results that will be getting the most play in the tech media will be the rise of Linux as a favored platform for development. This year, 32.7 percent of respondents cited Linux as their development platform, up 5.8 percent from 2009, and 12.7 percent from the 2007 survey.

And, the second half of the news will surely be that this increase comes at the cost of Windows development, which has seen a steady decrease in platform participation: in 2007, 73.8 percent preferred Windows; in 2009, it was 64.3 percent; and this year just 58.3 percent listed Windows as their favorite operating system.

Okay, I'll admit it: the Schadenfreude is starting to flow.

And while these are cool results, let's keep in mind that these respondents are Eclipse developers, so this could also signify what we have been hearing for some time: that Eclipse is getting better as a tool set on Linux than it used to be. I think that's part of it, but I don't discount the general trend away from Windows to Linux. Why? Because OS X also has rising numbers of developers, and the favorite deployment environment is still Linux.

In case you're wondering, the most popular Linux development distro cited was Ubuntu, at 18.3 percent, followed from way behind by Fedora at 4.7 percent. The folks at Canonical must be cackling with glee this morning, because this is exactly where they want to be: way up front of the Linux development pack. That means more apps for their desktop and server offerings.

On the deployment side, as mentioned, "Linux continues to be the most popular deployment operating system at 44 percent, followed by Windows at 39 percent." This is pretty much steady with last year's results, the report said.

Ian Skerrett, the marketing guy at the Eclipse Foundation, sums up the big findings from the survey on his own blog today, so if you don't want to read the whole survey report, you can check out his summary. One trend he highlighted, though, is particularly worrisome:

"Trend #7. Open source participation seems to be stalled. In the survey, we asked a question about the corporate policies towards open source participation. In 2009 48% claimed they could contribute back to OSS but in 2010 only 35.4% claim they could contribute back. Conversely, 41% in 2010 claimed they use open source software but do not contribute back but in 2009 it was 27.1%. Obviously not a trend any open source community would like to see."

So, according to the Open Source Maturity Model used by the survey, more open source code consumers and less open source code contributors. Great. I'm not too upset by this, because I think this kind of thing ebbs and flows--I have a feeling during this economic downturn a lot of companies were very willing to grab code but not so willing to use resources to donate back. A bit skeezy, but understandable. Let's see if this theory holds true when next year's results come out.

The context of the report should be understood as you read it, but even with that grain of salt, it's a good report if you're a Linux fan.

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