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Spotlight on Developers in China & the Rest of East Asia

What are some of the key differences between developers in East Asia, including the Greater China region, and the rest of the world? In the 22nd edition of our Developer Nation Survey we collected insights from developers and software engineers in East Asia to try to answer this exact question. Here is what we found!

“A fifth of the global developer population is located in either the Greater China region or the rest of East Asia”

We split the Greater China area from the rest of East Asia to provide more regional granularity. In terms of relative size, we find that almost a fifth (18%) of the global developer population is located in either the Greater China region (9%) or the rest of East Asia (9%). Breaking down East Asia into countries, we see that more than half of the developers here are spread across two countries: Indonesia (32%) and Japan (21%). When comparing developers across regions, we can see that just over a third (34%) of developers in the Greater China region have six or more years of experience, which is notably less than developers globally (43%). Furthermore, the Greater China region has a much smaller concentration (4% vs 22% globally) of highly-experienced developers (16+ years). With generally lower levels of experience in the Greater China area, aspiring developers may find starting a career here less competitive than developers in regions with higher levels of experience.

“East Asian developers outside China have similar levels of experience to the rest of the global developer population”

Both groups have a little more than a third (34%) of their developers with 11+ years of software development experience. However, East Asia’s data are largely propped up by Japan. The developer community in Japan tends to be highly experienced, with almost six in ten developers (59%) having 16+ years of experience. No other country has a higher concentration of developers with this level of experience. 

Developers in the region are mostly either self-taught or have an undergraduate degree in computing

The journey to coding mastery lacks a clearly defined path. Developers typically state they’ve used more than two learning methods on average to learn how to code. In general, the self-taught method is the most popular among developers globally, with more than 60% using this method. However, our data shows that the proportion of self-taught developers fluctuates significantly across regions.

In the Greater China area, the most popular method for developers to learn how to code is via an undergraduate degree in computing, with 50% having used this method. This is significantly higher than developers in other regions (41% -42%). We generally see a higher concentration of professional developers in Greater China (83%) than we do in the rest of the world (70%). It could be that the job market in Greater China more often requires a degree in computing or engineering, which would also explain why self-teaching is used less often in this region.

Developers in the rest of East Asia, however, tend to follow the learning trends of developers in other regions. Here, we see the self-taught method is the most popular method (61%), followed by an undergraduate degree in software engineering (41%). Analysing the data at a country level, we see developers in Indonesia are more diverse learners. Developers in this country stated that they used three methods on average when learning to code. Indonesian developers are more likely to learn via self-teaching, online courses, and developer boot camps than any other developers in East Asia. This is quite different from their peers in Japan who are the least likely to use online courses and bootcamps to learn how to code. Instead, developers in Japan are most likely to use the self-taught (63%) and on-the-job training (45%) methods when learning to code.

“Less Stack Overflow, more and

Next, we explore how developers interact with the popular online community, Stack Overflow, to understand their engagement levels with programming support. Stack Overflow has become a standard support community for many developers, with more than eight in ten (85%) of the general developer population reporting they’ve used or visited this popular question and answer site.

Our focus on developers in East Asia and the Greater China area shows Stack Overflow’s popularity falls below the global average. Developers in these regions are around three times less likely to visit Stack Overflow than developers in other regions. Developers in the Greater China area are the least engaged, with only 19% having an account, and only 11% having earned at least one badge. Developers in this region have other home-grown Q&A site alternatives, such as, which could be contributing to the lower adoption of Stack Overflow.
Developers in Japan are skewing the perception of this region. Developers in Japan have even less activity on Stack Overflow than developers in the Greater China area. Here, only a little more than a third (36%) stated they use Stack Overflow. Furthermore, only about 5% have an account. Like developers in the Greater China area, our data does show usage of Stack Overflow increases among Japanese developers who have gained experience in software development, indicating that less experienced developers are using other platforms for support. Like China, Japan has other home-grown options like where developers can field programming support from their peers, which may be the place new Japanese programmers visit more often to get answers to their questions.


The state of AR and VR in Asia: Highly developed working practices and a strong pipeline of students

This article originally appeared on DevRelX.     

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) have been on the cusp of widespread adoption for many years now, but technical and commercial hurdles have impeded this process. For VR at least, it seems that 2020 could be the year when the technology goes truly mainstream – there are already several consumer-grade headsets available on the market and many game studios are following Valve’s Half-Life: Alyx into VR with their own AAA titles. AR, though now ubiquitous on smartphones and available for many industrial applications, still lags behind in adoption due to the more complex technical challenges such as object occlusion. That said, the recent rumours around Apple’s entry into the Mixed Reality (MR) space may spark a wave of innovators hoping to get the jump on them.

