It's all about web developers!

Ever wonder which industries have the most web developers? Do you know how many people develop for the web on Linux? Are there more web designers out there than web developers? Where do web developers hang out and what do they think of the resources out there today? Which JavaScript library is the most popular? How many developers use Google Code or visit the MDN for documentation?

We wanted to get answers to those questions and more… so we reached out to our community and beyond. We ended up with a snapshot of the web developers out there to better guide our plans for the Mozilla Developer Network. While we know a lot about Mozilla hackers, add-on developers, and those working on mobile, we wanted to learn more about web developers, who are by far the largest segment that we touch. And while there is data available about their demographics and the technologies they use, we couldn’t find anything that would give us a better understanding of where they hang out and what they think of the companies that are working on the products and technologies they build and use.

We looked at the breakdown of web developers, and of the websites and resources they rely on. We will use the results to improve our documentation on the MDN Doc Center and continue to better engage with web developers. As more mobile app developers adopt the web platform for apps and games we want to encourage web developers to push the limits of web applications. Our demos will showcase what the latest HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript innovations. We want to use this survey to know what Mozilla can do to help web developers support the open web.

I’ll summarize the results from the 1,331 responses we received from our “Web Developers & the Open Web 2010” (WDATOW 2010) survey, and share the infographic we created to capture some of the key findings.

The Infographic

Web Developers & the Open Web Survey 2010

Our Sample

We reached the greatest number of respondents via our Hacks blog and @mozhacks Twitter account, but we were also able to tap into our global community through our localizers, who helped translate the survey into 9 languages: English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Hungarian, Portuguese, Japanese, and Indonesian. We also posted requests for responses to various developer forums and websites affiliated with other companies, to ensure we had a broad sample that was as representative as possible. Of course we didn’t get as many responses from some of those channels, so the results should be interpreted with the caveat that active Mozilla community members are likely overrepresented.

However, that does not take away from the value of the information we have gathered. We identified “Mozilla” developers and “Other” developers based on answers to a few questions and found that the cross-over profiles of both categories of people were very similar. You can find out more on page 11 in the full report. We identified both categories based on the overall feedback on Mozilla sites vs other company sites, as well as how often they visited those sites, with those that primarily visited MDN making up the “Mozilla” developers, and those that did not being labeled “Other”. Therefore, while some of the open-ended questions might have a lot of subjective and fairly biased opinions, most of the questions produced fairly consistent responses from both groups when it came to the technologies and resources.

We had a very diverse set of respondents that spans the entire globe. While most other research has large US samples, with only a few other countries represented, for our survey, only 20% of the respondents were in the US. Given the high response rate from Europe, we ended up with a well-balanced international sample. That’s why some of our results may not look like web developer profiles that you have seen elsewhere. And that’s a good thing: we are providing another data point for comparison and further analysis.

Web Developer Profiles

We started the survey with some basic questions that would allow us to segment the developers taking the survey. One interesting finding that didn’t seem to match other research we had looked at was the primary OS used by developers. While we would expect most web developers to be on Mac OS X, followed by Windows and a small percentage on Linux (like in the Web Directions survey), we had a more evenly distributed breakdown. Recent Windows versions combined made up 46%, followed by a strong showing of Linux users at 30%, and Mac OS X with a 24% developer base. I would say that a strong bias towards open source in the sample combined with the fact that we had a lot of responses from outside the US are the reasons for Linux being more popular. Also, while a lot of people self-selected as both a web developer and designer, the sample definitely skews towards web developers, so perhaps that explains the Mac OS X numbers.

It was also interesting to see the years of experience spread out across veterans and newbies, with about 48% of the sample having less than 5 years of experience and 52% having 6 or more years in web development.

For our “What type of a web developer/designer are you?” question, respondents were allowed to choose more than one answer, so it’s not surprising to see that a lot of people work on many aspects of web development. However, it was clear that most of them were in one (or both) of two categories: 89% front-end developers and 75% back-end developers. There were more web architects than I expected at 41%, and designers made up a sizable chunk, at 39% of the sample. And although only 15% of those surveyed selected “Add-on developer”, we expect that number to go up as more web developers start to create Firefox extensions with Add-on Builder, using JavaScript rather than heavier-weight programming languages.

There were no surprises from the industries question, with most web developers working in technology at 38%, followed by media at 18%. And while there were smaller percentages working in other industries, 11% of those surveyed were students who have not yet entered the work force. For more on developer profiles see the full report.

