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1. Developer demographics

1A. 61% of developers are below 35 years of age

There are 24.3 million active software developers in the world

We estimate that there were 24.3M active software developers in the world at the start of 2021, out of which 13M are software professionals. There is an increase in the developer population of 3M developers since mid 2020, or an annual growth that hovers around 20%. Out of those 24.3M, two in three are below 35 years of age.

We can expect that the developer population will more than double in the next decade to about 45M in 2030.

1B. 20% of all people involved in software development are women

In Q1 2019, 9% of all involved in software development were women. Back then, we wished we'd see a bigger number in the future. Two years later (Q1 2021), 9% turned to 20%.

Female developers tend to be younger than male developers. Our data shows that 63% of women are between 18 and 34, compared to 58% of men in the same age group. Their comparative youth reflects the fact that women have only recently begun to take their seats as programmers.

1C. Developers use multiple ways to learn, 2.1 on average.

2. Involvement in software development

2A. On average, developers are involved in close to three sectors concurrently.

Developers may be involved in multiple sectors professionally or, most commonly, in some sectors professionally and in a few more as hobbyists, working on side projects, or as students.

On average, developers are involved in close to three sectors concurrently. The current mainstream sector is the web: close to 58% developers are creating web apps; 17.6% are developing backend services, of which a majority use public cloud technology. Desktop is the slowest growing software sector, but it still sees double-digit YoY growth. 

In the past years, we’ve seen a sharp increase in the number of developers involved in machine learning, artificial intelligence, or data science. This is clearly the technology of the moment. At the start of 2021, 17% and 16.8% of developers were involved in these fields, respectively. The Industrial Internet of Things (9%) and AR/VR (VR 7.2% and AR 5.7%) are emerging sectors.

3. Programming languages

3A. JavaScript is the queen of programming languages

JavaScript is the most popular programming language by some distance, with nearly 14M developers using it globally. More than 4.5M developers joined the JavaScript community in the last three years. Even in software sectors where JavaScript is not among developers’ top choices, like data science or embedded development, about a fourth of developers use it in their projects.

Python has remained the second most widely adopted language behind JavaScript. Python now counts just over 10M users, after adding 1.6M net new developers in the past year alone. The rise of data science and machine learning (ML) is a clear factor in Python’s popularity. Close to 70% of ML developers and data scientists report using Python.

Java is the cornerstone of the mobile app ecosystem - Android - as well as one of the most important general-purpose languages. It now counts 9.4M developers. The group of major, well-established languages is completed with C/C++ (7.3M), C# (6.5M) and PHP (6.3M). C and C++ are core languages in embedded and IoT projects for both on-device and application-level coding, whereas PHP is still the second most commonly used language in web applications, after JavaScript.

On the other hand, C# is traditionally popular within the desktop developer community, but it’s also the most broadly used language among AR/VR and game developers, largely due to the widespread adoption of the Unity game engine in these areas.

The fastest growing language community in percentage terms is Kotlin. In fact, it’s one of the two communities - the other being Rust - that has grown more than two-fold over the last three years, from 1.1M developers in Q4 2017 to 2.6M in Q1 2021. Kotlin still has a long way to go to catch up with the leading language in mobile development, Java; there are currently twice as many mobile developers building applications in Java than in Kotlin.

The more niche languages - Go, Ruby, Rust, and Lua - are still much smaller, with up to 2.1M active software developers each.

4. What's the latest in emerging technologies?

4A. Developers are most engaged with robotics, mini apps, and computer vision

Whilst mini apps are most widely adopted by professional developers, hobbyists and students are most interested in robotics.

However, of the developers engaged with mini apps, nearly a quarter have adopted the technology. For computer vision, this drops to 15%, and for robotics, just 10%. Despite engaging developers in similar ways, it’s clear that the practical applications of mini apps are widely recognised by developers - in fact adoption increased by four percentage points in the last twelve months, one of the largest increases we saw.

Almost three in ten engaged developers are learning about cryptocurrencies, the most of any technology - though other blockchain applications are close behind on 26%. The academic interest in these technologies has yet to translate directly into adoption - only 14% and 12% of engaged developers are actively working on projects using these technologies.

5. What's the latest in DevOps?

5A. DevOps has reached mainstream adoption

5B. The majority of professional developers are involved in DevOps, but do not necessarily consider themselves DevOps practitioners

Technical company leaders - CIOs, CTOs, IT managers, and engineering team leads - report the highest level of involvement in DevOps activities.

Not only do almost all developers with a technical leadership function, about 95% of them, have at least some participation in the DevOps lifecycle, but they are also simultaneously involved in a higher than average number of DevOps activities (three vs two).

The next tier of the DevOps adoption ranking is mainly occupied by specialist roles, such as network security engineers, QA developers, and system administrators. Between 86% and 91% of developers holding these positions are in some way associated with the DevOps culture.

Front-line coders and software developers, who represent the majority of respondents in our survey (61%), are also highly likely to be involved in DevOps activities - 81% of them are although not more often than the average professional (82%). Our data suggests that software developers are keen to adopt CI/CD processes, but not so much operational practices such as monitoring applications in production environments.

5C. How is involvement in DevOps across software sectors?

Close to 90% of developers who create extensions for third party ecosystems or backend services are into DevOps.

This is opposed to less than 80% of game developers. That is partly explained by the extensive coding experience required to implement the DevOps model. We know from our data that DevOps practitioners are far more experienced coders than developers who are not involved in any DevOps-related activity.

6. What's the latest in AR and VR development?

6A. No technology is equally appealing to AR/VR developers and no-code AR/VR creators

44% of  developers use game engines and 37% use 3D modelling and rendering software.

We've already seen that practitioners that undertake developer and non-developer roles (hybrid developers) make up a sizeable proportion of those involved with AR & VR, and this is validated by the popularity of 3D animation software (34.6%) and designer tools (26%) amongst the technologies used by AR & VR developers. In fact, almost as many AR & VR developers here use 3D animation software as use IDEs.

6B. AR & VR practitioners mainly create entertainment & services products

Games is the most popular app category for AR/VR developers and non-developers alike.

AR & VR practitioners are primarily focused on creating entertainment and services products, but the primary focus is different for developers and non-developers. The most popular category for AR and VR practitioners is games & toys, with 37% of developers and 44% of non-developers working on products in this category.

7. What lasting effects did COVID-19 pandemic have on developers?

7A. 38% of developers have already been working remotely prior to the COVID-19 pandemic

Just 11% of all developers expect that they will keep working remotely forever.

7% of developers said that they had lost their job in the aftermath of the pandemic and 9% had dropped out of their studies.

Perhaps the most apparent impact of COVID-19 on the way developers work or learn has been a shift to partially or fully remote settings. Although more than half of all developers have been affected in some way, and went either partly or fully remote, 26% believe that they will keep being fully or partly remote forever.

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