JavaScript remains the Queen of Programming Languages

Welcome to another update on programming languages communities. The choice of programming language matters deeply to developers because they want to keep their skills up to date and marketable. Languages are a beloved subject of debate and the kernels of some of the strongest developer communities. They matter to toolmakers too, as they want to make sure they provide the most useful SDΚs.



It can be hard to assess how widely used a programming language is. The indices available from players like Tiobe, Redmonk, Stack Overflow’s yearly survey, or Github’s Octoverse are great, but mostly offer only relative comparisons between languages, providing no sense of the absolute size of each community. They may also be biased geographically, or skewed towards certain fields of software development, or open source developers.

The estimates we present here look at active software developers using each programming language, across the globe and across all kinds of programmers. They are based on two pieces of data. First, our independent estimate of the global number of software developers, which we published for the first time in 2017. Second, our large-scale, low-bias surveys which reach more than 20,000 developers every six months. In the survey, we consistently ask developers about their use of programming languages across nine areas of development1, giving us rich and reliable information about who uses each language and in which context.

JavaScript is and remains the queen of programming languages. Its community of 11.7M developers is the largest of all languages. In 2018, 2.5M developers joined the community: the highest growth in absolute numbers and more than the entire population of Swift, Ruby, or Kotlin developers, amongst others. New developers see it as an attractive entry-level language, but also existing developers are adding it to their skillset. Even in software sectors where Javascript is least popular like machine learning or on-device code in IoT, over a quarter of developers use it for their projects.

Python has reached 8.2M active developers and has now surpassed Java in terms of popularity. It is the second-fastest growing language community in absolute terms with 2.2M net new Python developers in 2018. The rise of machine learning is a clear factor in its popularity. A whopping 69% of machine learning developers and data scientists now use Python (compared to 24% of them using R).

Java (7.6M active developers), C# (6.7M), and C/C++ (6.3M) are fairly close together in terms of community size and are certainly well-established languages. However, all three are now growing at a slower rate than the general developer population. While they are not exactly stagnating, they are no longer the first languages that (new) developers look to.

Java is very popular in the mobile ecosystem and its offshoots (Android), but not for IoT devices. C# is a core part of the Microsoft ecosystem. Throughout our research, we see a consistent correlation between the use of C# and the use of Microsoft developer products. It’s no surprise to see desktop and AR/VR (Hololens) as areas where C# is popular. C/C++ is a core language family for game engines and in IoT, where performance and low-level access matter (AR/VR exists on the boundary between games and IoT).

PHP is now the second most popular language for web development and the fifth most popular language overall, with 5.9M developers. Like Python, it’s growing significantly faster than the overall developer population, having added 32% more developers to its ranks in 2018. Despite having (arguably) a somewhat bad reputation, the fact that PHP is easy to learn and widely deployed still propels it forward as a major language for the modern Internet.

The fastest growing language community in percentage terms is Kotlin. It grew by 58% in 2018 from 1.1M to 1.7M developers. Since Google has made Kotlin a first-class language for Android development, we can expect this growth to continue, in a similar way to how Swift overtook Objective-C for iOS development.

Other niche languages don’t seem to be adding many developers, if any. Swift and Objective-C are important languages to the Apple community, but are stable in terms of the number of developers that use them. Ruby and Lua are not growing their communities quickly either.

Older and more popular programming languages have vocal critics, while new, exciting languages often have enthusiastic supporters. This data would suggest that it’s not easy for new languages to grow beyond their niche and become the next big thing. What does this mean for the future of these languages and others like Go or Scala? We will certainly keep tracking this evolution and plan to keep you informed.

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The largest developer community: a critical view

When developers evaluate new technologies, one of the elements they often look at is the size and strength of the developer community surrounding that technology. “Can I get help and support from peers when needed?” It’s one of the reasons why open source technologies tend to be so popular. Conversely, technology vendors regularly signal their virtue with community numbers: “Our product is used by millions of developers, choose us!”

However, there is reason to be critical of this line of thinking. The activity of a core group, or indeed the vendor itself, may matter more to get great support than the sheer number of users. Most technologies are not subject to network effects: they don’t become inherently more valuable when more developers adopt them. Even in open source projects, there is often only a small number of core contributors. Furthermore, vendors may bloat the numbers they report: deliberately, or simply because they don’t have good data available.