Where Developers Spend Time

Perhaps the most important series of questions in this survey focused on the web resources and communities that developers rely on for their day-to-day work. Whether it was for looking up documentation or asking questions to debug their code, we wanted to get an idea of the most popular websites for web developers.

We picked a list of websites based on initial feedback from web developers during the survey design process, and the results clearly show that all of them are popular and engender a lot of opinions on aspects of those sites.

We not only asked which resource and community was the respondent’s favorite, but also provided a list of attributes for them to rate. was the most popular resource at 32%, followed by and w3schools. And Stack Overflow was by far the most popular developer community at 40%, followed by GitHub and Wikipedia.

We intentionally included a diverse set of websites in order to see how developers rated them on our list of criteria. Since MDN supports both resources and communities, we wanted to get data on a broad set of sites. Be sure to take a close look at the ratings to see how all the websites did across a number of important attributes. You can find them starting on page 20 of the full report.

We were looking for a way to find out what works across a variety of site characteristics. For example, our Hacks blog is mostly posts about web technology, the MDN Doc Center is all about documentation, and our various programs and campaigns via Mobile, Add-ons, and Labs provide a more interactive forum for developers to get involved. Based on the ratings and open-ended feedback, we have learned a lot about which existing sites do well in terms of effectiveness, documentation, navigation, aesthetics, etc.

All of this information is valuable for us as we evaluate and prioritize projects that will help us grow and improve our MDN community.

Web Technologies

We also wanted to gauge which technologies developers are using right now. It was no surprise that the web standards trio of HTML, CSS and JavaScript remain the primary set of technologies for most web developers, with usage at over 95% for all three. PHP was also notably still the most popular programming language at 80%, with Python a distant second at 24%, followed by Flash at 22%. To see the complete breakdown of technologies used, as well as what developers identified as “open technologies”, see page 16 in the full report.

Within JavaScript, jQuery remains the most popular library at 82%. Prototype was used by 16% of the respondents, with Mootools next at 12%, and Yahoo’s YUI coming in at 10%. With so many JS libraries to choose from, we expect that those numbers will continue to shift.

We also asked which next-generation technologies were interesting to our respondents, and found out that HTML5 video, canvas, and SVG were all important to developers. 3D using WebGL seemed less interesting to them, but that might be due to the technology being not yet ready for prime time and the lack of examples in the wild. We hope to change that with the capabilities in Firefox 4 and beyond.

Company Affiliated Websites

Although all of the sites in this category serve different purposes and have varying feature sets, it was still important to get a feel for where developers were spending their time and how they viewed the developer sites from companies like Adobe, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Mozilla, Oracle, and Sun.

Given our sample, we expected most developers to have heard of and frequently visited Google’s and Mozilla’s sites. The data clearly shows both as popular destinations for web developers. But it’s important to note that these two sites offer different benefits to developers. Google Code is a great open source code repository and community, while the MDN website remains a very popular web documentation resource.

The other sites are mostly focused on promoting and supporting the company’s products and technologies, so it wasn’t surprising to see that many of our respondents had never, or rarely, visited them. Again, given our audience, we expected to see this and it was nice to confirm our assumptions.

What’s next?

Our survey report, as well as the high-level data reflected in our infographic, give us a snapshot of the web developers we serve through our MDN website and programs. With the insights from this survey, we now know where in the world our audience is, where they go for information and help, and what they think about the companies that help define the web.

A few key areas we need to work on right now are localization, documentation, and developer tools. From the knowledge we have gained, we now have data to back up some of the assumptions we have made to date, the details we need to refine our MDN roadmap, and user feedback to guide our developer engagement efforts from a marketing and communications stand point.

As we kick off the new MDN docs platform project, build out a demo gallery to showcase the latest in HTML5 and CSS3 the web has to offer, and continue to find ways to connect with the web developers that visit us every day, this survey and future developer research will continue to guide us.

Thanks to everyone who participated and we hope that you find the infographic interesting. We tried to capture the major findings in a way that would allow anyone to quickly get a sense of what the web developer community looks like today. If you’re interested in seeing the full report, it is available at:

– Jay & the MDN team

UPDATE: I apologize for anyone that had problems viewing the full report on I did not realize you needed an account to view public slides. The report is now available for download in .pdf, .odp, and .pptx formats.

About Jay Patel

I strive to make the web better by making sure those that develop and drive it are happy campers.

