Stack Overflow has been around for almost nine years, and I don't think anyone can deny that it is an absolute resounding success by any objective standard. There are not very many serious programmers (professional or hobbyist) that do not use Stack Overflow to find answers on a semi-regular basis. This is quite an achievement.

There are 168 other Stack Exchange sites too, but literally all of them are a lot smaller than Stack Overflow. Stack Overflow consistently gets about 8,000 questions a day. Maths is the second-largest site and gets "only" about 500 questions a day, the third-largest is the Russian Stack Overflow site with about 200 questions a day (this doesn't really count), and the fourth largest is Ask Ubuntu with about 150 questions a day.

Quite a difference!

Not only that, in my experience a lot of sites that have nothing to do with IT – such as Politics, Skeptics, Christianity, English Language, etc. – are dominated by people with an IT background – usually programmers. In other words, the already small (comparatively) traffic is fed by Stack Overflow, rather than "organic" growth.

Why? What makes Stack Overflow so special? Is it the topic matter? Something in the Stack Overflow community or the programming community at large? Or is it just chance? Something else?

  • 2
    It's the oldest site with the broadest audience. Jun 25 '17 at 1:52
  • @πάνταῥεῖ I don't think that explains it at all. Other sites have been around for years as well, Stack Overflow has been scoring 8k/day for a few years now, and 150/day is very very far off from 8k. It also seems to me that topics such as computer usage (Super User), Cooking, Politics, etc. have a much broader audience than computer programming. Jun 25 '17 at 1:57
  • But the computer programmig audience is attracted to SO mainly, blame google maybe. Jun 25 '17 at 2:15
  • 1
    It's been around and established a reputation for being the de facto website for programming questions -- a field that's a relatively 'new' area thus has a lot of people asking questions. There are many new learners and many looking for careers in the field as it's hugely needed in the future. Other sites have topics that aren't in such high demand IMO.
    – Andrew Li
    Jun 25 '17 at 3:35
  • Possible duplicate of Graduation, site closure, and a clearer outlook on the health of SE sites: "Thanks to many devoted users, it’s grown clear that smaller SE sites can do a great job of maintaining themselves and producing high quality Q&A. Not every site is going to be a blockbuster success, but our small sites are serving their own communities well. We’re proud of you, and we want you here..."
    – gnat
    Jun 25 '17 at 11:52
  • see also: We're enabling display ads on select Stack Exchange sites (sort of a proof that smaller sites can get to the point of being commercially viable)
    – gnat
    Jun 25 '17 at 11:52
  • 2
    Why doesn't Stack Overflow на русском "really count"? Jul 4 '17 at 21:20
  • 1
    @Randal'Thor - presumably because it's a branch of SO and not really a site in its own right.
    – Mithical
    Jul 4 '17 at 21:23
  • 1
    @Mithrandir But it is a site in its own right, with its own questions and users and mods and presumably policies. You might as well say SU/SF/AU/etc. are just branches of SO because they're all just about computery stuff. Jul 4 '17 at 21:39
  • @Randal'Thor The localized versions of Stack Overflow share much more than SO does with SU/SF/etc. It is Stack Overflow, just in a different language. There are differences, sure, but also many similarities (e.g. same subject matter, same branding, same rules, etc.). I'm not sure if it's useful to compare SO and localized SOs for the purpose of this specific question. Jul 4 '17 at 21:44


Stack Overflow is the first site in the SE network (SE network started later).

So, if you Google for some programming-related question, Stack Overflow will be there in the first 5 results (in most cases) because from the start itself, SO had a large number of good quality questions with high page views (which Google considers). When a programmer Googles something, they are simply attracted towards Stack Overflow.

People stay there because of the number people there to help. There are thousands of people able to help (this is different for other sites). Most probably you will get answer in seconds or minutes.


Stack Overflow handles all kind of programming questions, where Ask Ubuntu handles only Ubuntu-related questions.

So, the generality.


Programmers are always connected to Internet and when they get a small doubt, many of them ask it in SO (most of them later closed/deleted because of good quality).

But for maths, it is not the case. They are occasionally visit and ask it.

If a maths teacher teach a problem, and a student has a concern, he can't ask immediately. He have to wait till the session ends.


Many sites like Google dev, jQuery, etc, redirect their visitors to Stack Overflow in the case if they have any doubt.

You can see a link saying ask on Stack Overflow with the related tag.

Last but not least

We have Jon Skeet.

  • 1
    Thank you for your answer! 1 there are many sites that have been around for 6, 7, 8 years, and none of them are even close to being on-track to being the "Stack Overflow for [topic]". 2 may be true when comparing to some sites, but there are many very general sites too (Super User, Server Fault, Cooking, Math, many more). 3 may be a factor, but that's also true for the users of many other topics (such as sysadmins). 4 seems like a reverse of causality: those sites redirect to SO because it is such a success; they didn't cause the success. Jun 25 '17 at 20:07

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