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The real number of open source developers

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GitHub just released its latest State of the Octoverse report with some astonishing numbers. Unfortunately, some of the numbers—like the claim of 40 million developers—are not just astonishing, they’re wrong.

I’m not suggesting some nefarious intent to deceive. GitHub folks aren’t like that. But by conflating accounts with developers, GitHub isn’t helping us get any closer to accurate data on the developer population. More importantly, we don’t need to artificially inflate developer numbers in order to establish their importance.

40 million, sure. But 40 million of what?

It’s surprising that GitHub bothers to lead with the 40 million number at all, given that it immediately adds a caveat: 40 million refers to “the total number of non-spammy user accounts on GitHub as of September 30, 2019, regardless of their activity status.” OK, so we’re not talking about developers, but 40 million accounts is still impressive, right?

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