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 developer.

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 amount.

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