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Developer population growth slowing, yet applications abound

Most areas are expected to see declines in developer population, according to a new study. But the number of open-source and social-Web applications is exploding. What explains this apparent contradiction?

In a new study, Evans Data says that the developer population in established economies is expected to decline by 35 percent this year compared with last year, as InformationWeek reports. Despite this dearth of developers, however, we continue to see an explosion of open-source projects and social-Web applications.

What gives?

It's very possible, of course, that a dwindling number of developers is pushing more of its development work to the public eye of the Web, creating the appearance of more development activity even as the total number of lines of code written declines. Rising unemployment might be contributing to this.

In other words, perhaps that out-of-work Citigroup developer, who used to spend all of her time as one developer among many contributing to a big intranet application, has now launched an open-source project (or two) to ease the burden of unemployment?

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Or perhaps the development tools made available for writing Facebook applications, for example, make it easier to crank out more projects by fewer people. Maybe productivity gains are enabling fewer developers to do more.

I'm not sure. But it does seem that the developer drought, spurred by a sickly economy, isn't having an adverse effect on open-source and social-Web development. If anything, the weak economy may be encouraging more development, not less.

How would you explain the increased number in open-source and social-Web applications, in light of a reported decreasing developer population?

UPDATE @ 11:51 PDT: As noted in the comments below, I inadvertently describe a 35-percent decrease in the developer population, rather than a 35-percent decrease in developer growth. That said, the same quandary/question remains: the pace of new development in open source and the social Web exceeds the growth of the developer population. Your thoughts on why?

Follow me on Twitter @mjasay.