At /Data, we’ve been maintaining and publishing estimates on the global developer community for a few years now. Our biannual survey also gives us a solid idea of how those developers are spread across various communities. So let’s see where some of the largest developer communities can be found and how powerful those communities may really be.

What do you mean by: community?

The largest regions in terms of developer population are North America, with an estimated 4 million active software developers in mid 2018, and Europe (3.8M in the EU28). However, calling these communities is a bit of a stretch. Developers in these regions are fragmented across countries and cities, as well as technologies and languages. North America includes the relatively homogenous USA, but also various Latin American countries. Europe includes software powerhouses like the United Kingdom, but also smaller Eastern European countries. From the perspective of finding peers to support you (or talent to recruit), looking at small groups gathered in cities around specific technologies is more useful than considering the wider geography.

The largest developer program in our research, with over 10 million active users globally, is Google. Google is great at empowering and supporting their community through forums and the likes. This said, they also have excellent developer satisfaction scores when it comes to vendor-driven support of developers with documentation, tutorials and training, tooling, and so on. Google is the default choice for many developers; it’s not clear whether that is due to the strength of their community or due to the value they provide themselves. They of course offer a multitude of technologies, where experience in one product doesn’t necessarily translate into another. Perhaps it’s more correct to view them as a collection of communities.

What about different sectors of the software industry? More than 14 million developers are involved in creating web apps. Once again, we can wonder about the fragmentation in this community across technologies. A sector view may not be the right level of analysis.

Finally, we can look at a technology. There are over 10 million active Javascript developers, making it the most popular programming language in the world today. Here we may see a stronger sense of community, with forums, real-life groups, learning institutions and more being organised specifically around the language.

In short, when we say “community”, it’s not trivially clear what we mean by that. (Neither is “developer” for that matter, but that’s a story for another blog post). Community size is not necessarily an indicator of homogeneity, coherence or level of activity. That makes it less than straightforward to assess the value of a developer community.

largest developer community

How (not) to count developers

If you’re interested in estimates of developer communities, you will have no doubt seen very high numbers being floated. Developer tools routinely reports user numbers in the millions; communities who claim a broad reach, like Stack Overflow or Github, will report tens of millions of developers. At /Data, we are skeptical of such numbers, in particular if you intend to use them to make adoption decisions.

First, because it is not clear where each source draws the line in what they consider to be an (active) developer. Are IT professionals, DevOps, or sysadmins included? What about people who once made an account, but never actively used the product?

However, the bigger issue seems to be where such numbers are sourced. Most estimates floating around the internet are based on (unique) pageviews, downloads, IP addresses, and the likes. All of these are susceptible to a multiplier effect, not in the least due to multi-machine and multi-browser software testing, frequent cleaning of caches and cookies for testing, repeat downloads of developer tools, and development automation (e.g. build servers). Abandoned accounts may significantly skew the estimates as well. Sometimes, numbers we’ve come across seem to be based on nothing at all.

Measurements like that are only a vague indication of the number of actual active developers and therefore of the strength of the community. They tend to be not comparable across vendors. Not to mention that it is in the self-interest of the vendor to report the biggest number they can find. Indicators that indicate actual developer activity, like Monthly Active Users, are exceedingly rare.


Whether you’re a developer thinking about the direction of your career, or someone who is deciding on which technology to adopt, the question of how strong the supporting community is, is perfectly legitimate. To asses the true benefit of community, however, make sure to use the right scope and reliable, meaningful numbers.

On our part, we will continue to provide you with our best estimates of active software developers, using sources that are direct evidence of recent coding activity. To do that, we would value your input. We are currently running another survey in our Developer Economics series. If you’re a software developer, please consider answering the questions. If you’re not a developer but are working in the software industry, pass the link on to your developer friends and colleagues.

Every survey completed has a chance to win Oculus Rift +Touch Virtual Reality System to test your creations (or simply play around), Samsung S9 PLus, $200 towards the software subscription of your choice, or other prizes from the prize pool worth $12,000!

Plus, if you refer other developers to take the survey, you may win up to $1,000 in cash. Just don’t forget to sign up before you take the survey, so that we know you want to be included in the prize draw!

We’ll also donate $2,000 to Raspberry Pi Foundation, helping young ones learn how to code, so the more developers take the survey, the closer we are to helping the community grow!

What do you say, are you in?

Platforms Tools

What types of tools are IoT developers actually using?

