This morning we released the results of the first-ever Ionic Developer Survey, with input from more than 13,000 community members who shared with us the tools and technology they use, and what types of apps they’re building.

The full data set is available on our site, along with our own insights and analysis.

First and foremost, let me say thank you to the community for your amazing support. We think the results of the survey will be really valuable for developers, and for the vendors featured in the results. We couldn’t have done it without your support, so thank you!

I also wanted to offer my perspective on what the results mean for the Ionic community and mobile development as a whole. While there’s lots of interesting data in the survey results, the dominant theme is simple: right now is a great time to be a web developer.

First, a little backstory.

When we first started building the Ionic Framework back in 2013, we had a very specific audience in mind: web developers new to mobile. We knew that there were millions of web developers that were eager to participate in the growing mobile app economy, but weren’t familiar with native development. We thought that if we could develop a way for web developers to build amazing apps using the skills they already had (HTML, JavaScript, CSS), they would embrace the opportunity.

Fast forward to the 2017 Ionic Dev Survey. Nearly 80% of developers building mobile apps identify as web developers. Now, one might think there’s a little bit of selection bias here – after all, we already cater to developers with a web skillset – but we think it’s a little more than that. In fact, if you check out the 2017 Stack Overflow Survey, you’ll see a similar distribution of web developers to native mobile developers. What it adds up to is that our original idea that web developers were eager to participate, and drive, mobile app development is now a reality. In fact, I think web developers will prove themselves unequivocally the most versatile and valuable of developers in coming years.

The rise of Hybrid development

And that leads me to the next major insight from the survey: hybrid is overtaking native development. The survey results show that the number of developers using exclusively native tool sets is down nearly 7x over the last two years. On top of that, nearly one-third of developers we surveyed plan to abandon native development all together over the next two years, in favor of hybrid.

What’s driving the trend towards hybrid development? Well for one thing, web developers are coming to mobile largely for the first time, and we see a larger share of mobile developers who only know cross platform. There are now simply more web developers than native developers (as I just shared), and web developers tend to prefer hybrid.

I also think both independent developers and businesses are starting to see the benefits of the cross-platform approach. A common toolset (HTML, CSS, JavaScript) time-tested and understood by millions of developers all over the world. Faster development, and ultimately, a better user experience (after all, short dev cycles means more time to add features, fix bugs, and iterate on design). Plus, as the web continues to evolve, things are only looking brighter.

Now on to the last major point about the impact of the web and the adoption of hybrid toolsets. Hybrid is paving the way for a completely new approach: Progressive Web Apps (PWAs). Among the devs we surveyed, nearly one-third (31.5 percent) are targeting progressive web apps. If you strip away some of the marketing-hype, PWAs are just a better way to deliver native security and performance with an app that doesn’t need to be downloaded or installed, and runs on any platform or device, across mobile and desktop. Will PWAs reverse climate change, bring world peace, and end hunger? Alas, no. But they just make sense, and they’re only possible through the power of the open web.

Tools of the trade

Of course, the original impetus for the survey was not to prove anything about the web. In fact, our primary interest was simply to learn more about the tools and technology people are using to build apps – and on that front the results of the survey have provided some great insights.

One of the clear winners is Google Firebase. Their backend services are by far the most widely adopted among devs we surveyed. Significantly more developers (41 percent) reported using Firebase for push notifications over AWS (8 percent), and developers seem to prefer Firebase Auth over second-place Auth0. Firebase also topped the list of hosted backend databases, with 32 percent of developers using it versus 29 percent using the runner-up, MongoDB.

AWS and Azure have been stepping up their efforts to win over developers lately, so it will be interesting to see how this changes over time. In the meantime, it looks to us like the Firebase strategy of focusing on ease of use, and adding services on top of their free DB, appears to be working.

Tell us what you see

There’s a lot more where that came from. I hope you’ll check out the full survey results. There is a ton of other great info on the survey that I didn’t cover (expect a few more perspectives on the results in future blog posts).

Thanks again to all of you who made it possible! We’re excited to see what you make of the results.

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