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Open Source 2019
While open source may have been regarded as a “hobby” at one point, the
widespread business impact of the open source community has become a foundational
pillar of just about all the technology we interact with on a daily basis.
The Linux Foundation
finds that more than half of all companies are using open source
for their commercial products and almost three-fourths are using it for internal
Meanwhile, the market for open source is forecasted to exceed
$32 billion USD
by 2023 and more than
developers have contributed to open source projects at some point.
Given the increased focus and rapidly evolving nature of the open source community,
we’ve dedicated our seventh edition of DigitalOceans Currents, a seasonal report on
developer trends, to the topic. For the second year in a row, we explore how the
open source community is thinking, feeling and growing during its ongoing renaissance.
To coincide with our sixth annual Hacktoberfest this past October, we surveyed more
than 5800 respondents from around the world for their thoughts on the current state
and the future of the open source community. We’re excited to share these learnings
with our developer community and the tech world at large.
Sentiments are extremely positive about the state of the open source community and
its growth in the near future. A large portion of developers say they’re increasing
their involvement in open source and developers seem engaged and optimistic, citing
enjoyment and learning as reasons they are part of the community. Sixty-three percent
of our respondents say they participate in open source projects, an increase from 55%
in last year’s survey. Ninety-two percent say they’re at least somewhat likely to
continue contributing to open source projects — demonstrating that interest is high!
Most of those working on open source are continuing to increase their involvement,
and doing so for some great reasons. Older developers seem to have
lost interest in open source, further evidenced by their high levels of burnout as
well as their pessimistic views on the future of the open source community. Their
difference in engagement also shows up in the contributor/consumer breakdown (see
The road ahead seems brightly lit: 84% feel optimistic about the future of open
source. Younger respondents were the most optimistic about the growth of the
community: 76% of those under 34 think the community is growing compared to 57% of
the older demographics. However, there remains a large amount of doubt and
uncertainty about whether open source technology can continue to grow and evolve.
Almost one third of respondents were unsure if open source tech was sustainable as
it exists today.
70% of Gen Z (under 25) agreed open source technology is sustainable in its
current form, more than any other generation.
There are disconnects in how different populations view the inclusivity and
friendliness of the open source community. While the community is reported to be
generally healthy, there is clearly some room for improvement, especially to welcome
a new generation of open source developers.
Overall, a majority of respondents (58%) find the open source community to be friendly
and/or inclusive, while only 18% say they’ve felt excluded by the community. However,
the perceived inclusivity and friendliness of the open source community seems to depend
highly on whom you ask, suggesting there are still groups that feel left out — and that
means the community can still do better, especially for a younger, more diverse
generation of developers.
As we see above, there are large gaps in perception between men and women,
with women making up 9% of our respondents. Overall, only 44% rate the state of
diversity in open source as “very good,” suggesting the possibility that the open
source community is unprepared or even unwelcoming for the more diverse population
that makes up the next generation of open source developers.
Different generations have different views of the open source community.
Gen Z devs value human connection and generally see the community as inclusive,
collaborative and friendly. Older Gen X and Boomers have had a different experience,
perhaps because they’ve been involved in open source for the greater part of its
The titans of tech have turned their market-moving gaze to the world of open source
development and, like it or not, their movements cause seismic changes in the
landscape. Microsoft’s acquisition of Github finally feels to be settling in and
they’ve continued down the path of open source with their acquisition of JClarity.
IBM’s largest-ever acquisition came just this year with Red Hat. The big tech players
will continue to make their indelible impressions on the industry — how are developers
responding and what are they thinking?
While there is optimism and excitement around what the big tech players can do for
the ecosystem, doubt remains about their intentions, contributions and long-term
commitment to open source projects and development. Thirty-eight percent think open
source licensing by major tech companies hurts the community, saying that it goes
against the nature of open source and restricts access to projects.
Younger generations want a faster pace for updates and maintenance, reflecting
their general enthusiasm for the work being done in open source. Older Gen X and
Boomers, who report higher feelings of burnout, take a less hurried approach. There
is even a slight difference in who these generations believe should be responsible
for maintenance in open source. We expect this gap to only widen until the time
that Gen Z and Millennials make up the greater part of the community. In the
meantime, there seem to be some generational gaps that need to be addressed.
While the older generations’ attitudes towards big tech in open source could be
construed as pessimism or distrust, it may just be a matter of experience — some
have decades of veterancy compared to their younger colleagues. Overall, optimism
remains high across age groups and younger generations can learn a lot from their
more experienced community members.
There were more Indian respondents to this survey than any group, and their responses
reflect a very different experience compared to American respondents. They are a young,
energetic community with 97% of respondents being under 34. This younger group is
enthusiastic and represents the next generation of open source.
However, Indian respondents are the least trusting of the major tech players, with
slightly more than half of respondents saying they are concerned by the level of
involvement of the big tech players. In the U.S., only one-third say they are similarly
Of the 5,811 survey respondents, 60% self-identified as developers, 25% as students
and 8% as systems administrators. The rest identified as managers, technical support
Trends in the developer community move quickly. As a developer-focused company,
it's vital to keep up with the technologies and tools developers are interested
in so we can help them achieve their goals. Currents is DigitalOcean's seasonal
report on developer trends that we created to share knowledge with the community.