Survey Results: Open Source Developer Preferences (June 2011)

We recently conducted a survey of open source developers to learn about their current preferences on hosting sites and source control systems. We have run this survey twice before so we now have some trending information on the direction that preferences are moving.

The survey was advertised via Twitter, initially posted to, but was also re-tweeted by over 100 people. We chose the MSDN twitter account versus the CodePlex one to try and prevent bias towards a specific open source project hosting site.

We had over 1,000 responses to the latest survey, so a good sample size although the statistical degree of certainty is unknown based on the Twitter audience. One of the survey questions was what your preferred operating system for development is so that we can report the results by operating system preference.


Table 1 – Preferences by what is preferred operating system for development



As you can see from the results, the preferences of open source developers are very different between developers preferring Windows, Linux, or Mac, and those preferences are also following different trends.

For Windows users, CodePlex and GitHub are virtually tied with CodePlex having a slight edge to take back rank #1 from GitHub after temporarily falling to #2 in the last survey. GitHub actually saw a decline in preference reversing its trend of skyrocketing popularity, with only CodePlex and Bitbucket showing an increase in the latest results. Source control preferences show a similar result, with TFS showing the biggest increase and Git showing the biggest decline. Distributed version control systems again represent the preference for over 50% of open source developers using Windows.

For Linux and Mac users, GitHub continues to extend its dominant lead in popularity, primarily at the expense of Bitbucket. Git is winning the distributed version control system war among Linux and Mac users, with Mercurial preference dropping sharply. Subversion usage showed a slight resurgence, but distributed version control still dominates being the preference for over 80% of developers using Linux and Mac.

Overall the preferences of open source developers using Windows seem to be getting more divergent from the ones using the Linux and Mac operating systems. Git and GitHub are becoming the de facto standard for Linux and Mac developers, while CodePlex as well as TFS, Mercurial, and Subversion are sharing a large and collectively increasing preference among Windows developers. Generally distributed version control usage is high across all open source developers and seems to be continuing to increase.

Comments (5)

  1. Kyralessa says:

    As a Git fan, I think this is great news.  Or *would* be.

    However, as a good-methodology fan, I think this is a terrible survey.  Self-selection does not make a well-distributed sample.  Nothing can be concluded from this survey, since we have no way of knowing how well those who responded represent the larger programming world.  There is simply no basis for any of the assertions in this article below "…the statistical degree of certainty is unknown based on the Twitter audience."

  2. jwanagel says:

    Well, you can't force someone to complete a survey so implicitly all surveys are self-selected.  You can only control the distribution of your survey requests.  The combined total followers of all the Twitter accounts that tweeted the survey was somewhere between 150,000 and 250,000, so it would be very unlikely for that not to reach a broadly representative audience.

  3. realistschuckle says:

    @jwanagel, can you share the percentages of the "Prefer …" breakdowns, as well? For example, does the "Prefer Windows" group constitute 50% of the respondents?

  4. jwanagel says:

    It was 70% Windows, 16% Linux, and 14% Mac.  Though I didn't publish those ratios because I wouldn't consider them representative of the overall open source developer ecosystem.  We pushed to get answers from Windows open source developers, so because of that I would guess the number of respondents in that category were higher then the true ratio in the ecosystem.

  5. realistschuckle says:

    @jwanagel, I appreciate your quick response. Thank you. Advertising the survey on the MSDN Twitter feed would skew the respondent pool, I agree; however, I feel surprised and delighted that 30% of the survey takers live outside the Windows bailiwick. My hats off to Microsoft for reaching out.

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