Currents

A Seasonal Report on Developer Trends in the Cloud: Open Source Edition

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Introduction

Trends in the developer community move quickly. As a developer-focused company, we like to keep up with the technologies and tools that developers and their teams are interested in.

To share these insights with the broader community, we created Currents, a seasonal report on developer cloud trends. For our fifth edition, we focused entirely on open source — to coincide with the movement’s 20-year anniversary this year, and DigitalOcean’s fifth Hacktoberfest this month. We surveyed more than 4,300 respondents from around the world about the state of open source, including how they and their companies use it and what inspires them to support the community.

Key Findings

  • Twenty years in, just over half of developers surveyed are contributing to open source projects (55 percent). However, that is less than what companies expect from their employees: three out of four respondents said their companies expect them to use open source software as part of their day-to-day development work.
  • Two of the most prominent barriers preventing developers from getting involved in open source are not knowing where to begin, and doubting they have the right skills. Companies not giving their employees time to contribute is also a large factor.
  • Of the five major tech companies — Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple — developers overwhelmingly said Google is most supportive of the open source community, followed by Microsoft. Apple ranked last.
  • There’s a disconnect between companies’ encouragement of open source within their organizations, and their actual investment. Only 18 percent of respondents said their company is a member of an open source-related organization, and 75 percent said their company invests $1k or less every year in donations to open source.

Open Source and Individuals

With 2018 marking the twenty-year anniversary of open source, we were interested in understanding how individual developers were contributing to the open source community, and why.

More than half (55 percent) of respondents said they contribute in some way. Those who contribute do so in a few ways, with the most popular way being through contributions to open source software, followed by helping maintain open source software. Developers in India are more likely to contribute than developers from other countries, with more than two-thirds (68 percent) actively participating.

What’s inspiring people to participate? The top motivation is improving coding skills — developers in the UK especially cited this (78 percent vs. 69 percent overall). A close second was being part of a community — even though developers tend to work independently, they still look for ways to connect with other coders and learn new technology. Thirty seven percent of developers said they would contribute more if their companies gave them additional time to do so.

While open source advocates would undoubtedly like to see more developers contributing to the community, the good news is developers as a whole are very bullish: 89 percent said the open source community is healthy and growing.

For those who contribute to open source projects, what is your primary involvement?

What are your top motivations for participating in open source?

What languages do you primarily engage with in open source?

How long have you been involved with open source projects?

How often are you involved with open source projects?

In the last three years, which open source projects have excited you most?

What platforms do you use to discover open source projects that you could contribute to?

What has prevented you from getting more involved in open source?

The biggest barriers preventing developers contributing more to open source are them not knowing where to begin and doubting they have the right skills. This was particularly noticeable when we looked at how long respondents had been working in the community: 52 percent of those who only started over the last year said it’s not clear how to get involved, and 49 percent questioned their skill sets.

As the number of developers and hobbyists worldwide continues to grow, there is an opportunity to create better resources and starting points to get those newer to code — and open source — excited about contributing. As part of this, we need to underscore that developers of all skill levels can make a difference.

What would it take to get you to contribute more to the open source community?

Open Source in Business

While more than half of developers are contributing to open source, their companies are not as supportive of the community’s organizations — only 18 percent of employees said their companies actively participated in open source organizations (e.g. Apache Foundation, Node.js Foundation, Cloud Native Computing Foundation), with the cost of those organizations being the number one detractor. Seventy five percent of respondents also said their companies have donated just $1k or less in the last year.

Even though most companies don’t invest in open source organizations, they encourage the use of open source within their businesses: nearly three out of every four respondents said their companies expect them to use open source software as part of their day-to-day development work. Furthermore, more than one-third (34 percent) said their companies give them time to work on open source projects not related to work.

What factors does your company consider while making business decisions around when to use open source for a particular project?

What are the top two factors that your company assesses when vetting open source technologies?

When is it not appropriate to use open source at your company?

On a scale of 1 to 5, how secure do you perceive open source technologies to be?

Companies evaluating open source technologies look primarily for ones that are widely used, and have great documentation and active maintainers. At the same time, poor documentation and security concerns are a few reasons why companies opt against open source. Individuals showed concerns over security too — on a scale of one to five (with five being most secure), more than 30 percent of respondents rated open source technologies as average or below.

How companies are encouraging employees’ use of open source

Does your company expect you to routinely use open source software as part of your day-to-day dev work?

If yes, how much time?

How companies are investing in open source

Does your organization participate in any open source software foundations? (e.g. Apache Foundation, Node.js Foundation, Cloud Native Computing Foundation)

If yes, why does your organization choose to participate in open source software foundations?

If no, why does your organization choose to not participate in open source software foundations?

How much money has your company donated to open source in the past year?

Does your company employ anyone who works full-time primarily on public open source projects?

How other companies are doing

In your opinion, do large tech companies contribute as much to the open source community as they gain?

Which of the following technology organizations do you believe embraces open source the most?

Which companies are doing the best at embracing open source? At least among the tech giants, respondents look to Google — which created Android, Go and Kubernetes — as the leader (53 percent). They are followed by Microsoft (23 percent) — with those newer to the community slightly more likely to believe Microsoft has embraced open source better than veteran developers. Apple, whose developers are known to not be active in contributing code back into the community, ranked last.

Demographics

Of the 4,349 survey respondents, 58 percent self-identified as developers, 22 percent as students and 10 percent as systems administrators. The rest identified as managers, technical support or “Other.”

Forty two percent said they worked in IT & Services, 29 percent in Software and five percent each chose Financial Services and Education. The remainder represented a variety of other industries including Retail/wholesale, Government and Healthcare.

What size is your company (number of employees)?

What is your age?

I identify as a…