Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen inaccurate data and graphs circulating on social media channels regarding Stack Overflow’s traffic. We wanted to take the opportunity to provide additional context and information on the origin of that data, the traffic trends we are seeing, and the work we’re doing to ensure Stack Overflow remains a go-to destination for developers and technologists for years to come.
Let’s start with why the data in the graph that’s circulating is inaccurate. There were two changes we made over the last year that impact how we measure and report traffic on Stack Overflow. Both were important and necessary steps to meeting the privacy needs of our users.
First, we recategorized our Google Analytics cookie. That was completed in May of 2022, and resulted in Google Analytics reporting on fewer visitors’ site activity. Shortly after, in September of 2022, we upgraded to Google Analytics 4 (GA4), which provides additional configurable privacy-enabling settings, such as anonymous modeling of site traffic, which we have enabled.
After upgrading to GA4, we didn’t update or add context to an analytics page on our site, which is only available to a small population of users with more than 25,000 reputation points on Stack Overflow. The chart that has been circulating was based on deprecated data accessed from this page. Our team is working to address the necessary changes.
Although we have seen a small decline in traffic, in no way is it what the graph is showing (which some have incorrectly interpreted to be a 50% or 35% decrease). This year, overall, we're seeing an average of ~5% less traffic compared to 2022. Stack Overflow remains a trusted resource for millions of developers and technologists.
As anyone who has worked in the digital space knows, a website's traffic and engagement can be influenced by a variety of factors. Stack Overflow is no different, particularly given the rapid innovation happening as a result of new technologies. In 2020, as tech workers responded to the needs of a remote workforce, we shared information about the “pandemic spikes” we saw in new questions asked around cloud and security. Conversely, in April of this year, we saw an above average traffic decrease (~14%), which we can likely attribute to developers trying GPT-4 after it was released in March. Our traffic also changes based on search algorithms, which have a big influence on how our content is discovered.
The surge in generative AI, like the rise of any other disruptive technology, should cause us to reflect, challenge, and question how we measure success. The future of the internet and the modern tech landscape isn’t going to be measured by web traffic alone—it's about the quality of content, trust in the content, and the communities of experts and human beings curating the content.
We expect GenAI to cause some rises and falls in traditional traffic and engagement over the coming months. On one hand, first-time coders may visit or ask questions less frequently because the answers will be more readily available via AI solutions (including OverflowAI!). However, those same AI tools will lead to a surge of new problems to be solved and questions to be asked.
On the other hand, generative AI will democratize coding and expand the developer community. This growing number of developers and technologists will be asking new questions and using and verifying this data, bringing more users to the Stack Overflow community.
There is no shortage of ways developers can leverage AI. But there is one core deterrent in its adoption: trust in the accuracy of AI-generated content. Stack Overflow’s annual Developer Survey of 90,000 coders recently found that 77% of developers are favorable of AI tools, but only 42% trust the accuracy of those tools.
In our OverflowAI announcements last month at WeAreDevelopers, we showcased our roadmap for the integration of GenAI solutions into our public platform and our private SaaS platform Stack Overflow for Teams. These, as well as other community-focused initiatives, offer developers new capabilities that ensure they get to solutions faster within their workflow and provide additional opportunities to contribute and engage on Stack Overflow.
OverflowAI was developed with community at the core and with a focus on the accuracy of data and AI-generated content. We look forward to learning from our community and customers as we explore ways to deliver more value and evolve Stack Overflow for the next era of technology.