Java Developer Headcount

How Many Java Developers Are There?


As those hooked into the Twittersphere might already be aware, this week has seen some debate about the effect open sourcing the Java platform has had on the number of Java developers – which inevitably leads to the question ‘just how many Java developers are there?’

Dalibor Topic concluded that at the time of Java’s
open sourcing in 2007, there were 6 million Java developers and the
number of Java developers had been rising at an average of 0.75
million per year during the previous two years. After Java was open
sourced, that number shot up to 1 million per year.

But is open source really such a major contributor to Java’s
popularity? And can these facts and figures be believed?

It is difficult to argue that Java wasn’t popular prior to its
open sourcing. According to The Java History Timeline, by 2007 8,750,000 Java SDKs
and 6,300,000 Java SE JDKs had been downloaded. However, in 2010 –
after Java was open sourced – Oracle reported a phenomenal 2
million Java downloads per day.

In 2005 Sun reported there were 4.5 million Java developers
worldwide. By 2007, Sun had reported a rise in that total: apparently,
there were now 6 million Java developers. Three years later, Oracle
acquired Sun and made an official statement that there were 9
million Java developers. If this is taken as truth, the number of
Java developers grew by an average of 0.75 million per year between
2005 and 2007, but after Java was open sourced, the numbers shot up
to 1 million per year.

Although logic dictates there were additional factors at work
during this year three period, the acceleration of Java adoption
rates between its open sourcing in 2007 and Oracle’s announcement
in 2010, suggests that open sourcing the Java platform had a
direct, positive effect on the number of Java programmers. But
where does Oracle’s 9 million figure come from?

When Oracle acquired Sun, the company ran a series of webcasts
detailing its plans for the acquired Sun software portfolio. During
the ‘Oracle + Sun: Java Strategy Webcast’ with
Hassan Rizivi, VP of Oracle Fusion Middleware Development and Jeet
Kaul, VP of Java Development, it was mentioned as an aside that
there were 9 million Java developers.

This figure is based on a survey where developers were asked
what percentage of their day they spent writing in different
programming languages. For everyone who answered ‘more than 1%’ the
Java box got an extra number. So, according to this survey, there
are ‘more than 9 million people who spend an average of 1% or more
of their day writing Java code.’ Aren’t Oracle inflating the
statistic slightly, by including developers who might potentially
only spend only 1%, 2% etc. of their day coding in Java? Taking
another look at these statistics, these 9 million+ Java developers
spend, on average, around 61.6% of their time using Java – this
average has clearly been brought down by developers who just
scraped through Oracle’s 1% requirement for being classed as a Java

If we accept Oracle’s 9 million statistic for Java developers in
2010, then it seems open sourcing Java has had a very direct,
positive impact on the adoption of Java amongst the developer
community. However, in order to see this correlation between open
sourcing and a rise in adoption rates, you need a hard and fixed
figure on how many Java developers there actually are. Oracle’s 9
million mark includes developers who only write a small amount of
Java in their average day.

According to Oracle, there are 9 million developers who write
Java code, which demonstrates an acceleration in the rate of Java
adoption post open-sourcing – you just have to bear in mind that
the amount of Java code they’re writing, may be a very small

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