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2020 Survey Report on the Survival Status of Chinese Independent Developers

思否编辑部
中文

Preface

Who is an independent developer? In fact, independent developers belong to freelancers. They are a group of freelancers who are engaged in software development-related work. More strictly speaking, they are generally "completed independently from product project establishment, design, development, promotion, and profit closed loop." people".

Independent developers are often one person, or a small team of about 3 people. They may have their own jobs or they may be fully involved in independent development, but they must be clearly different from mature software companies.

At present, our society is becoming more and more open, diverse and tolerant, prompting people to become more colorful in their behaviors and lifestyles, which in turn leads to a shift in the way of doing business toward diversification and individualization.

According to data from Baidu, affected by the epidemic, freelance has experienced two waves of attention "craze" in 2020, and more people have begun to try freelance or start to pay attention to freelance.

However, at present, the group of independent developers in China is far smaller than that in developed countries such as Europe and the United States, and there are few reports from the perspective of independent developers in China. There are many reasons. Among them, Chinese software developers work too long and the freelance culture is relatively weak. For the main reason. However, various signs indicate that the group of independent developers is increasing. For this reason, SegmentFault thought about writing this "Research Report on the Living Status of China's Independent Developers in 2020" through questionnaires, interviews, and existing data analysis. The purpose is to let people who are interested in independent developers, including independent developers, understand this profession and this group.

Reporting methodology

The data source of this report is based on 590 survey questionnaires (Note: 560 pieces of data are collected for gender of independent developers, 510 pieces of data are collected for web framework usage, and 590 pieces of data for other questions) and dozens of interviews with independent developers.

main conclusion

  1. Why are freelance independent developers not appearing on a large scale in third- and fourth-tier cities?
  2. Why are there so few female independent developers? Is it the direct reason why the female base of developers is low?
  3. What impact does the choice of career have on independent developers?
  4. Why is traffic growth the most urgent need of independent developers?
  5. How does experience and energy restrict the development of independent developers?
  6. What is holding back the income of independent developers?
  7. Why is three years a bottleneck for independent developers?
  8. What is the original intention of independent developers to choose independent development projects?
  9. What changes do independent developers hope for the domestic culture and environment?

Distribution of independent developers

The data shows that the distribution of independent developers is strongly related to the economic development of provinces. Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong and Zhejiang have the largest number of independent developers, while provinces such as Xinjiang, Tibet and Qinghai have almost no independent developers. .

16087cb92312a8 Q: Why are independent developers who are freelancers not appearing on a large scale in

Because the strong freelance atmosphere in the first-tier cities has the opportunity to affect more people, and it is easier to give birth to freelancers. The survey shows that most independent developers in the second and third-tier cities have work and study experience in the first-tier cities and are influenced by the "freelance culture." Influence, and finally choose to become an independent developer.

And compared to second-tier or third- and fourth-tier cities, first-tier cities have a stronger Internet atmosphere, more offline seminars, and a greater chance of contact with excellent Internet talents, which has become another reason for attracting independent developers to stop. Interviews also show that independent developers are more eager to obtain resources and support than mature companies. This support is not only focused on online, offline resources are also their demanding goals.

Through interviews, we also found that because some independent developers do not need to commute every day, they will choose a location in the first-tier cities that is far from the city center and the rent is relatively cheap, but the environment is better. This will not only save money, but also enjoy the first-line The resources and convenience brought by the city.

Independent developer gender

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This question collected 560 pieces of data. Almost all of the people who filled out the questionnaire were men. But it's not that there are no women in the group of independent developers, but that the proportion of women is very small.

Q: Why are there so few female independent developers? Is the low female base of developers the direct reason?

In the interview, we also found that female independent developers are indeed as rare as the data show. Of course, this is the result of many factors. The main reason is that there are fewer female employees than men in related industries. According to the latest data, the ratio of male to female programmers exceeds 15:1.

Independent developer career

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The data shows that the number of in-service developers and part-time independent developers is the largest, accounting for more than half of the total number. And full-time independent developers account for about one-third of the total.

Q: What impact does the choice of career have on independent developers?

Generally speaking, a career does not have a major impact on independent development, because most of the skills of independent developers are constantly being supplemented during development, but data shows that Internet practitioners are more likely to become independent developers.

Compared with traditional industries, the Internet industry has less spare time, but it has spawned more independent developers. Through interviews, we discovered a key reason. Internet practitioners will accumulate a lot of inspiration for products in their work. However, due to various reasons, it cannot be implemented. In the end, independent developers release their ideas in the way of independent developers. In other words, developing products is a hobby of independent developers, and they can get a sense of accomplishment and happiness in it.

What support do independent developers want

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Flow is the support most urgently needed by independent developers, followed by cash and experience skills, while server technical services or development tools hardly anyone chooses.

Q: Why is traffic becoming the most urgent need of independent developers?

Through interviews, we learned that some independent developers are not good at product operations, causing the project to face the dilemma of "coming out or dying".

At present, Internet traffic acquisition is relatively expensive. Independent developers cannot compete with large platforms in terms of funds. User growth is slow. The strong are always strong, and the weak are getting weaker. Therefore, independent developers are eager to let users grow and start a positive cycle.

