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If my calculations are correct, about 30% of all questions asked on Stack Overflow are related to Microsoft technologies.

Now I have no problem with this (although a tag filter would be great :)), but I wonder why this is so.

Do you think it's because:

  • Jeff and Joel are Microsoft developers?
  • Microsoft has a huge1 market share, and therefore most developers use Microsoft technologies?
  • FOSS and/or Mac developers already have their own platforms2 (like SourceForge and ADC)?

1 According to the latest TIOBE index, C# is the 8th most popular programming language, with Java, C and C++ being the first three. On Stack Overflow, on the other hand, c# is the most popular tag, with java, c and c++ being the 3rd, 16th and 5th respectively. Interesting.

2 Is there a similar platform for Microsoft developers? I know there's MSDN but I believe it's more like documentation and stuff.

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Dec 10 '09 at 3:26

This question came from our site for professional and enthusiast programmers.

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Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think "Jeff and Joel are Microsoft developers" per se. I'd guess they are smart enough to choose a technology to suit a problem's requirements. –  Mitch Wheat Oct 6 '08 at 14:23
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@Mitch: Any good developer would do so, and I see no reason why Jeff and Joel should be any exception. What I really meant was they were Microsoft ecosystem developers, as in they're more familiar with, and therefore biased towards, Microsoft technologies as compared to F/OSS or Mac technologies. –  Can Berk Güder Oct 6 '08 at 14:33
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@Can Berk: Actually, if you're right about only 30% being MS-related, that's good. Since MS has 70%+ of the PC market, SO is 40% below where it should be. Troll somewhere else. –  Ken White Feb 19 '09 at 4:25
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Someone should open this question back up. It astounds me that community wikis can be closed; isn't the point of a community wiki to have people voice opinions? Either that, or people should make them community wikis before they try to close it. I've opened up a idea on UserVoice to have all community-wikis become un-closed. –  user131465 Jun 25 '09 at 22:17
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It could, and this is a stretch, be because about 75% of Americans use Microsoft products every day. –  orokusaki Feb 5 '10 at 2:19
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You will also find that Spanish and Chinese are more popular than English, and yet most information on IT is in English and very little in those other two languages. - There are many things that influence such statistics. It could be, for example, that the community for linux kernel hacking just prefers mailing lists over any communication technology that supports colors, although that is of course just a conjecture. –  John Dec 13 '13 at 17:49
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It could also be (thought I do not believe it to be the case) that people need more support when using Microsoft products than F/OSS products. –  Mooing Duck Dec 13 '13 at 18:39

21 Answers 21

That's actually low considering about 80% of all computers use Microsoft technologies!

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ITYM desktop computers, not embedded computers (phones, PDA, tablets, TVs, servers, network appliances, fridges) which are nowadays 90% of the computers and for the greatest part running Linux or Unix-like. –  sch Apr 5 '13 at 21:58

I see plenty of java, ruby, MySQL, etc questions. But mainly it's that the community of users for the site are largely MS centric, and that's largely because they were seeded initially from readers of Jeff Atwood's and Joel Spolsky's blogs, both of whom work primarily in MS technologies.

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Seriously: 10 people voted for my answer? Not that I object to the new badge (already maxed on rep today), but really: I'm surprised this question got 10 votes anywhere and that it wasn't closed before that. –  Joel Coehoorn Oct 6 '08 at 15:05
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Hey, that's what happens when the government prints money :) –  Chris Noe Feb 19 '09 at 3:48
    
This is over a year old. Anyone care to share where the 8+ votes today are coming from? –  Joel Coehoorn Dec 10 '09 at 17:14
    
Someone else answered it and it got bumped to the front page (again). Probably a good candidate for locking. –  Tim Post Jun 15 '10 at 8:25

I think it's because the majority of people here came from following Jeff and Joel's blogs, which are MS-centric.