IoT platforms were on the cusp of reaching the peak of inflated expectations in Gartner’s Hype Cycle from August 2016. Not surprisingly – there are literally hundreds of them, and counting. Also, the word ‘platform’ is used for anything, from network infrastructure to hardware components to cloud services. In the end, IoT owes its boom in popularity to more and better tools becoming available for developers. In this article, we shed some light on the types of tools that IoT developers are actually using.

The IoT tool market is still underdeveloped and heavily fragmented.

Despite the proliferation of IoT platforms and other tools, the IoT tool market is still underdeveloped and heavily fragmented. We asked IoT developers to select technologies they use out of a list of 15 categories. On average, IoT developers use 2.9 types of tools in that list, or one in five out of the list; professionals slightly more at 3.5 tool types. That’s comparatively fewer than developers in other sectors like cloud, mobile, or web, where developers use a quarter to a third of the tools listed. Part of the reason is fragmentation: not every tool is comprehensive enough to be relevant to a large number of developers. In part, the low tool usage is due to underdevelopment of the tool market. 11% of IoT developers don’t use any of the tools in our list, compared to 6% of web developers and 3% of mobile developers, who we presented with similar sized lists. Either way, we expect to see a good bit of consolidation and development before we can call this a mature tooling market.

Professional IoT developers use more tools than amateurs.

Professional IoT developers use more tools than amateurs, as we said, but they tend to use specific types of tools more often. The biggest differences are seen in categories like software deployment tools, IoT cloud platforms, embedded operating systems, machine learning platforms, gateway middleware, beacons, message brokers, or fog computing. What all these technologies have in common is that they are components of a complete IoT solution, i.e. technologies that an engineer would integrate under the hood to implement a valuable product or project. Fog or edge computing – championed by Cisco – is notable by its absence: a mere 4% of IoT developers are working with this technology. It may be too early for this technology, or the need for it might not be as big as pundits proclaim. Time will tell.

The gap between professional and amateur use is virtually non-existent in hardware platforms such as single-board computers like the Raspberry Pi or prototyping boards like the Arduino or Intel Edison. These microprocessors and computers have become so cheap and accessible (i.e. easy to use) that everyone with a minimal technical background can play around with them and put them to productive use. Even wearables toolkits and middleware show signs of this level of accessibility.

We also don’t see the amateur-pro gap in high-level, integrating platforms: Smart Home platforms like HomeKit or SmartThings, smartwatch platforms like WatchOS or Android Wear, or voice platforms like Amazon Alexa. These are all areas (IoT verticals) that are easy to get into, easy to imagine (and design) a solution that scratches your own itch, and therefore highly popular among hobbyists, as we’ve highlighted in other reports. Attractiveness to hobbyists aside, these comprehensive types platforms lower the barrier for people to start building meaningful solutions quickly, whereas the component technologies from above are still more the domain of specialists. Even health & wellness data platforms like Google Fit or HealthKit – arguably a more specific, advanced domain – have only a small difference in usage between professionals and amateurs.

Some of the technologies in the list are specific to certain verticals: wearables toolkits are for wearables developers, Smart Home platforms for Smart Home developers, and so on. Or are they? 12% of developers who use Smart Home platforms are not currently targeting or planning to target that vertical, for example. That is a reasonably big number, even though the usage gap with Smart Home developers is indeed clear. Some of these technologies might be fairly generic, and might even be ‘misused’ for unrelated projects. In some cases like smartwatch platforms, developers might work on a smartwatch app as part of a broader IoT solution, without self-identifying necessarily as ‘wearable developers’.


Only 20% of retail IoT developers use beacons

Location beacons are an interesting case. Their most marketed use cases were in retail and hospitality applications. However, only 20% of retail IoT developers use beacons; a good bit less than the 27% to 33% in-vertical usage we see for other vertical-specific technologies. Furthermore, the gap between in-vertical and out-of-vertical usage is only 9 percentage points, i.e. half that of the other technologies discussed here. We take this as a sign that beacons may be overhyped, perhaps technologically, but more likely in terms of how valuable the use cases are to customers. In our previous State of the Nation report (Q3 2016), we noted that retail was the sector within IoT with the fastest attrition of developers, possibly due to a sense of disillusionment and kickback from the hype. The data on technology use in the retail vertical seems to support that hypothesis.

