Open Source

Why every developer is an open source developer now

According to a new survey, collaboration is the default for today's developers.

Image: iStockphoto/StockRocket

We are all open sourcerors now. While open source used to be a cabal of early adopters, today's world is awash in open source code, written by...everyone.

Or, most everyone.

According to the O'Reilly Software Development Salary Survey of over 5,000 software engineers, developers, and other professionals involved in programming, 70% of respondents indicate they "write code for collaborative projects," code for "open source." But, there are a number of other tasks that imply open source, and the developing class is overwhelmingly involved in these as well.

In short, though the world used to be divided into open source and proprietary software, the developer population is now all open source, all the time.

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Years ago, open source luminary Eric Raymond correctly pointed out that while we pay a lot of attention to software vendors, "approximately 95% of code is still written in-house" for use, not sale. Though vendors had a financial incentive in keeping their code closed, enterprise IT did not. Not really.

SEE Face it: Developers are becoming babies (TechRepublic)

Small wonder, then, that SourceClear CEO Mark Curphey speculates that "90% of code could be stuff [developers] didn't create" (i.e., that they "borrowed" from open source projects). Open source has become a staple of software development, something that reveals itself clearly in O'Reilly's survey:

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According to the report authors, there were three possible answers to each of the 16 task questions: "No involvement," "minor involvement," or "major involvement"—defined as a task that "is essential to most or all of your projects and responsibilities."

As can be seen in the chart above, the top two tasks were writing code for collaborative projects (70% major, 22% minor) and reading/editing code originally written by others (63% major, 31% minor). While the first is clearly open source, the second likely involves open source, too. If nothing else, it could include bringing open source code into an enterprise and repurposing it for internal projects.

SEE Developers are pragmatic, not religious, about software (TechRepublic)

As for code written alone, and for no one else to improve, just 32% indicated "major involvement." Asocial, proprietary software development just isn't how we write software anymore.

Which is good, given that this kind of software development pays less, on average:

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The future is open

Fast forward a few years, and it's clear this trend toward open, collaborative development will come to permeate software development completely. As indicated by VisionMobile data, we're already seeing developer demographics skew younger and less experienced, with this new generation of developers growing up on GitHub and speaking open source as their first language.

This is a far cry from the past two decades, when open source was a religious battle at times, and enterprises were far more likely to use open source than contribute to it. As the O'Reilly survey data indicates, however, we've moved on. This willingness to reuse and contribute should lead to levels of developer productivity that we've never before seen.

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    About Matt Asay

    Matt Asay is a veteran technology columnist who has written for CNET, ReadWrite, and other tech media. Asay has also held a variety of executive roles with leading mobile and big data software companies.

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