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I'm sure we'll have many more Java questions when I start working on Java in a week or so... –  Omar Kooheji Oct 6 '08 at 14:30

Microsoft technology needs more questions answered :-)

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I think its actually true. I also do a lot of Java, and 99% of that I use is open source, including the lang itself. That makes it easy to figure things out. In .Net, Reflector is your best friend, but so much is proprietary or commercial closed-source code. –  rally25rs Feb 19 '09 at 3:41
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+1 for funny and true. However, not only does it need more questions answered, there are also significantly less places to find good community-based support. Most of the non-MS questions I see here would get answered in a heartbeat on irc.freenode.net –  Sparr Feb 19 '09 at 4:26
    
@Sparr Yeah M$ people was waiting for M$ come with a proposal (which would be a bad one) and pay for use it... then came SO and saved the day –  victor hugo Jun 25 '09 at 19:44
    
@rally25rs, it's not closed-source –  Nicolas Dorier Jun 25 '09 at 22:14
    
It's fair to say that it's more difficult to work out how a closed-source technology stack behaves. You absolutely need more documentation and more support because it's much harder to work things out directly from the software. –  daf Nov 15 '09 at 1:09
    
While it's funny, I think the barrier for entry/participation is higher for competeing technologies. While some would take pride in that, the reality is marketshare potential has been squandered. –  OMG Ponies Dec 10 '09 at 20:31
    
If I've ever heard a platitude before... –  orokusaki Feb 5 '10 at 2:20
    
I disagree in the sense that at least some Microsoft technology, in particular the .NET framework itself, is exceptionally well documented. I do agree with @Sparr's comment though that it is hard to good community-based support. One reason could be that it's more difficult to get started with open-source development - which filters out a number of really dumb people who clutter MS forums and repel the few good ones there. –  John Dec 13 '13 at 18:11
    
@John Microsoft has gotten better about documentation over the last 10 years or so. I wasted a lot of time around 1997-2002 trying to find standards/specs on the FLT file format, which was a MS standard renamed-DLL-file format for handling different image file types. –  Sparr Dec 13 '13 at 19:45

Among the developer community the open source projects, which often run on linux, the web, or use Java, Ruby, PHP, etc are the ones that are "cool" and get a lot of attention. But not only are the majority of the systems in the world running windows but (partly becuase of that fact) a lot of development is done on internal only projects, for which .NET is a very common choice. Probably 90% of the software development in the world is never seen by the general public.

Also, look at Jeff and Joels main audience..they are MS guys, so most of their audience are as well.

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Although C is a very popular language I'm not surprised it is only ranked 16th. There are plenty of long standing forums and places to get information about C.

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An uncharitable answer might be that Microsoft technologies need more answers or engineers need more help, so I won't suggest that one :-) (I feel the rep points floating away)

The more probable truth is that TIOBE index is not necessarily a good indicator of actual usage. It measures the amount of visible references to a technology. I suspect that regardless of what is says there is a large preponderance of Microsoft based development out there in the world and that is reflected on board like this.

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Microsoft languages have so much packed into them, it's hard to pick it all up alone. I'm not trying to say that other languages don't. I know for myself it's because I am a VB.NET developer, so most of my questions/knowledge base are related to MS-centric material.

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In Podcast 22 Joel said he thinks the distribution of questions is similar to distribtion of programmers developing:

Joel: But the real point was: You mentioned VB and another - I don't want to say criticism - observation that we got from a few people was that the site seems heavily .Net oriented: C# and .Net are the biggest categories of questions. I actually didn't think that we were disproportionately .NET oriented. I don't have statistics for this but I actually believe that our distribution of tags is probably pretty close to the actual distribution of working programmers in the world. I don't think people realise just how common it is to be a C# .Net programmer because it's mostly the internal and the enterprisey applications that do that.

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about 30% of all questions asked on Stack Overflow are related to Microsoft technologies

It's possible that 30% of currently used technologies (world wide) are Microsoft technologies.

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Surely it's more. –  Jerry Nixon Jun 23 '11 at 23:39

C# is the 8th most popular programming language, with Java, C and C++ being the first three.