The potential remains enormous

We opened this article with Gartner’s claim that we’re at the peak of inflated expectations when it comes to IoT platforms. Our IoT research over the past years says that we’ve already passed it, with stalled population growth and high churn among developers, heading full-speed towards the trough of disillusionment. The key reason is that the technology is still too immature, very few platforms are finding product-market fit, and thus the majority of consumer-focused developers lack a platform that gives them a viable market. Of course the core technology marches on, with some mostly consumer-focused tools finding uses outside their original intended market. The potential remains enormous. However, it’s going to get worse before it gets better, with a lot of consolidation among the many existing technology platforms.

Business Tips

How can developers improve their paycheck.

As a software developer, what is the most lucrative opportunity you could be working on? This is a very relevant question to ask. Software skills are generally scarce and good developers are highly coveted. Furthermore, developers are mobile, in the sense that the nature of their trade allows them to work from remote locations quite easily and marketplaces for their services are well established. So which project should you pick to improve your paycheck?

developer salary

There are many reasons why someone might prefer one job over another, but let’s be honest: developers deserve to get paid well, given their important position in the global value chain. For the first time in 12 editions, we asked developers in our survey how much they earn in salaries or contractor fees. The results are in and from the data we learn several insights that can help developers improve their paycheck, and conversely, provide opportunities for organisations to find talent.

First, there are enormous differences in how much developers in each region and software sector earn. The best earning developers in our survey – those in the top ten percent – often earn tens and sometimes hundreds of times as much as the least well-off, i.e. the bottom decile. Part of this gap is location-driven. We’ll come back to that shortly. This said, we can only conclude that a developer’s skill, knowledge, and reputation do matter. Investing in them will pay off.

Developers working in areas with a higher technical complexity generally earn more.

Talking of skills, developers who work in areas with a higher technical complexity – and therefore higher barriers to entry and ultimately fewer developers doing it – generally earn more. Developers that work on cloud computing and other backend services report higher salaries than those working on front-end web apps. Machine learning specialists make even more than the backend folks. In Western Europe, for example, the median web developer has a yearly gross salary of $35,400 USD, the median backend developer earns $39,500 and a machine learning developer makes $45,200. This relationship is seen across regions and also at higher wage levels. Web and mobile development are the most commoditised; there is a fairly low barrier to start making simple apps or websites, and these tasks are relatively easily outsourced to other regions.

Scarcity of skills drives up paycheck amounts for developer services.

Scarcity of skills drives up the price for developer services. This is also true for new, emerging areas of development, like Augmented and Virtual Reality, or the Internet of Things, but only at the top end of the scale.The best developers in emerging areas earn top dollar, while the bottom half of the developer population makes less than their counterparts in more established sectors. Let’s compare Augmented Reality (AR) with backend developers in North America as an example. The median wage for an AR developer in that region is $71,000 USD, a good bit less than the $79,200 that the median backend developer makes. At the top end, however, AR development is more lucrative. At the 75th percentile, the AR developer is paid $132,300 and the backend developer $122,800. At the very top (90th percentile), the difference is even more pronounced: $219,000 for AR, $169,000 for backend. The reason for this wide range of salaries is that markets like AR/VR or IoT are still commercially underdeveloped. Companies that are early adopters pay large sums for skilled developers, who are scarce. At the same time, less experienced developers are attracted by the hype. Their compensation suffers both from a lack of relevant skill and from a lack of companies that are hiring in the early market.

Again this pattern repeats across regions. The exception is South Asia. The outsourcing model that drives software development in that region seems to be built on maintaining legacy code and developers there are less involved in emerging innovations (a conclusion that’s also supported by our developer population sizing research).


We’re still a long way off a global market for developers!

We started this chapter by saying that developers can market their services location-independently if they choose to. However, it’s clear from the data that we’re still a long way off a global market for developers! The median web developer in North America for instance earns $73,600 USD per year. A Western European web developer earns half of that – $35,400 USD – although recent exchange rate shenanigans due to Brexit and the Euro-crisis will have affected that comparison. Web developers in other regions earn again half of that: between $11,700 in South Asia and $20,800 in Eastern Europe. Not just the region of the world you live in matters, but also the country and even the city you call home.

