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As skeptics continue to question ChatGPT’s ability to produce chunks of code to modify and use, new data published by SimilarWeb suggests that its rise is already hitting longtime developer favorite Stack Overflow to some extent.
According to traffic stats published by the web analytics company, visits to Stack Overflow, which provides techies with an open platform to discuss and vote on common coding challenges, have been declining steadily, while ChatGPT has witnessed exponential growth over the past few months.
ChatGPT vs Stack Overflow: What do the numbers say?
As per the year-on-year analysis, the total traffic to stackoverflow.com, which was created 14 years ago by Jeff Atwood and Joel Spolsky, has been falling by an average of 6% every month since January 2022.
In March, it was down by nearly 14% YoY to 258 million.
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By contrast, ChatGPT, which launched in November 2022, has skyrocketed. It attracted 1.6 billion visits in March and another 920.7 million in the first half of April.
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Since ChatGPT is targeted at a broader audience, including developers, and Stack Overflow is solely developer-focused, SimilarWeb also looked at how the latter fares against GitHub, a peer that incorporates Copilot — a service built on top of the same OpenAI LLM as ChatGPT that provides suggestions for whole lines of code inside development environments liken Microsoft Visual Studio.
Even in that case, GitHub was found to be performing better than Stack Overflow. The traffic to github.com was up 26.4% YoY in March to 524 million visits. This included users coming to the site to signup for Copilot, which has been generally available since June 2022.
Further, between February and March, visits to Copilot’s free-trial signup page more than tripled to over 800,000.
“We can’t say how much of GitHub’s growth is related to its embrace (and Microsoft’s broader embrace) of OpenAI technologies, but the related buzz is probably helping,” David F. Carr, senior insights manager at SimilarWeb, said in a blog post detailing the results.
A matter of choice
While using generative AI is still a matter of choice for coders, these stats clearly show that the tech is here to stay, and that it challenges traditional ways of solving coding challenges.
With tools like ChatGPT and GitHub Copilot, teams could generate detailed code samples and complete functions — with accompanying tutorial content explaining why the code works. The answers may not be exactly what’s needed but could be adapted into a working solution — much like how developers have been working with upvoted answers from Stack Overflow.
For its part, Stack Overflow continues to ban the posting of ChatGPT-generated content on its site. However, the company is not turning an absolute blind eye to the possibilities of AI. According to a recent blog post from the company’s CEO Prashanth Chandrasekar, Stack Overflow has set up a dedicated team to build generative AI applications and evolve the platform.
“We’ll be working closely with our customers and community to find the right approach to this burgeoning new field,” he said.
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