Stack Overflow Traffic Drops as Coders Opt for ChatGPT Help Instead

Stack Overflow Traffic Drops as Coders Opt for ChatGPT Help Instead

No more talking to a stranger on a forum for help debugging your computer science homework — just use an AI chatbot. Stack Overflow, the go-to Q&A forum for programmers, has reportedly seen significant drops in traffic over the last few months, and the ever-popular ChatGPT might be to blame.

Web analytics firm SimilarWeb reported last month that Stack Overflow has seen a drop in traffic every month since the beginning of 2022, with the average drop being 6%. In March, Stack Overflow saw a 13.9% drop in traffic from February and in April, the website saw 17.7% drop in traffic from March. SimilarWeb argues that some of that dropping traffic could be due to GitHub’s AI helper called CoPilot, but users could also be using the more popular ChatGPT as a way to help debug their code — the same way they may via posts on Stack Overflow’s forum.

“The Stack Overflow tradition is that community members post a variety of answers to any given coding question, debate the advantages and tradeoffs, and vote to recognise the best solution,” Similar Web senior insights manager David Carr wrote in the company’s blog post. “ChatGPT users miss out on the debate and just get an answer, which can seem quicker and more efficient. The answer that comes back may not be exactly what the developer needs but is often close enough to be shaped and tweaked into a working solution.”

Stack Overflow’s director of communications Matt Trocchio confirmed to Gizmodo in an email that ChatGPT is making a dent in traffic:

Stack Overflow’s traffic, along with traffic to many other sites, has been impacted by the surge of interest in ChatGPT over the last few months. However, our vision for community and AI coming together means the rise of GenAI is a big opportunity for Stack. Approximately 10% of our company is working on features and applications leveraging GenAI that have the potential to increase engagement within our public community and add value to customers of our SaaS product, Stack Overflow for Teams; early previews of that work have been positively received by both the community and customers. We will have more to announce this summer and we’re excited about what’s ahead.

ChatGPT isn’t just taking a piece out of Stack Overflow’s pie — the academic forum Chegg is apparently experiencing a similar issue. Chegg is popular amongst college students for connecting them with human help to complete complex homework assignments, particularly those encountered in STEM courses. Like Stack Overflow, users can post their homework questions, but are then forced to wait for a human to respond. ChatGPT, however, can offer students an instantaneous answer. Chegg recently reported in an earnings call that the company’s shares and revenue were falling, and that ChatGPT was to blame.

“In the first part of the year, we saw no noticeable impact from ChatGPT on our new account growth and we were meeting expectations on new sign-ups,” Chegg CEO Dan Rosensweig said during the call earlier this month, as quoted by NBC. “However, since March we saw a significant spike in student interest in ChatGPT. We now believe it’s having an impact on our new customer growth rate.”

ChatGPT is nuzzling its way deeper and deeper into our daily lives and workflows, but its role in helping programmers develop and debug code is still up in the air. Earlier this year, Amazon warned employees not to input internal code into ChatGPT after the company reportedly saw the AI spit out code that mimicked Amazon’s. On the other hand, CEO of web3 avatar startup Genies Akash Nigam is spending $US2,000 per month on ChatGPT Plus subscriptions for his employees. Nigam told Insider that the company’s research and development team has been using ChatGPT to debug code, and that employees across the board are experiencing higher levels of productivity.

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