This opens up opportunities for organisations who will accept remote workers. You can hire a top 10% Eastern European backend developer for less money than the median North American wage in that sector. For developers, it means that brushing up your English skills and looking for opportunities beyond your backyard can be very interesting indeed. Developers who take that leap and seek opportunities that pay to international standards are in the minority. This explains why top wages in emerging regions (Asia, the Middle East, Africa) are so exuberantly high compared to local standards. A Western developer in the top decile earns about three times as much as the median wage in his sector and region. In the emerging world, top wages are seven to ten times the median. The best developers in those regions work for multinationals or sell their services on international marketplaces, while most stay employed locally, at much lower remuneration levels.

So what’s a developer to do if you want to move up in the world, financially? Invest in your skills. Do difficult work. Improve your English. Look for opportunities internationally. Go for it. You deserve it!

Take our Developer Economics Survey and speak out about other challenges you face!

Business Tips

Best Practices for a successful IoT Developer Program

Events and training programs are a main component in many IoT developer programs. But just how effective are they?

This infographic sheds some light into the effectiveness of training and events. Insights are based on our Best Practices for IoT Developer Programs report.

Best Practices for an IoT Developer Program

Developers: builders or explorers?

What do you think about when you hear the word “software developer”? Most people probably imagine a duffy engineer, turning his boss’s requirements into code. A software builder, so to speak. But developers are so much more. They’re often more like adventurers and explorers, boldly going where no programmer has gone before. This was never more true than at the eve of the Internet of Things. The most important role of Internet of Things developers is to explore new possibilities. The technology is widely available; in no small part because of open source software and hardware projects. Now we need to learn where we can take it. We can build it, but should we?

Why are Explorers so important?

Explorers are critical to any developer ecosystem, including in the Internet of Things. First, because that’s where all the truly new, out-of-the-box ideas come from. It’s hard to be super-innovative when you have a project to deliver to your boss or client. Only by exploring seemingly crazy ideas can the Internet of Things reach its full potential. The open source ecosystem is often the area where these ideas bloom.

Secondly, while exploring, Explorers gain a tremendous amount of experience. This will help them build their careers (as builders or otherwise). It also helps the companies that pay the bill. And it is needed. In Q4 2014, VisionMobile surveyed 4,000+ IoT developers. The lack of hardware development skills was the top challenge among IoT developers. 48% of IoT open source enthusiasts (those who find it important to use an open source platform) listed it as a challenge.

Learning and open source

VisionMobile’s data also shows that exploring, learning and open source technology go very well together. Among Explorers (developers that are primarily interested in gaining experience to seize on future opportunities), 20% value open source platforms and technology. That’s the highest level of any group. Conversely, Explorers are the biggest group among open source enthusiasts (32%).

Furthermore, open source is popular among developers that are new to IoT and new to software. A second group who value open source are seasoned software developers who bring open source business models to the Internet of Things. Traditional IoT developers with lots of experience underuse open source. In a way, these “experienced in software, new to IoT” developers provide another kind of ecosystem-level learning.

More data

Here are some more key insights about IoT explorers and open source enthusiasts that we summarized in an infographic, co-created with Arduino:

  • Open source is not just useful for building skills. It is also used by developers that want to increase efficiency (we call them Optimizers) and by developers that work on commission (Guns for Hire). This indicates that open source tools get the job done quickly, efficiently and inexpensively. On the other hand, developers are cautious about using open source technology in commercial products.
  • Open hardware in particular helps IoT developers to address their 3 main challenges: a lack of hardware skills, immature tools and high production costs. Arduino is clearly a leader in this space.
  • “Open” seems to be a professional philosophy that is applied on hardware, software and protocols alike. 60% of open source enthusiasts feel that open standards are missing from IoT, compared to 44% of other IoT developers.
  • All this doesn’t mean that open source has won everywhere. Some verticals, e.g. wearables, seem more difficult to address with open source technology and are therefore less popular among open source enthusiasts. Sometimes open source platforms struggle in the face of strong closed-source competitor. Smart Home platform OpenHab is a good example.

In conclusion, developer-explorers are critical to any developer ecosystem, and open source technology is an important tool to make that happen. I for one can’t wait to see what these modern-day Marco Polo’s and David Livingstone’s discover next!


Business Platforms

The 3 key Apple Watch features that nobody talks about. Yet.

[If Apple wants to create a new, large product category out of smart watches, they need to create mass-market demand for their new product. What are the 3 most important features that will define the future of the Apple Watch? The ones that enable developers to innovate on top of these devices and create demand for smart watches.]


