One thing I’ve been asked recently is to share why the CDT is successful in the Eclipse community. It’s a really hard question for me to answer since I’m not sure I can trace anything I’ve done as a project lead to help with this success. That and I’m not sure whether it really is successful. I’ve been pretty happy with its popularity with over 340,000 downloads of CDT 3.0.2 and 35 developers attending last weeks CDT summit. I think we still have a long way to go to reach the quality levels of the JDT and VisualStudio, but now that we have so much attention on the CDT, we’re trying to address that. So, I think the real question is – why is the CDT so popular, and what have we done as a project to help achieve that. My answer is in two parts so I’ll make this a two part blog entry.
So the first part of my answer is this: “Dumb luck”, or maybe slightly less self-deprecating, “Being at the right place at the right time”. QNX started the CDT back in 2002 because we needed an IDE to help developers writing applications for our operating system be more productive. Now, we’re not an IDE company and seeing what IBM had in store for building an open source community around Eclipse, we reckoned that would be the right way to go for the CDT as well. The hope was that lots of other non-IDE companies needed an IDE too and we could all share the development cost of it.
It was a gamble and it did take four years to reach this point, but in the end we were right. The reason the CDT is so popular is that there is a huge need in the non-Windows market for a universal IDE that vendors and users can easily leverage for their own needs. Given the huge popularity of Eclipse and with the CDT being the C/C++ solution for Eclipse, it just becomes natural that people gravitate to the CDT. That and the CDT promises to be a high quality, feature rich C/C++ development environment that you have had to pay money for in the past. Everyone like free stuff that’s good.
So in the end, I don’t think we’ve done anything in particular to help make the CDT as popular as it is other than simply having the right solution at the right time. I wish I can claim otherwise, but it is what it is. In the next part of this blog entry, though, I will try to list some of the things we’ve tried aimed at making sure the CDT is an open, welcoming community that will hopefully keep this momentum going. Having something good and free helps with consumption of your open source project, but it doesn’t provide any guarantees that it’ll attract developers to help you build and test it.