It is worth noting that as long as you have traffic, revenue and other issues can be easily solved.

Independent developer education

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The academic qualifications of independent developers present a normal distribution, with high in the middle and low on both sides. Most independent developers have a bachelor's degree. Through interviews, we can see that the independent development process involves a lot of skills, and independent developers need to have a high degree of self-study ability, which is more important for independent developers than academic self-study ability.

Independent developer age

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Independent developers under 18 and independent developers over 40 both accounted for 1.7% of the total. The vast majority of independent developers are in the range of 18 to 40 years old.

Q: Do experience and energy restrict the development of independent developers?

1. Reasons for the cliff-like decline among independent developers over the age of 40

  • A good independent product has a high probability of eventually growing into a company. Kuaishou, the predecessor of GIF Kuaishou, was originally an independently developed product for making and sharing GIF images. Cheng Yixiao, chief product officer of Kuaishou, is a standard independent developer, and Kuaishou is one of the most successful independent development products.
  • Products that cannot obtain users for a long time or cannot be realized are eventually abandoned. Examples of failures are not uncommon. Through interviews, we know that almost every outstanding independent developer has the experience of giving up products.

2. The reason why independent developers under the age of 18 are very rare

  • The threshold for independent development is relatively high. It requires not only software development capabilities, but also UI design and product design capabilities.
  • Independent development requires a certain amount of start-up capital, and the cost of purchasing professional software and servers is too high compared to higher secondary students.
  • Students of high school and below are under heavy academic pressure and have too little extracurricular time.
  • A small number of minors have developed their own independent projects, but most of them are completed under the guidance of school mentors and parents, so they do not consider themselves to be independent developers.

Independent project monthly income

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Note: (k=thousand yuan)

Individuals with monthly incomes of 1k and below account for 44.1% of the total. Interviews show that some of these people are basically at zero income. The proportion of other income groups is irregular, but the 5K-10K group is the largest, accounting for 24.1% of the total population.

Q: What is restricting independent developers to increase their income?

Through interviews, we learned that the source of most developers doing independent projects is only hobbies, and they do not think deeply about commercialization issues. A small number of independent projects are born based on business ideas or good product market fit points, so this Some products can quickly become profitable.

There are many factors that affect the monthly income of independently developed products, and factors such as subjective willingness, ability, and luck all occupy a large proportion. However, personal ability, especially the common problem of independent developers-lack of product operation ability, is the key bottleneck restricting independent developers to increase their income.

How long has been an independent developer

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Independent developers with less than 1 year of independent development experience accounted for 37.3% of the total population, and independent developers with 1 to 3 years of independent developer experience accounted for 44.1% of the total. Most independent developers have been engaged in independent development within 3 years.

Q: Why does 3 years become a bottleneck for independent developers?

According to the survey, the time node of 3 years is an inevitable turning point for most independent products.

Three years are enough to verify whether a product is suitable for the market, and also enough to verify whether independent developers have the ability to make a good product. Products that are not profitable will be forced to give up. Products that have successfully acquired a certain amount of users will develop and grow along the trend. The independent development career of independent developers will also change at this node. Some people will abandon independent development, and some people will abandon independent development. Will choose to be a full-time independent developer.

Weekly independent development working hours

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Independent developers with less than 28 hours of independent development work per week account for the majority, accounting for more than half of the total. Independent developers with less than 28 hours are mainly enthusiasts and independent developers with mature products, while independent developers with more than 56 hours belong to the full-time independent developer sequence.

Reasons to become an independent developer

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This question is a multiple choice. The data shows that the people who choose hobbies and free time are the most, about 50%, and the people who choose resources are at least 6.8%.

Q: Why become an independent developer?

There are many factors that affect each independent developer. Among them, free time and hobbies have become the most people's choice. This exposes a problem. Many people have been in a long-term lack of free time and lack of passion for work. And becoming an independent developer can bring them more free time and more "meaningful" work.

Independent product type

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Q: What is the original intention of independent developers to choose independent development projects?

Tool products are selected by the most people. The main reason is that when independent developers solve their own problems through technology, they immediately settle their inspiration into independent development products. Most of the other options are related to the hobbies of independent developers.

Independent product release platform

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The question is set to multiple choices. The web pages of independently developed products accounted for the most, accounting for 48.3% of the total, mobile apps accounted for 34.5%, and PC apps accounted for 25.9%.

Number of registered users of independent products

The data shows that the number of independent developers continues to decrease as the number of users increases. According to interviews, some independent developers do not even have the concept of users, nor have they counted the number of users. So this batch of independent developers defaults to their users below 1,000.

The most commonly used programming language

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The usage of programming language is basically in line with the number of publishing platforms, and most of the independent development projects are web pages.

Platform distribution

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The question is set to multiple choice, the platform distribution is the most Linux, Windows is 6.8% more than Mac OS, and Android is 8.5% more than ios. The second is Docker, and almost no one chooses other platforms. The data is more in line with everyone's daily understanding.