“We believe this product will redefine what people expect from its category. … It is the next chapter in Apple’s story.” With these words, Tim Cook made it very clear that the Apple Watch is more than just an excellent product. As with the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad before it, the Apple Watch aims to shape the future of wearables and create a whole new market reality.

As it stands, the Apple Watch v1 is a nicely designed timepiece, an engineering wonder, but competition will be fierce. Since fashion is about self-expression, by definition, there will be no single winner.

If Apple wants to create something bigger than fashion accessories, the Watch needs to be a functional tool. If it’s a tool, [tweetable]Apple must answer a fundamental question: what is a smart watch for?[/tweetable]

Will notifications become the killer app for smart watches? Unlikely. Not only is it unclear that we really want more interruptions, but it’s a bit of a dead-end for innovation. There can only be so many improvements in notifications, and only so many companies making those improvements.

If Apple wants to create a new, large product category out of smart watches, they need to become something much more that a timepiece with notifications and sensors. Something that allows people to do things that were not possible before. How Apple can do this? By following the same path that worked so well for iPhone and iPad: Tap into the limitless innovation power of co-creators to discover new use cases and possibilities we cannot imagine today.

The most important features of the Apple Watch going forward are the ones that enable developers to innovate on top of these devices and create demand for Apple’s smart watches. What are these features?



The straightforward way to expand the functionality of the watch is the WatchKit SDK, which allows developers to create “watch apps”. Other smart watch players like Android Wear, Pebble and Razer have made similar capabilities for developers. Developers are already showing strong interest in smartwatches. For example, the developer program of Pebble boasts 20,000+ developers and thousands of apps,.


The Apple Watch has a strong emphasis on embedded sensors for fitness and wellness. On the launch event, the company dedicated an entire section on it. Tim Cook: “This is a very important area for me and a very important area for Apple.”

But a few sensors and apps do not make a platform. The real potential lies in the HealthKit SDK that Apple launched at its WWDC event earlier this year. While its not technically a feature of the watch itself, it is this SDK that can take the device’s functionality and expand it in a whole new way to monitor activity and other wellness data . Could it be that the category that Apple wants to redefine is not the watch, but wellness and healthcare (in the broadest sense of the word)?

Certainly several other companies seem to go after that opportunity. Among them Google (Google Fit), Validic, Samsung (SAMI), Human API and most recently Jawbone (Jawbone UP API).


Like the Nymi wristband, the Apple Watch has all the technology in it to identify you personally. Apple has already demonstrated how digital identity combined with the Apple Watch can be used to make payments or even open hotel doors. (The clever integration with the new Apple Pay can drive adoption for both.) However, the possibilities are much broader. Biometric identification can be the end of not only passwords, but other kinds of ID as well. Another product category for Apple to redefine and absorb into its iOS universe?

Digital identity is a key control point for many digital leaders, including the likes of Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Salesforce. They are all actively working to hold your identity information and build your online persona on their platform. For Apple, the importance of identity is also evident in their deepening integration between devices and in their introduction of fingerprint sensors in all new phones.

Users first

What is a smart watch useful for? Beyond fashion and self-expression, a new kind of health monitoring and identity are prime candidates for the title of killer use case. Apple is going at it with their proven recipe for launching digital ecosystems: users-first. Apple starts by releasing a well-designed device for hardcore fans with a lot of value built in by default. Once there is a critical mass of users, Apple connects them with developers, who create real mass-market demand for the product.

It will take the ingenuity of a community of developers to explore all the possibilities and create a category killer, and Apple knows it very well.


7 things you need to know before developing a car app

Are you bored with the same old smartphone apps? Why not try developing for cars?


Which tools do you use to develop apps? Have your say in our Developer Economics survey and you could win awesome new gear.

Car makers have started a major offensive to get more apps in their vehicles and open up to outside developers. Their efforts have sparked an interest in the developer community. “A year ago there was very little interest from mobile developers because the automotive market was perceived as being too insignificant,” says Linda Daichendt, Executive Director of the Mobile Technology Association of Michigan, a trade organisation for the mobile/wireless industry located in the heart of automotive country: Detroit. “In late 2013 there was a tremendous surge in vehicle manufacturer outreach to mobile developers with extensive marketing programs. Now there is a much higher level of interest from developers in trying to understand the needs of the automotive companies and how they can profit from working with this market segment. As a result, 2014 is seeing a large number of Connected Vehicle conferences and training programs that are very well attended by the mobile developer community.”

