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The State of Software Development in 2018

The largest and most trusted online community for developers, Stack Overflow, recently published the results of their Annual Developer Survey (that takes place in January each year). Boasting over 100,000 respondents, the results are something that all of us in the industry should be aware of.

This year’s Annual Developer Survey covered a wide range of topics including some new ones like artificial intelligence (AI) and ethics. It also provided some unexpected insights into what technologies and operating systems are popular today.

To make it easier for everyone, we have gone through the findings in detail to share what stood out the most.

Most Popular and Most-Loved Technologies

JavaScript continued its dominance as the most popular programming language (in fact, this is its sixth year in a row at the summit). Other web technologies like HTML and CSS were ranked second and third while the business-oriented language SQL came in fourth place.

What came as a surprise to some of us was the appearance of Shell scripting that came in at sixth (and made the list for the first time ever). C++ barely made it into the top 10 while Python was ranked seventh.

At this juncture, it’s good to note that not all popular languages made the most-loved list. In fact, only three languages from the most popular languages made it into the most-loved list, namely, Python (3rd), JavaScript (7th), and C# (8th).

Rust topped the most-loved list for the third year in a row and Kotlin (which didn’t even make the top 20 in 2017) came in second place. This can probably be directly attributed to Google making Kotlin an official development language for Android. Smalltalk which came in second place last year didn’t even make the list in 2018.

Most Dreaded Technologies

As much as 90% of developers surveyed stated that they dreaded using Visual Basic 6 and never wanted to use it again. This isn’t really a surprise as Microsoft killed it off years ago and didn’t agree to open source it.

This created a situation where a lot of assets ended up being tied to legacy projects which demand the continued use of a dead language. That’s probably the same reason why 84% of developers dreaded using Cobol and 83% of developers dreaded using CoffeeScript (which came in at second and third place).

What came as a surprise was the fact that 49.3% of Java users dreaded using it and didn’t want to code with it ever again.

When it came to frameworks, libraries, and tools, Cordova took the top spot with 59.6%, Xamarin with 51.0%, and Hadoop with 46.1%. It was a bit of a surprise that NodeJS made the dreaded list at number nine with 33.6% (even though it’s part of the popular MEAN stack).

Most Popular Platform

Microsoft’s Windows operating system has finally been knocked off the top spot as the most popular platform for development. This year’s results show that a whopping 48.3% of respondents now use Linux (compared to 32.9% last year).

Windows desktop and server systems came in second, down by 5.6% this year at 35.4%. Google’s Linux-based Android OS was ranked third with 29%, Amazon's AWS (Amazon Web Services) cloud platform took fourth place with 24.1%. Apple’s macOS was ranked fifth with 17.9% and Raspberry Pi came in sixth place with 15.9%. 

Key Takeaways

If you look at all the respondents in Stack Overflow’s study, most of these professionals are relatively new to coding with 55% coding for less than eight years. About a third have been coding for less than five years making up almost 24.4% of all participants.

A huge chunk of these developers also had less than five years experience in professional coding, but nearly half of them contributed to open source projects. This makes sense as 81.0% of the respondents also stated that coding was more like a hobby.

About 92.9% of all respondents were male and only 47.7% were equipped with a bachelor’s degree. Another 23.2% had a masters degree, but almost a quarter of professional coders didn’t have any professional qualifications.

However, almost all of them, 87.0% to be exact, learn new skills on a regular and informal basis. These can take the form of online courses, hackathons (just for fun), coding competitions, and on the job training. Some also completed an industry certification program or a boot camp.

What was unexpected was the fact that only 10% of respondents worked on a freelance basis, others were all employed full-time. With the serious lack of tech talent in the marketplace, it was also a shock that as much as 5% of participants were currently unemployed.

As much as 73% were happy with their career choice with 16.3% working in web development or design.

Only about 20% of developers were worried about being replaced by AI and as much as 41% were excited by the possibilities presented by this innovative technology. However, nearly 29% were concerned about the possibility of algorithms making critical decisions while another 28% were concerned by the prospect of AI surpassing human intelligence (one day).

When it comes to ethical questions, developers didn't believe that it was their responsibility. Rather, as much as 58% believed that it’s the responsibility of upper management. With most of the respondents working full-time for someone else, this type of thinking makes a lot of sense.

When it came to annual global salaries, F# commanded $74,000 while Erlang and Scala topped the highest salary list at $115,000 in the U.S.

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