What we do know is that as VR, AR and MR achieve greater market penetration, not only will more developers be needed to create the immersive worlds and experiences that consumers demand, but artists and designers will also be required to populate these worlds with convincing inhabitants, create 3D assets and help to realize a creative vision. Fortunately, there is no shortage of hobbyists involved in AR and VR. As we discuss in our State of the Developer Nation report, not only are most people in AR or VR involved as hobbyists but around a quarter of those who work professionally in the two sectors still consider themselves to be hobbyists on the side.

We also discovered that a lot of developers in AR and VR were taking on many different roles, often those that aren’t traditionally associated with being a software developer. In fact, we coined a new term to describe those people who not only write code but who also dip their toes into more traditional creative endeavors. Enter the Hybrid Developer, and we’ll find out more about her very soon indeed.

At SlashData, as the analysts of the developer economy, we have traditionally been focused on understanding developers. But given the contributions that people in more artistic roles make to many sectors, especially to AR and VR, we felt that in order to truly understand this transformational technology, we needed to understand those people who help shape how it looks and feels. So, for the first time, we sought out people working in AR and VR in non-developer roles. We asked artists, creators, filmmakers and their ilk just what it’s like to work in AR and VR and here I’ll be sharing some of our most interesting findings.

What, exactly, is a Hybrid Developer?

First things first. Let’s understand more about these so-called Hybrid Developers. These are people that have a traditional developer role (a software engineer, or a DevOps specialist, for example), but who also take on more creative or artistic roles (artists and filmmakers, for example). This means that we can fit people involved in AR and VR into three categories:

  1. Pure developers – people who only have developer roles
  2. Hybrid developers – people who have both developer and creative roles
  3. Non-developers – people who don’t have developer roles

Generally speaking, around 63% of those involved in software development projects are pure developers, 21% are non-developers, and 15% are in hybrid roles. But people involved in AR and/or VR show very different behaviour. The distribution amongst these roles is much more even, with fewer pure developers (39%), slightly more hybrid developers (31%) and twice as many non-developers. This is a pattern that is replicated, to a greater or lesser degree across many regions, but it is in South and East Asia where these differences are most pronounced.

State of AR VR in Asia

East Asia is further along the curve for adoption of AR and VR

East Asia has very quickly adopted AR and VR, with almost two in five people involved in software development projects contributing to this sector in some way. But as well as being ahead of the curve in terms of the sheer number of people involved in the sector, non-developer AR/VR practitioners here find it easier to enter the space.

From the chart above you can see that in East Asia, AR/VR practitioners are more than twice as likely to be non-developers than people elsewhere in the world. We see this phenomenon replicated to a lesser extent for people not involved in AR/VR, with a correspondingly lower proportion of hybrid developers. We can draw two conclusions from this:

  1. In East Asia, people involved in software development projects are more specialised, taking on fewer hybrid roles.
  2. Non-developers in East Asia contribute more towards software development projects than elsewhere in the world

Looking to South Asia, the spread of roles in this region is much more balanced – not only does this region have a healthy proportion of hybrid developers, but the distribution of AR/VR practitioners between the three categories of pure, hybrid and non-developers is fairly even. Many AR/VR practitioners here have a balanced and varied skill set, with four in ten of them taking on hybrid roles, and this is something that we see replicated in other developing regions, such as the Middle East and Africa.

What types of roles are AR/VR practitioners taking on?

When we delve more deeply into the developer and non-developer roles that AR/VR practitioners take on, we can tease out some more important insights. The chart below shows a subset of all the roles we ask about (out of a total of 25). In East Asia, only two in ten AR/VR practitioners identify as programmers or developers, the lowest of all the regions, and much less than the rest of the world, where almost half of AR/VR practitioners identify as developers. This is another result of the rapid adoption of AR and VR in East Asia – non-developers have been able to enter the space more easily, and the whole AR/VR ecosystem is at a later stage of maturity.

The incidence of AR/VR practitioners in East Asia that identify as product managers, marketers or salespersons provides further evidence for this – once development practises have matured, productisation and monetisation take a front seat. Here, East Asia is also ahead of the curve.

The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice that although East Asia has a much lower proportion of developers, there is not a correspondingly dominant role in East Asia which makes up for this. These ‘missing’ roles aren’t simply hiding in the ones I haven’t shown here. Instead, AR/VR practitioners in East Asia simply do fewer roles. 62% of them take on only a single role, compared to 47% of AR/VR practitioners in the rest of the world. Only 11% of them do four or more roles, compared to a whopping 27% in the rest of the world. Generally speaking, taking on many different roles is a hallmark of being involved in AR/VR (as we discussed in our State of the Developer Nation report), but this is resoundingly not the case in East Asia. Specialization is another result of a sector maturing – roles become more defined and people have to wear fewer hats, working instead collaboratively in specialized teams.