According to Linda, education will be the key to unlock developer engagement and creativity. We thought we’d put in our own 2 cents with our latest report: “Apps for connected cars? Your mileage may vary””. In the free report we describe the state of automotive developer programs in 2014. Here are already 7 things you ought to know before getting into car apps. Many more details inside!

  1. [tweetable]There are 4 ways to develop a car app[/tweetable]. If you want to build an in-vehicle infotainment app, you can run it either on the car’s head unit (the dashboard) or run your app on a mobile device (smartphone or tablet) that is linked with the car. In the latter case, your app’s UI can be mirrored on the dashboard screen using APIs like Mirrorlink or CarPlay. If you want to make an app (in the car, in the cloud or on any device) that uses data from the car, you can use a car maker’s vehicle data API or access the On-Board Diagnostics port (OBD-II) using a bluetooth dongle.VisionMobile-Connected_Car_Apps-02-4_ways_to_develop
  2. [tweetable]There are 3 routes to market for car apps. Two of them are painful. The third is very early stage.[/tweetable]
    • Partner with car makers to get the app pre-installed in the vehicle or featured on a car maker app store. This process takes 2-6 months in the best case. You’ll have to audition with car makers to be allowed to distribute your app, and you’ll be at their mercy for much of the UI design.
    • Distribute apps on major mobile app stores (iOS, Google Play). Still, the approval of car makers is needed to distribute apps using their APIs. You’ll need to sign a distribution contract with the car maker in most cases.
    • Distribute apps on major mobile app stores (iOS, Google Play) while using an OBD-II dongle to get vehicle data. In this case, you need to convince your user to buy and install a hardware dongle. Platforms like Dash and Carvoyant that allow you to access data from an installed base of dongles have only recently launched, and don’t have a large user base yet (in the tens of thousands at most).
  3. [tweetable]The addressable market for car apps is in the lower millions of app installs[/tweetable]. If you were to produce a car app today and push it in the market with all your might, you can expect at most a few million installs across all platforms. It will probably take you several years to get there. Consider the example of Pandora, one of the most popular car apps around. It took them 3 years and over 30 partnership agreements to reach 4 million unique users. Nokia HERE, the navigation platform, claims to be behind 4 out 5 in-car navigation systems. They have sold 10 million licenses in 2013. Compare this to a potential of hundred of millions of installs on iOS or Android for the top apps. (Apps like Gmail or Facebook will probably count billions of installs when adding up all the platforms.)
  4. [tweetable]…but you’ll face much less competition in car apps than on the mobile app stores[/tweetable]. In our Developer Economics report series, we talk about millions of individual mobile app developers on each major platform. There are hundreds of thousands of app publishers on an organisational level. Based on data from analytics firm Priori, we estimate that each distinct app sub-category or use case has on average 1,500 apps competing for the user’s attention.
    In contrast, VisionMobile currently estimates the amount of car app developers at around the ten thousand mark, based on reported figures from car makers that have developer programs. It is still possible to “ride the wave”, i.e. to have an early-mover advantage on car apps just like it existed on smartphones in 2008 or tablets in 2010.
  5. [tweetable]Revenue opportunities for car apps are fuzzy and unproven at best.[/tweetable] Most car makers and car app platform players have not thought through the revenue model question. A common answer is: “the developer can use whatever revenue model he chooses or he is already using”. As we know from mobile apps, it’s not that simple. If you’re relying on an App Store based app for revenue generation, then paid downloads are all but dead in terms of revenue (except navigation apps perhaps), display advertising seems like a no-go and an in-app purchase during normal use seems pretty unlikely, or at least high-friction.
  6. [tweetable]You must design an app that can be operated at 65 mph / 100 km/h without crashing (not your app! your user!).[/tweetable] Safety concerns around driver distraction are absolutely paramount for the car makers you’ll be working with. This is the single biggest difference between car apps and the mobile apps you’re already familiar with. The feeling among car makers is that developers tend to underestimate the importance of new UI paradigms quite a lot – and you’ll be thoroughly scrutinized on it. Expect a learning curve.
    This of course doesn’t apply for car apps that are not used while driving or don’t require user interaction – by no means a niche area! Think insurance, fleet management, car sharing, maintenance and reselling: the list is endless.
  7. [tweetable]Things are moving fast. Your life is about to get easier as platform plays similar to iOS and Android are set in motion[/tweetable]. The introduction of Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Open Automotive Alliance (and to a lesser extent Windows in the Car) seems to herald a tipping point in the industry. Here are two players that have a deep expertise in solving fragmentation, in building developer communities and in enabling developers to add value. There is now a realistic and acute possibility that these new entrants will sweep away the existing car app platforms with a dominant, over-the-top solution, just as they did in the smartphone world. You can find an overview of all the important platform contenders in our report.