More articles by Jay Patel…


  1. Gilmore

    Nice graphic, but I think your map needs updating – the dot placement for Australia is waaay off. Apparently there are no developers in any of the major cities, but lots in the tropical rainforest.
    There also seems to be a big community in the ocean just north west of Brazil…

    November 30th, 2010 at 15:09

    1. Jay Patel

      @Gilmore: Yes, we noticed that too… but that’s what our survey app showed us on the map. I’m guessing that might be where received the submissions from (major internet nodes?)… though the actual developers are in the major cities.

      Next time I think we’ll ask developers where they are located… ;-)

      November 30th, 2010 at 16:41

      1. Gilmore

        @Jay: Looking at it more, I think what’s happened is that the dot placement is based on a different projection from the map itself.
        If Australia wasn’t skewed the way it is on the map I think the cluster of dots would match with Sydney and surrounds. There’s also a cluster of 3 dots directly to the east which should presumably match up with New Zealand way below.

        November 30th, 2010 at 17:15

  2. John allsopp

    I’ll see if I can compare and contrast with our State of Web Development report from earlier this year, but at first glance, JS Library use aligns pretty closely. OS use diverges quite a bit (Mac OS X ~50%, Linux ~5%)

    November 30th, 2010 at 15:43

    1. Jay Patel

      @John The Mac OS X vs Linux data was a huge surprise to us too. It’s probably a combination of location, open source bias and developer type… but definitely interesting to see the contrast in our surveys.

      November 30th, 2010 at 16:44

      1. Ralf

        European linux-using web-developper here. I think you are correct about location playing a part in the OS-divide. Developers tend to prefer Unix-based systems. I’m quite confident the Linux+OSX vs. Windows ratio is much more consistent.

        But what should also explain a divergence of these surveys, would be the fact that you guys are Mozilla. Communicating back to you guys makes sense for us. The role Mozilla plays is important to us.

        Compared to a random survey from a random web-dev related web-site; what’s in it for us?

        December 1st, 2010 at 21:25

  3. Gary Barber

    Very nice info graphic, however your sampling is extremely biased and small, so in a way the results and little more than an idea of what is really occurring in the web industry communities and where. No consideration has been given for example of the large Australian and Asian web communities, mainly because people just didn’t attend a conference.

    November 30th, 2010 at 16:36

  4. Elessar

    Could you directly publish the report in PDF? It is as simple as putting it along with the image and putting a link to it on this page, and it would allow anyone to download it an read it, instead of requiring to sign a contract with Scribd or whoever.

    December 1st, 2010 at 09:12

  5. Jean Peuplus

    Is there a possibility to download the PDF version without having to subscribe to Facebook or Scribd. The original document is in PDF isn’t it? Thank you.

    December 1st, 2010 at 09:35

  6. Elessar

    I think Mozilla’s goal is to promote an open Internet. Using Scribd to publish a document only to people that have signed a contract with them negates this goal. Could you consider publishing the report in an open manner?

    December 1st, 2010 at 10:07

  7. klkl

    It’s scary that inaccuracy-ridden w3schools is so high!

    I hope it’s not because people are confusing it with W3C.

    December 2nd, 2010 at 07:44

  8. r2b2

    Im not surprised that Linux is the OS of choice for most developers.. It is the Programmer’s Lair :)

    December 3rd, 2010 at 03:35

    1. Aethec

      Unsurprisingly, they grouped all Linux distros under the “Linux” category while different versions of Windows are separated in the infographic.
      I guess admitting Windows is the most popular OS for web designers is too hard for Mozilla…

      December 14th, 2010 at 11:35

  9. Jay Patel

    I have made the reports available in various formats that I hope will be accessible to most:

    December 3rd, 2010 at 19:03

  10. Jay Patel

    @Ellessar @Jean: See my update in the post and the link above for the report. Sorry about Scribd… they need to be more open to viewers. ;-)

    December 3rd, 2010 at 19:06

  11. Felix Pleșoianu

    Yay! Glad to see the results at last. If there is a trend to be found in all this data, that’s the increasing popularity of free software and open standards, and the corresponding decline of proprietary technology.

    Re: Linux usage, I don’t think it’s just developers. More and more people are using it, as far as I can tell. Usually, once they try it, they keep it. Hmm, I wonder why. :P

    December 13th, 2010 at 08:23

  12. Libby Jackson-Angry Bird

    I just wish this was all a bit more user friendly! I want to learn more about computer systems but find all this so daunting.

    July 24th, 2011 at 02:12

  13. Hosted Exchange

    web developers are the future. they form the symbiosm as one whole for future entrepreneurs creating a new way of doing business.

    March 15th, 2012 at 18:03

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