Framework usage

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The question is set to multiple choice. A total of 510 pieces of data are collected. The number of people who write PHP and Java is close. The two groups overlapped with Vue. Most of them choose front-end frameworks. After independent developers exclude the frameworks they are familiar with, they usually choose Lighter frame.

What are the difficulties of becoming an independent developer

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The vast majority of independent developers are in a busy state, and the corresponding situation is that irregular life has become the norm, but they generally recognize this state. Generally speaking, the most important difficulty that plagues independent developers is income.

The lack of skills is also the main reason for the difficulties. The following are the difficulties that plague independent developers that I learned through interviews:

1. Lack of UI design ability

Most of the independent developers lack UI design related experience, so they can only explore it slowly, or ask professionals to design, which is very costly.

2. Growth is difficult

Growth is the most difficult thing most independent developers think. The early cold start of the product can be slowly explored by fission and marketing at low cost, but many platforms will limit the outflow of traffic, and independent developers must continue to "game with the platform" ", it is possible to get a lot of traffic.

But few independent products can break through the flow dilemma, because large companies often have capital blessings, and a large amount of capital investment can more effectively promote the products, and the winning rate of independent developers in the "battle" with capital is minimal.

3. Plagiarized

Some independent developers have open sourced a program that can solve the actual needs of some areas, but only semi-finished products that developers can use, and use GPL and other authorizations. Some people with business acumen, after processing and annotating these developer-oriented products into products for ordinary people, will not respect the GPL license and will not give the source developers a piece of the pie.

Where to get information about independent developers

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The independent development of information obtained on domestic and foreign professional technology websites accounted for about a quarter of the total number of people, while other platforms accounted for 44.1%. This part includes the Zhihu platform.

Will independent developers become the future trend

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Q: Is the domestic culture and environment friendly to independent developers?

According to interviews, most independent developers believe that the atmosphere of independent developers in China is not as good as that in foreign countries.

Domestic independent developers often face the embarrassment of being plagiarized by their ideas or being preempted by others, and it is also very difficult to promote their products.

Even some independent developers have formed a concept that the popular industry has been monopolized and it is difficult to make achievements. Only small products can be made. In other aspects, such as system and culture, some independent developers have expressed that they have no more ideas and no big expectations.

Advice for independent developers

1. Project selection is very important

When choosing a project, you can first do a search survey to see the prospects and popularity of the project. After that, making a good product is the key to long-term development, followed by promotion and expansion of the number of users, and finally thinking about how to realize and generate income in a friendly manner. Bring income by yourself.

2. Keep enthusiasm and original intention for independent development

Only by maintaining enthusiasm and original intention for independent development, will there be motivation to stick to it. If you are doing independent development, it is recommended to use your spare time first, and then go all out when the time is right. Do independent development because of the fun, not because of the desire for high income, and in the end, be brave to try, no matter what the result is.

Three, complete first and then perfect

When you want to develop a small product, it is recommended to "complete first and then perfect". When you need to quickly complete a minimum viable product (MVP), don't be too entangled in architecture and selection. Choose the language you are most familiar with and the most convenient interface, complete it quickly, and bring it to the market. When the market gives you enough response, you naturally have the motivation to upgrade and iterate. When a certain bottleneck is encountered at a certain scale, the corresponding solution will naturally be explored.

Four, small teams may exert greater power

Independent developers do not need to be alone, small teams may exert greater power.

5. Focus on one area

If you want to become a big cow in the field of technology, then don't consider becoming an independent developer and concentrate on deepening your experience and capabilities in a certain field.

Suggestions to the industry

1. Shopping mall channels have high rake rates

App store channel rake has always been a problem that plagues independent developers. It is hoped that various platforms can learn from Apple’s App Store and greatly reduce the rake for small developers.

2. Individuals cannot open payment channels

It is very difficult for independent developers to obtain income without company qualifications. The API of the payment platform only supports company access, and the maintenance cost of registered companies is too high. I hope that the platform can introduce better strategies to solve this problem.

Three, server vendors

Independent projects generally have no income or low income in the early stage. It is difficult for independent developers to bear the cost of the server. It is hoped that server manufacturers can open preferential policies for independent developers.

4. Individuals cannot use the digital marketing service platform

Most digital marketing service platforms do not support individuals, but only support applications for corporate qualifications. Many types of applications also require corporate qualifications, which narrows the path for individual developers a lot. Hope that the platform can introduce a better solution strategy.

5. Lack of professional operation team

Independent developers generally responded, hoping that more professional product operation teams can guide and help independent developers.

Acknowledgements : Independent developers @zhengcheng, @王登科, @羊二, @一个码, @沈兵兵, @先锋兄, @功夫熊猫, @浩, @卢灿伟, @敬文, @大鹏, @lanisto, @PixelMage, @Kanghong, @打锤的猫, @BraveSummer, @程序姨DD, @yuxiaoy, @redo, @三级狗, @冒泡的马树, @Vision, @咖哩luya, etc. for the report Developers who come up with ideas, accept interviews, and fill out questionnaires.

↓Click on the link below to view independent developer interview ~
https://segmentfault.com/t/%E7%8B%AC%E7%AB%8B%E5%BC%80%E5%8F%91%E8%80%85

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