This is the transcript of a discussion I did with Rui Ma of Tech Buzz China and Monica Xie of Matrix Partners China on the trend of global developer growth, recorded on February 18, 2021. It is based off of a previous post: "Where Will the Next 50 Million Developers Come From?"

The discussion transcript is organized into the following topics:

  • Why talk about global developer growth?  
  • Diving into GitHub Report Statistics: Present and Future
  • More on Open Source: Startups vs. Tech Giants

You can find audio/video version of this conversation on the Interconnected Voices YouTube channel or watch it below:

NOTE: there is no investment advice in this transcript, any other content on this newsletter, or any episode of Interconnected Voices. Please do your own research and make your own investment decisions.

Transcript

Why talk about global developer growth?  

Kevin: The foundation of this discussion is GitHub's 2020 Octoverse report, plus my own analysis of the report published on the Interconnected newsletter. Octoverse is kind of referring to Octocat, which is, you know, their mascot, and GitHub is where most of the developers in the world are hanging out and working together. And right now, based on GitHub's own claim, they have 56 million developers on their platform.

Obviously there are other competitors to GitHub as well, like GitLab, which is growing very quickly; could be a public company very soon later this year. We also have Bitbucket, which is an older collaboration platform for developers as well. SourceForge is even older than that, but they're still around. And we also have Gitee, which is a similar platform coming out of China. So there are definitely, probably more than 56 million developers. And by GitHub's own projection in this report, they will reach a hundred million developers on their platform in the next five years or so, which motivated this topic: where will this 50 million developers come from?

And the reason I kind of really fixate on developers as a role, as a persona, not just as some kind of worker type, is that they are really the driving force of this technology driven globalization force for the next probably 10, 20 years or so. We are already seeing big companies built from catering to developers like Twilio. Agora will be part of that as well. I will say JFrog and a few public companies and many, many private companies out there.

Diving into GitHub Report Statistics: Present and Future

Kevin: So what I will do is quickly go through some parts of this report, which you can download from Octoverse's website. They have actually three reports, but where you will find the information here is the community report. You have to scroll to the very end of the PDF, but you’ll find there some really beautifully laid out maps of the world to track specifically open source contributors as a proxy to measure developers in general. So obviously it's not one-to-one, but the vast majority of developers these days will contribute or at least use open source technology in some sense.

Based on this report in 2015, the United States was by far the largest of open source contributors, accounting for 30.4% of the world's contribution. Germany and the UK were number #2 and #3 with 7.3% and 5.8%. And in just five years in 2020, which is, you know, pretty much now, the US is still #1, but the proportion has fallen to 22.7% by GitHub's count. What really came up from behind was China and India, representing 9.76% and 5.2% of the global open source contribution proportion.

Another really interesting set of statistics is that GitHub is tracking a lot of countries and regions that are growing really, really quickly by percentage, even though it may be from a very small base. I think some of these regions and countries are really worth mentioning. It’s not clear by reading the report, but this is probably like a year on year growth rate from 2019 to 2020. The #1 growth rate is actually in Nigeria, which is a 65.9%, followed by Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, and Egypt. All of these places have more than 50% year on year growth in terms of the developers coming from those places. And the second half of the top 10 countries are Pakistan, Indonesia, Turkey, Colombia, and Peru.

So I'm going to pause there real quick to see if either Rui or Monica has any commentaries or reactions to some of these numbers based on what you're seeing in terms of where innovation is happening around the world.

Rui: I was just going to say that I had read your blog post before the session, and I was really surprised by some of the countries you mentioned, because I didn't realize they were such developer powerhouses or emerging developer powerhouses. Then I wonder if you had the same reaction when you read the report.

Kevin: Yeah, I was definitely surprised by, I think the growth rate in some of the African countries. Frankly, because I'm just not very familiar with that region, it may be that other people who are more knowledgeable about it, who are in this room can really put us to task and tell us that this is not surprising at all.

So the three big regions in terms of growth rates are Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America. And that's partially why I'm physically here in Mexico, even though Mexico isn't on the top 10 list, it's one of the largest economies in LATAM. It has, you know, 129 million people within Mexico and another 36 million who live in the United States and Canada. And I just learned earlier today, actually meeting with some Mexican entrepreneurs that 90 million of the 129 million in Mexico have smartphones. And their 4G data coverage is actually pretty good, even if you live in a rural area, not just big places like Mexico City or Guadalajara. So I'm definitely a little bit surprised by that. And, you know, I think as we discuss a little bit more, looking into the future, we might be even more surprised by where things could be going.

But Monica, do you have any thoughts on that before we keep on going with this discussion?

Monica: Yeah, definitely. I think there's definitely some very interesting continents that we didn't expect, but I would like to add that while I was not surprised that China is a rising force in the open source community, I was still surprised by how close it was to the US. As I just came back to China a couple of months ago, I was really surprised by how active the open source community is in China, by coming from both big tech giants, like Alibaba, Tencent, Huawei, but also like how many new startups are coming up in the open source space.

I think there's a number shared by Confluent that more than half of their contributions come from China. So I think this is definitely very exciting to see, and Matrix Partners China also has invested in a couple of open source companies, including PingCAP, which Kevin knows very well.

Kevin: And you said that that report is from Confluent, the company behind Kafka. Is that right?

Monica: Yes, but don't quote me on that. I remember from someone that shared in a webinar, not quite sure whether it's a count by contributions or contributors, but definitely a huge amount of their community comes from China.

Kevin: Okay, cool. Just for those of you who had never heard of those two words before, Kafka or Apache Kafka is a very popular open source project in the messaging streaming space. And then Confluent is the company behind or commercializing that project, which we'll get into in a little bit when it comes to open-source commercialization. We have quite a few experts in the room that I want to invite up when we talk about that, so hang on with that subject.

I want to keep going a little bit more into the rest of GitHub's projections. So GitHub provided some crystal ball content if you will, looking into their own growth and projecting into 2025. What they're seeing is that the open source contribution proportion for the United States will decrease and stabilize to around 16.4%. China's share will increase to about 13.3% and India will reach 7.9%. And there will also be some big, you know, proportion of contribution worth mentioning from Brazil, which they may see getting 2, 3% of the global share and Nigeria to 1.9%.

In addition to numbers, GitHub also has a visual for 2030 in their report, which I encourage you to squint at a little bit. The map has different shades of brightness to indicate which country or region is contributing more or less proportion than others. And if you look at the brightness between China and the United States, they’re actually pretty much indistinguishable. India is also incredibly visible. So is Russia, Brazil. Germany is still very much a contributor as well, never quite faded into the back scenes. And I think Indonesia is another one that is gaining shares.

And I do want to say that I don't want to just tell everybody about the report and take it at face value. Developers mean different things to different people or even different platforms. After I shared my post out on Twitter last week, I got some really good feedback from people who are actually doing a lot of analytics around GitHub accounts and profiles, to see how involved a lot of them really are. And there are quite a number of accounts on GitHub that maybe have one line of contribution in a project somewhere or something that's relatively minor, but still gets counted into this number. That certainly is very different materially from an account or a developer that's consistently growing their contribution into open source projects here and there.

And we can have a discussion about how much we should trust these numbers coming from GitHub, as we look at where the next crop or batch of developers will be coming from, which I think will be a very good proxy for where technology, whether it's new or older, could be updated or emerge around the world - which market, which continent, and things like that.

So with that, I want to again, have our panelists, Rui and Monica chime in a little bit. And then we'll just kind of open it up to discussion with the rest of the room. There are lots of folks in here that I think will have very valuable input to this topic.

Rui: I don't have too much to add. I'm excited to learn from others here, actually, because I primarily focus on consumer internet, so this is all new territory to me. And I've invited a bunch of people, who I think can give better clarity on the nuances that you talk about. For example, I have a GitHub account because I took some machine learning lessons and that was part of the assignment, but I definitely should not be counted as an active developer.

Kevin: We're not going to count you in that crop? Haha.

More on Open Source: Startups vs. Tech Giants

Monica: Yeah I have also invited a couple of friends I know who have been contributing and involved very deeply in the open-source community and really looking forward to what they have to say. And I have one thing to add as well. I have seen particularly how open source has become a way for startups to really tackle some tech giants in a whole new way, especially at the infrastructure level. We have seen a lot of rising open source companies working on mostly database or search engine, all those things that we previously thought would be dominated by tech giants, but by providing their products and through open source, they were able to create not only a more powerful product, but even a new standard by themselves, which is almost impossible in, I would say, the pre-open source world.

And I believe that having worked at AWS, giants are now becoming more and more open to joining this open source force in two ways. One is that they know that they themselves cannot be the only very widely adopted open source tools, even at the infrastructure level. So they have to embrace what the community has to say, and we have seen a lot of their products based on open source projects.

And the second way I've seen, like in China, I was surprised by how many open source projects there are by tech giants like Alibaba and Tencent. And I think that this will create more complexities in the competition between startups and giants, but it also opens up more opportunities for startups to innovate in new ways.

Lastly, I would like to say that for startups, if you really have a very very technology product, don't be afraid to make it open source. By leveraging the community and opening up to the world, you are actually enabling more and more companies to join you to help you iterate your product even faster and you yourself can even become the next standard of a new enterprise tech stack. This really has become a powerful way to compete with the tech giants.

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以下是我在2021年2月18日与Tech Buzz China的马睿和经纬的Monixa Xie关于全球开发者增长趋势的语音讨论的记录,基于我之前写的一篇文章《下一批5000万开发者会从哪里来?

讨论记录分成以下几个主题:

  • 全球开发者增长为什么值得讨论?
  • GitHub报告中的数据告诉了我们什么,关于现在和未来?
  • 更多关于开源的讨论:创业公司与科技巨头

本对话的音频/视频版本可在《互联之声》 YouTube频道上找到

注:本记录、以及《互联》上的任何其他内容或《互联之声》的任何一集都不包含投资建议。请您自行研究并做出自己的投资决策。

讨论记录

全球开发者增长为什么值得讨论?

Kevin:这次讨论的基础是GitHub在2020年发布的Octoverse报告,加上我自己发表在《互联》上的分析。Octoverse这个名字本身是呼应Octocat的,也就是GitHub的吉祥物。GitHub是世界上大多数开发者在一起交流、工作的地方,而现在,根据GitHub自己的说法,他们的平台上有5600万开发者。

显然,GitHub也有其他的竞争对手,比如GitLab,它的发展速度非常快,今年下半年可能就会成为一家上市公司。我们还有Bitbucket,它是一个较早出现的开发者协作平台。SourceForge比它还要老些,但是仍然健在。我们还有Gitee,这是一个从中国出来的类似平台。所以可以肯定的是,世界上开发者的真正数量不只5600万。按照GitHub报告中的预测,他们平台上的开发者数量将会在未来五年左右达到一亿人。这一数据促成了本期讨论的话题:多出来的5000万开发者会从哪里来呢?

我总是把注意力放在开发者这个角色、这类人身上,因为他们不仅仅是科技工作者,更可能是未来10年、20年左右推动这场以技术为核心的全球化的驱动力。我们已经看到了像Twilio这样靠迎合开发者起家的大公司,声网将会成为其中一员,我认为JFrog和一些上市公司,还有很多很多的私有公司都是如此。

GitHub报告中的数据告诉了我们什么,关于现在和未来?

