The developer role is changing radically, and these figures show how

Data from Github suggests there are now more developers than ever. Here's what has changed.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer
Image: Luis Alvarez/Getty

Microsoft-owned GitHub says it now has more than 100 million developers using the code-hosting service to contribute to software projects. 

GitHub's user numbers are up from 73 million in 2021 and 40 million in 2019, which was a year after Microsoft acquired it for $7.5 billion, with 28 million users, and gained cross-platform desktop development framework Electron.

If GitHub's 100 million users are all active developers, it perhaps reflects how the nature of software development is changing. 

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SlashData, for example, estimates there are 24 million active developers worldwide. Some 19 million of these professionals are using JavaScript, and most are using Microsoft's overlay, TypeScript. Statista estimates there are 28 million developers globally. IDC says the 10 million developers building in Java account for 75% of the world's full-time developers. 

But Thomas Dohmke, GitHub's CEO, says there needs to a broader definition of the developer role compared to 2007, when the first line of code was committed to GitHub. This suggestion is similar to Microsoft chief Satya Nadella's mantra since taking the helm of the tech giant in 2014 -- he believes every business is a software business.  

"Today, developers are no longer just people building software for technology companies. They're an increasingly diverse and global group of people working across industries, tinkering with code, design, and docs in their free time, contributing to open source projects, conducting scientific research, and more," writes Dohmke.

Also, the world's developers are no longer so highly concentrated in the US. GitHub has about 17 million users in the US, which is still its largest user base, but the service predicts India -- whose GitHub developer population stands at 10 million today -- will surpass the US by 2025.  

"They're people working around the world to build software for hospitals, filmmaking, NASA, and the PyTorch project, which powers AI and machine learning applications. They're also people who want to help a loved one communicate and family members overcome illnesses," Dohmke notes.

On top of this, Microsoft's multi-billion dollar investment in OpenAI is helping to attract new developers via services such as its paired programming coding assistant GitHub Copilot, which uses OpenAI's Codex to suggest coding solutions. Codex is based on OpenAI's GPT-3 family of large language models (LLM), which are also powering ChatGPT, which Microsoft will soon offer as part of its new Azure OpenAI Service.

Also: How to get started using ChatGPT

At Tuesday's fiscal second-quarter earnings call, Nadella reassured investors that AI was driving new business amid falling PC shipments and Windows revenues, and slowing revenues growth in cloud. 

Nadella said that GitHub Copilot was the "first at-scale AI product built for this era". He said it was attracting new users and that it had been used by one million people since launch. Copilot attracted 400,000 users in one month after the service for individuals launched in July for $10 per user per month or $100 per user per year

GitHub expanded Copilot in November with a feature called Hey, GitHub, which lets developers use voice commands to complete coding tasks. In December, it launched Copilot for business for $19 per month per user.      

There's been no mention of how GitHub might use ChatGPT once Microsoft offers the service to customers for their own applications. The chatbot has been used to answer coding questions, although its answers were banned by Stack Overflow and deemed low quality. However, the chatbot recently earned a B-grade pass in the equivalent of an MBA exam

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