Do you consider car apps part of our future? Have your say in our Developer Economics survey and you could win awesome new gear.


Flappy Bird vs Angry Birds – a tale of Hobbyists and Hunters

Here are the stories of two successful birds on the app store. See if you can spot the difference.

Angry Birds vs. Flappy Bird_639px

Flappy Bird was a mobile game developed by Dong Nguyen, a Vietnamese indie game developer, in a few evenings after work. He launched the game in May 2013, but only 7 months later (in January) did it unexpectedly gain immense traction. It reached the top of the US charts, and Nguyen was reportedly earning about $50,000 per day from ads. He couldn’t cope with the pressure and abusive comments however, saying it “ruined his simple life”, and removed the game from the app store on February 10th.

Angry Birds was developed by Finnish game maker Rovio Entertainment. It was a runaway success… on the 52nd try! (That’s how many games the good people at Rovio had developed before Angry Birds). Rovio has expanded to be a successful franchise and merchandising business, counting its revenues in the hundreds of millions of Euros. Today, Rovio employs over 700 people according to its website.

Why did Flappy Bird become a flappy Icarus, crashing after flying too close to the sun, and not a new Rovio? In truth, Nguyen and Rovio represent very different groups of developers. Their motivations are not at all alike, and so neither is their behavior.

Developer motivations wildly differ

Dong Nguyen and his indie game studio .Gears sits on the border of a Hobbyist and an Explorer profile in VisionMobile’s developer segmentation model. Hobbyists are motivated by the fun of making an app, and like Nguyen often do it in their spare time after work. They don’t care about success – killing off a successful project that interferes with their sense of fun and peaceful life wouldn’t seem strange to them. Arcade games like Flappy Bird and the other .Gears projects are a typical project for Hobbyists (professional game developers rarely touch the arcade category).

Our Flappy Bird protagonist also shows traits of an Explorer, however. He presents a formal face with the .Gears studio, complete with email address and copyright notice. Put simply, Explorers are “practicing” to become successful app developers (either as contractors or with own apps): their main motivation is learning how to become professionals and they define success by knowledge gained as well as having a lot of fun developing. Some speculate that Nguyen might have tried to artificially boost the app using review bots, which would be more Explorer than Hobbyist behavior. (Nguyen himself denies having done any kind of promotion.)

Whether Hobbyist or Explorer, Nguyen clearly wasn’t in it for the big money. Contrast that with Rovio, a clear Hunter company. Hunters are revenue driven: their goal is to build a successful business and make money from apps. The 50+ games that Rovio built before Angry Birds are a testament to their persistence in achieving that objective. Success is measured strictly in business terms: app revenues (in the case of Rovio enhanced with merchandising) and user reach. Hunters are professionals, out to build real, lasting companies, exactly what Rovio has achieved. The difference couldn’t be clearer.

Understanding the motivations of developers is key to understanding the choices they make. This includes fundamental choices, like the one between lifestyle and business success that Dong Nguyen faced when his project became a huge success overnight. It also includes all the minor and major decisions that app development involves: business models, tools, platform selection, and much more. [tweetable]If you’re working with developers, gaining insights in their motivations is crucial[/tweetable].

— Christina & Stijn


How to price your app

To matter on the App Store, your app needs to be priced at 99¢, right? Or does it?

Making money from your app is really difficult. Pricing is intuitively an important part of the potential of any app. Price too high, and you price yourself out of the market, but price too low, and you’re leaving preciously needed money on the table.

Michael Jurewitz comes to the rescue! In a five part blog post series, the Apple veteran explains the ins and outs of app pricing, tackling crucial issues like differentiation, pricing power, price elasticity and a practical plan to optimise prices based on your app’s data. Our favorite take-away? Solve a difficult and important problem. Then charge what your software is worth. A must read for every developer who seeks to rise above the app poverty line.

The posts are based on a talk  from the Çingleton and NSConference events.

Michael Jurewitz – Çingleton 2012 from Çingleton on Vimeo.