Results of the Geo Toolkit Poll 2012

Monday, July 23, 2012
Many thanks to everyone who participated in this survey of the geospatial industry. I tried to get a platform-agnostic look at the tools that are most-frequently used in our community, and after 250 responses I think we have a useful glimpse of the scene.

My reason for running this survey: I'm tired of speculating. As a multi-platform user I don't know where I stand with my clients and competitors, let alone in this sprawling industry, and I've heard lots of similar curiosity from colleagues. I call this an independent survey in that no vendor funded it (nobody funded it, actually) and it isn't for marketing use. This is a community poll, nothing more. Onward . . .


This is worth a cursory glance, since the results are inevitably colored by the collection routine. I relied almost entirely on social media to get the word out, specifically:
  • Numerous twitter solicitations to my ~500 followers, retweeted to a combined audience of over 11,000 utilizing hashtags for both the ESRI User Conference and OSCon - probably annoying the crap out of everyone in the process
  • Google+ and Facebook posts
  • Listserv posts to ESRI, OSGeo, OSM and Google user groups
  • Posts on the three largest geospatial groups on LinkedIn
Given the warren-like distribution network, I do not know how many people saw this poll. Thus the sample size is 250 out of an unknown population, and no big-picture conclusions should be drawn. Also let it be known that the balance - even if measured properly - changes from month-to-month.


Question 1: Which of the following geospatial technologies have you used on at least one project in the past year? [Note - I Included pre-purchase GeoCommons on its own out of morbid curiosity; I otherwise would have included it with FOSS4G Web Tools]

Some of the technologies that went into the "Other" column include FME, MicroStation, ENVI/IDL, GIS Cloud, AutoDesk, Maptitude, Idrisi, ERDAS, MapProxy, R-Spatial, Garmin Basecamp, Oracle XE, Ushahidi and Geocortex. Sorry to have ignored those, but it's a big ecosystem out there.

Question 2: Which of the above technologies did you use most frequently in the past year?

Platform Gregariousness: Do you cross over from your primary platform? e.g. ESRI is your main platform but you've also used Google Maps/Earth at least once in the past year. [A venn diagram would be cooler but the chart API was inscrutable]

Use by Business Sector:

Use by Country: (Click here for fullscreen glory - we're all cartographers here)

There's a lot to see in these distributions - an ESRI lean among U.S. respondents, a FOSS4G lean among Europeans. Also interesting to see how the sectors use these tools. See anything of note? Anything obviously-spurious? Do tell - I think there's a good discussion to be had here.

I'll say it again: this was not a scientific, controlled survey. It's a snapshot or an anectodal collection; take your pick. But it is nonetheless interesting to see what this group of mappers uses to get the job done. Thanks again to you all for pitching in, and maybe we'll try an expanded version next year.

If you're interested in the raw, messy results (stripped of unique identifiers of course), hit this link for an XLS download, and happy parsing!


  1. What is your interest in who is using what?

    1. Hi Jim - everyone I talk to in the geospatial community is happy to speculate about the most-adopted tools for the various jobs we do, but we can only get at real numbers in oblique ways. I'm trying to get more specific, to see what the state of the industry is between ESRI, Google, Open-Source and the many alternatives. If you'd like a copy of the results when the poll closes let me know; We're into open data here, and responses are anonymous.

  2. It would be interesting to get details on what tool people use for which tasks. There is a significant overlap in tool use. This would indicate that there is value in a mixed approach, but that some tools are better for some tasks than for others.

    1. Indeed; but for now we're just looking at the complete palette. I wonder if AAG or NSF has the cash for a more in-depth study . . .

  3. I think an more in-depth study that is repeated regularly would be incredible! Go for it. This is quite interesting. I've been an ESRI (mainly) gal for nearly 18 years, with some interjections of things like EarthVision, MapWindow and MapInfo. I'm actually now independent and looking to do more work for communities that don't have the capital for a large ESRI investment - I stumbled across this in my email while pondering which GIS I should use next...I also us a Mac that runs Windows virtually. This is quite helpful as a starter guide to what is going on out there. I'm eager to check in and see where you run with this next. Quite good! Well done!

  4. Looking at the results makes me wonder if there was a bias in the respondents. Six people for Australia and most using foss! Six is a very poor sample and their is definitely a clear bias to people who frequent the maillists -- all six of us.... 99% of the people using GIS in Australia use ESRI or MapInfo Products.

    1. Well of course - really the only significant country-specific results came from the U.S.; the rest are sort of a curiosity. But where do you get your 99% number from? :)

  5. This is great! Despite the concerns that a statistician would have, I feel this shows the value of distributed tool sets. For ex... I use PostGIS for 90% of my work these days. When you compare the combination of FOSS DB with FOSS Desktop the results are surprising in comparison to ESRI desktop.

  6. This a good survey, but needs more respondents to be statistically sound. So keep the work!
    Amazing goverments use less FOSS than private and academic sectors. When people answers "other" could it be more specific?

    Would gladly follow the next poll.

    1. Agreed - a higher n would have been nice. But I think the low government use of FOSS compared to other sectors is pretty accurate. At least in the U.S., ESRI has a huge presence in government applications.

      And "Other" is a conflation of lots of things. Grab the raw results table and check out what people are using: