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Ben Halpern
Ben Halpern

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A Look at Stack Overflow Mobile vs Web Popularity Trends

I want to share an interesting conversation that sprang up in another thread relating to language trends...

Actually after playing with different keywords I noticed that there is overall a downward trend when it comes to questions about mobile app development in general, here a comparison between android and ios and I also added Java and Objective-C for good measure:

Android vs iOS

I was initially thinking that cross-platform development platforms such as React-Native and Flutter are massively on the rise, but it doesn't seem to be the case to such an extent:


But there is a significant trend up for web development questions:

webapp trends

I do have to wonder how much of the downward trending of these graphs is actually due to lower interest, or simply the fact that an answer already exists and no longer needs to be asked. Upward trends are definitely indicative of growth, but downward trends...maybe just a mark of maturity and time, not necessarily declining popularity.

Interesting thought... A few more factors that might play a role:

  • Android documentation and tutorials have vastly improved over the past few years
  • Stackoverflow is heavily policed. Duplicates are usually closed. Poor questions deleted. I wonder if these are also taken into account in "Stack Overflow Trends"
  • Some questions don't have tags. It's rare, but a search for "android -[android]" (the word android minus the tag android) comes up with 100K results

So yeah, I guess it makes sense that we have reached something like "Q&A saturation" for Android.

I was also wondering something else along the lines... The graph's Y-axis unit is the percentage of all questions asked per month, and not an absolute amount of questions. I assume the amount of questions asked per month changes over time.

Assuming the active Stackoverflow community was also growing over the past few years, I guess we have overall more questions showing up every month compared to a few years ago where Java and Android were in its prime.

Maybe the actual amount of Java questions per month didn't go down, just the relative amount compared to all questions asked on the platform?

We do have more technologies in the mix that play a bigger role in recent years.

But on the other hand... I'm not a data scientist or analyst. I have no idea what all of that means :-D

I think the fun thing is that there are a few directions this conversation should go in, and it's a lot of interesting data.

Happy coding ❤️

Top comments (3)

chiangs profile image
Stephen Chiang • Edited

I've read some research out there that essentially stated that on a mobile device, a user spend most of their time in less than a handful of apps... Furthermore, the average user downloads less than one app per month once the phone is setup. However, second to those apps, the majority of the rest of the time is spent on the web.

One way to interpret this data is it incentivizes developers to focus on the web and web technologies that provide a native-like experience such as pwa's or straight up mobile friendly web sites and applications where they are more likely to get users.

Couple the likelihood of your native app being in the top five used on a phone plus the hoops you jump through to get it listed on the app store, plus monetizing methods, that juice might not be worth the squeeze anymore.

Just my supposition.

zeerorg profile image
Rishabh Gupta

I think comparing trends for different technologies is somewhat not indicative of a platform's popularity. Sure, javascript and web technologies have gained popularity but ios and android haven't dropped.
I'm heavily leaning towards the "answers already exist" and that there are other platforms which are gaining popularity without necessarily hurting previously established platforms. We could mix in .net trends and argue that desktop development is dead but we know it isn't.
.net chart

zeerorg profile image
Rishabh Gupta

Since, .net docs have improved a lot and stack overflow is not the only platform to ask questions about .net, which can be said about android too.