Finally, without wanting to labor the point, the lower incidence of data scientists and machine learning developers is yet another sign that East Asia is ahead of the curve. Data science and machine learning are foundational to the success of VR, and in particular, AR. Many of the advances here have come from image recognition and other technologies which mitigate some of the hardware difficulties faced by people creating for AR and VR. You might expect this to be reflected in the number of AR/VR practitioners identifying as data scientists, but this is not the case. One viewpoint is that these low numbers are simply a correlation with the lower number of developers in general. But it’s also possible that those who are into AR and VR use a higher level of abstraction – instead of building machine learning models, they simply plug into an API and get the results they need and don’t consider themselves data scientists.

As AR and VR become more established in other regions, we can expect to see many of these phenomena filtering throughout the globe, although the differing cultures and economic situations at play mean that each region will develop its own idiosyncrasies. This said, one good indicator that a sector is in ascension is a high proportion of students, and here, South Asia is ahead of the curve, with over half of AR/VR practitioners here identifying as students. Granted, there are more students in South Asia across all the sectors, but it’s particularly high for AR and VR (51%, compared to 38% for those not involved). South Asia is definitely a region to watch for AR and VR development in the future.

State of AR VR in Asia

If this post has piqued your interest or sparked some interesting questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out and let us know. We hold rich and varied information on people involved in AR and VR, and we’re adding to it all the time!

Want to see more? Check out our latest research reports and graphs based on data from developers like you who took our global surveys.


The European App Economy 2014: Europe is losing ground to Asia

We have just published a research note with an update to last year’s an European App Economy report. The good news is that Europe’s app economy still accounts for 19% of global revenues and is growing strongly at a 12% annual rate. The bad news is that the rest of the world, particularly Asia, is growing much faster. The global app economy is growing at 27% annually and the share of revenues captured by developers in the EU28 is falling. We estimate that around 1 million European jobs have been created by the app economy so far. If policymakers want to see this job creation continue then there’s a lot more they could do to support developers attempting to create businesses.


A $16.5 billion market

In our App Economy Forecasts 2013-2016 report we estimated that apps and app related products and services would generate $86 billion in revenues globally in 2014. The 19% share of this generated by European developers will contribute $16.5 billion to EU28 GDP this year. This is many times more revenue than is generated directly in the app stores. However, the EU is home to the top 2 app store earners globally in Supercell (Finland) and King (UK) – masters of the Free-to-Play games market. At the same time, European policymakers are some of the most vocal in attempts to enhance consumer protection with respect to the Free-to-Play model. So far there is only strong encouragement to reform practices around cost transparency but this could (justifiably) lead to regulation if insufficient voluntary action is taken. Significant changes in this area would undoubtedly impact the revenues of Europe’s most high profile app market success stories.

1 million jobs

We estimate that the number of direct European app economy jobs is up 26% from 2013 to 667,000, this breaks down as 406,000 professional developers and 261,000 non-technical roles in app-related business. Using a conservative multiplier we also estimate another 333,000 jobs have been created indirectly by the app economy in the EU28 for a total of 1 million jobs. A large fraction of these jobs are in software services companies taking the low risk route to profitability building apps on a contract basis. Contract software development is the most popular revenue model in Europe, favoured by 31% of developers. This may be partially due to the relative lack of seed capital for startup ventures in the region along with a relatively high cost of living versus most global competitors, making bootstrapping products more difficult.


Slower growth

Although the European app economy is growing at less than half the global rate, some loss of share was unavoidable. Europe was very quick to reach high levels of smartphone penetration and most of the device sales growth is in developing markets. A significant fraction of demand for apps will always be filled by local developers with better market knowledge. As smartphone penetration increases in developing countries their local app economies are growing rapidly. European developers are well placed to export to English-speaking markets and South America but it’s not so easy for them to succeed in Asia. It’s likely that developers based in the EU will need specialist support or local partners to maximise app export opportunities in some of the fastest growing markets.

The enterprise opportunity

As smartphones reach saturation, businesses will play an increasing role in the growth of the app economy in Europe. In our Business and Productivity Apps report we forecast that this sector would experience rapid growth, reaching $58 billion globally by 2016. We have identified 5 areas where app developers and startups can add value in the business & enterprise app sector:

  • Vertical market specialisation
  • Productivity/BYO apps
  • Mobile SaaS
  • Bespoke enterprise apps
  • Mobile application and device management

While European developers are well placed to win bespoke enterprise app development business, they may struggle to compete with better funded rivals from other regions for the larger opportunities. Starting a technology business has never required less capital but scaling an enterprise software business is incredibly expensive to do quickly. The biggest mobile SaaS, application management and vertical market opportunities are likely to be venture capital fuelled land grabs. To ensure that Europe makes maximum gains from the future growth of the app economy, policymakers need to do all they can to keep app entrepreneurs from relocating to Silicon Valley in order to access the expertise and capital they need to compete.