Here "most popular" = "most used" and in that manner the numbers are correct.

What language is most used is defined by global market i.e. currently there are more projects that are maintained + developed in lets say C++ than C#. This is very important thing to notice.

The question "What is currently the most interesting, best supported and promising language?" would give numbers that would have better explanation to your question.

Jeff and Joel's blogs would be the second most important thing that influence the situation I think.

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Well, for PHP, which is one of the competitors on the WEB cake slices, you have very large and well established communities, large code base and the same with good articles all over the web. People tend to stick to the community they are established in, especially if it provides all their needs.

I wouldn't be surprised though if you will see over time a change in the distribution as a natural drift will occur towards SO.

(And although SO creators are MS oriented, it has been a long time since I read something they wrote which was MS specific).

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25 posts and 4 months ago, Jeff wrote a post all about Windows 7. Joel, well, nowadays Joel posts mostly about business issues rather than anything technical. codinghorror.com/blog/archives/001290.html –  MarkJ Dec 10 '09 at 13:26

If my calculations are correct, about 30% of all questions asked on Stack Overflow are related to Microsoft technologies.

Really? I'd have thought it would be quite a lot higher.

If StackOverflow can manage to dig out all the internal line-of-business-app developers, who would otherwise never post anything to the internet, then I'd guess the percentage will go up to much higher than that.

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Thats strange.

If you look at the tags, Java comes in closely behind C#.net which are not in any way mutually exclusive.

I'd be inclined to mention that 90% of the worlds computers are MS, therfore much of the software being developed would be for that market, which is why if you go to an unbiased forum, you would find microsoft heavy influences upon it.

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I believe its just that the Microsoft tech community is more active.

Don't believe me? Expert opinion available here.

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It's so MS-centric for a number of reasons:

  • MS Software is everywhere, 80% of all computers. Therefore 80% of devs are developing for it.
  • MS API is retarded and complex. Sorry, it is. It never ceases to amaze me the amount of code that's needed to do something as simple as open the system log and append a line to it on windows (2 lines on any POSIX system with the syslog call, 3 if you count the include package line for whatever language you're using).
  • So many more people develop for MS so it stands to reason there's a lot more people using MS tech who will just throw their hands in the air and ask simple questions over and over without ever bothering to look for a solution themselves.
  • The MSDN site is sooooo horrible to use. I was looking at an API call and to get all the information I needed to make it work, I had to follow 3 or 4 links OFF the page this morning then jump back and forward between them all to make any sense of it. Sometimes it's just easier to ask WTF and wait for an answer.
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The first point is a distinctly fallacious argument. –  Tom Hawtin - tackline Dec 10 '09 at 13:00

I think another reason is that the .Net languages are really fast moving (rapidly changing).

Java by comparison has the slow-moving JCP and a lot of red-tape to go through to make language changes, making it more stable, and less likely to need questions answered. C/C++ are really old and stable too.

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To avoid having to battle with another huge, inconsistent and utterly depressing API, Microsoft programmers take refuge in trying to bait one another?

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I'd say that it stems from a lot of Jeff's followers learned about SO once it was started, and since he blogged mostly of .Net it brought the genre here.

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If you follow the traffic patterns of Stack Overflow, you'll notice that most viewership occurs during work hours (in the US at least), which leads me to believe that most users are asking questions relating to their work.

If you assume that Microsoft has obtained a stranglehold on most corporate technology, it's easy to see why it's popular on this site as a result.

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I don't consider the original question to be "troll" at all. I got here by googling the exact same question after noticing the same Microsoft-centric statistics for SO knowing that C, C++, Java, etc. are more widely used.

My initial theory was that Joel's Microsoft background is the cause - perhaps most of his followers are MS developers, so when he launched SO, his followers joined because he was pimping the launch, creating a distorted distribution towards MS technologies. From there, it just keeps feeding itself. The fact that the more popular/common languages have established communities I believe is a contributing factor. Personally, I'm just happy to see a decent competitor for Experts Exchange succeed.

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