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There’s one thing stopping developers from using open source even more

Chris Grams
by Chris Grams
on October 1, 2019

Updated on December 10, 2020

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In June of 2019, Tidelift and The New Stack jointly fielded a survey of professional software developers. Almost 400 people responded with thoughts about how they use open source software today, what holds them back, and what tools and strategies would help them use it even more effectively. In particular, with this survey, we were interested in learning how a managed open source strategy might help developers reclaim time, speed up development, and reduce risk.

In this post, we share the first of eight key findings, which will be published over the coming weeks. If you don’t want to wait, you can download the full survey report right now at the link below.

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Finding #1: Despite its overwhelming advantages, open source adoption is inhibited by concerns about the availability of reliable support.

In a previous survey, we learned just how pervasively open source software is used by professional developers today, with 92% of applications using open source components. Open source has surely become the default stack for modern developers.

In this survey, developers compared open source and proprietary software in a number of different areas. The results roundly confirm why developers prefer open source. In every area except one—reliable support and consulting services—open source came out ahead of proprietary software.


According to respondents, the number one benefit of open source is technology flexibility and extensibility, with an astounding 86% agreeing that open source is better. This is followed closely by developer satisfaction, where 81% say that open source is their choice.

Open source also is preferred by significant margins when it comes to total cost of ownership (75% for open source to 8% for proprietary), development speed (73% for open source to 10% for proprietary), quality of code (68% for open source to 5% for proprietary), security (61% for open source to 13% for proprietary), and functionality (59% for open source to 14% for proprietary).

The only area where proprietary software is seen as slightly better is in the availability of reliable support and consulting services.

On performance and stability, the results are more mixed. While only 14% see proprietary as better (compared to 52% for open source), a full 30% view the two as about the same.

The only area where proprietary software is seen as slightly better is in the availability of reliable support and consulting services. Nearly 40% of respondents report proprietary software as stronger in this category, versus 36% for open source.

Given the vast advantages of open source in all other areas the survey explored, closing this “support gap” by creating open source support and consulting services on par with the technology’s perceived quality represents the last hurdle before open source completely eclipses proprietary software.

Fortunately, efforts like the movement toward managed open source are narrowing the gap by combining the best elements of the proprietary model—like support and maintenance under a contractual service level agreement—with all of the existing benefits of open source. The industry is making progress, but these results show there is still more work to do!

Want the full survey results in one report? Get them here now.

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