Kevin:我现在打算快速、有选择性地给大家过一下这份报告的内容,至于完整的报告,你可以从Octoverse的网站上下载。他们其实有三份报告,但是我们这里讨论的是社群报告(Community Report)。报告PDF的最后面还能看到一些布局非常精美的世界地图,展现的是开源贡献者在全球的分布,作为衡量普通开发者在全球分布的代理。所以很明显这不是一对一的关系,但是现在绝大多数的开发者都会在某种意义上贡献或者至少使用开源技术。

根据2015年的这份报告,美国是迄今为止最大的开源贡献者,占全球贡献的30.4%。德国和英国以7.3%和5.8%的比例位列第2和第3位。而在短短5年后的2020年,也就是差不多现在,美国仍然是第一,但根据GitHub的统计,比例已经下降到22.7%了。真正后面追上来的是中国和印度,占全球开源贡献比例的9.76%和5.2%。

另外一组非常有趣的数据是,GitHub正在跟踪全球很多开源贡献比例增长迅速的国家和地区,尽管它可能是从一个非常小的基数开始的,我觉得其中一些地区和国家非常值得一提。虽然GitHub的报告并没有说清楚,但是这里的“增长”指的应该是从2019年到2020年的同比增长率。增速第一的其实是尼日利亚,65.9%,其次是香港、沙特、孟加拉国和埃及,来自这些地方的开发者同比增长都超过了50%。排名前十的国家中,后五名是巴基斯坦、印尼、土耳其、哥伦比亚和秘鲁。

我想在这里暂停一下,看看马睿或者Monica基于自己所见的世界各地的创新情况,是否对这些数字有什么评论或者反应。

马睿:我想说的是,我在会议之前读过你的博客文章,我对你提到的一些国家感到非常惊讶,因为我没有意识到他们是这样的开发者大国或新兴的开发者大国。不知道你看了报告之后,是不是也有同样的反应?

Kevin:是的,我肯定是很惊讶的,特别是一些非洲国家的增长速度。坦率地说,因为我对那个地区不是很熟悉,可能在座的对这个地区比较了解的朋友们可以把当地的情况告诉我们,也许这样快的增速一点都不令人惊讶。

从增长率来看,最快的三大区域是非洲、中东和拉丁美洲,这也是为什么我在墨西哥的部分原因。尽管墨西哥不在前十名的名单上,但它是拉美最大的经济体之一。它有1.29亿人在墨西哥和另外3600万住在美国和加拿大。我今天早些时候也通过与墨西哥企业家们的聊天刚刚了解到, 实际上,在墨西哥的1.29亿人口中,有9000万拥有智能手机。而且他们的4G数据覆盖率其实是很不错的,不只是在墨西哥城或者瓜达拉哈拉这样的大地方,也在农村地区。所以,我肯定是有点惊讶的。而且我想随着我们讨论更多, 展望未来,我们可能会更惊讶于事件的未来走向。

但是Monica,在我们继续讨论之前,你有什么想法吗?

Monica:有的,真的有一些非常有趣的大洲是我们没有想到的。但我想补充一点,虽然我对中国是开源社区的一股新兴力量并不感到惊讶,但我还是对中国与美国的距离如此之近表示震惊。因为几个月前我刚刚回到中国,我真的很惊讶于中国开源社区的活跃度,既来自于大的科技巨头,像阿里巴巴、腾讯、华为,也有很多新的创业公司在开源领域崭露头角。

Confluent有分享过一个数字,他们一半以上的贡献来自于中国,所以我觉得这绝对是非常令人振奋的。经纬中国也投资了几家开源公司,包括Kevin非常了解的PingCAP。

Kevin:而且你说那个报告是来自Confluent,Kafka背后的公司。是这样吗?

Monica:是的,但请不要引用我的话。我记得有人在网络研讨会上分享过,但是不太确定是按贡献还是贡献者来统计的。可以肯定的是,他们的社区有大量来自中国的贡献。

Kevin:好的没问题。对于那些从来没有听说过这两个词的朋友们来说,Kafka或者Apache Kafka是消息流领域一个非常流行的开源项目。然后Confluent是这个项目背后的公司,或者说是将它商业化的公司。关于这个话题请大家再耐心等等,我们一会儿讲开源商业化的时候还会聊到。Clubhouse这间房里有不少专家,等下谈这个问题的时候我会请他们上来说说。

我想再继续讲一下GitHub的其他预测,这颗水晶球预测到了2025年。GitHub预计到那时美国的开源贡献比例会下降,最后稳定在16.4%左右。中国的比例会增加到13.3%左右,印度会达到7.9%。而且还会有一些其它贡献比较大的国家值得一提,比如巴西,可能会达到2,3%的全球份额,尼日利亚则会达到1.9%。

除了数字之外,GitHub在他们的报告中还有一张2030年的视觉图,我鼓励大家去看一下,地图上有不同的明暗度来表示不同国家或地区的贡献比例高低。如果你对比一下中国和美国之间的明暗度,会发现它们其实是差不多的。印度的颜色是非常明显的,俄罗斯、巴西也是如此。德国从来没有完全淡出开源,还是很有贡献度的,而另一个正在增加贡献份额的国家是印尼。

我想说的是,我并不想把报告告诉大家,然后照单全收。开发者这个词对不同的人甚至不同的平台意味着不同的东西。上周我把我的文章分享出去之后,得到了一些非常好的反馈。他们其实是围绕着GitHub的账户和资料做了很多分析,看看上面这么多的开发者到底有多大的参与度,最后发现GitHub上有不少账号,可能只是在某一个小项目里有一行贡献,但还是会被计入开发者数量的数字,这当然是和一个持续为开源项目增加贡献的账户或者开发者相比,有很大的实质性区别。

而且我们可以讨论一下,到底应该在多大程度上相信这些来自GitHub的数字,因为我们要看下一批开发者会从哪里来。我认为这些地点将是一个非常好的代理,来反映技术,无论新旧,可能会在哪个大陆、哪个市场更新或者出现。

现在我想再次请马睿和Monica来做一个小结。然后,我们将开放房间的讨论,我知道这里有很多人能提供关于这个话题非常有价值的想法。

马睿:我没有太多的补充。其实我很高兴能从这里的其他人那里学到东西,因为我主要关注消费互联网,所以这对我来说都是新的领域。而且我邀请了一堆人,我认为他们可以更好地明确、解释你所讲的细微差别。比如说,我就有一个GitHub账户,因为上了一些机器学习的课程,创建一个GitHub账户是我作业的一部分,但我绝对不应该被算作一个活跃的开发者。

Kevin:看来你不想我们把你算在未来的5000万开发者里面?哈哈。

更多关于开源的讨论:创业公司与科技巨头

Monica: 我也邀请了几个认识的朋友,他们一直在深度地参与开源社区,并做出贡献,非常期待他们的发言!我还有一件事想补充,就是开源已经成为了创业公司应对科技巨头的全新方式,尤其是在基础设施层面。我们看到很多新晋的开源公司主要是在数据库或者搜索引擎方面工作,要知道这些是我们之前认为会被科技巨头所主导的东西!但是通过提供产品和开源,初创公司不仅能够创造出更强大的产品,还能够创造出新的标准。我想说,在开源之前的世界里,这几乎是不可能的完成的事。

在AWS工作过后,我相信巨头们现在越来越开放了,且从两个方面加入这股开源的力量。一是他们知道自己不可能成为唯一的、非常广泛采用的开源工具,即使是在基础设施层面,所以他们必须接受社区的意见。我们已经看到了,他们的很多产品都是基于开源项目的。

而第二种方式是,比如在中国,我很惊讶于像阿里巴巴和腾讯这样的科技巨头有这么多的开源项目。我认为这将会给创业公司和巨头之间的竞争带来更多的复杂性,但同时也为创业公司提供了更多的机会,让他们以新的方式进行创新。

最后,我想说的是,对于创业公司来说,如果你真的有一个非常非常技术类的产品,不要害怕把它开源。当你向世界开放时,你其实是在利用社群的力量,让越来越多的公司加入你,帮助你更快地迭代你的产品,你自己甚至可以成为企业技术栈的下一个新标准。这真的已经成为了初创公司与科技巨头竞争的有力方式了呢。

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