There's a survey report out that ranks the best Web 2.0 development platforms by the people who actually use them. The big surprise is that Microsoft tops the list of developer platforms with providers like Google, Amazon S3 and Yahoo trailing behind. In the same survey last year, Microsoft ranked last in some areas. Wonder what has changed so quickly?

The Survey Basics

Curious, we downloaded the report “Users’ Choice: Web 2.0 Developer Programs” from Evans Data Corp. The report is based on a survey of over 400 developers. It covers 7 companies’ capabilities in 13 categories. The companies included: Microsoft (MSN/Windows Live), Facebook, Yahoo, Google, PayPal, Amazon and eBay. With the exception of Facebook, all providers were included in the same survey last year. The rating categories were as follows: # API Functionality # Blogs # Case Studies # Documentation # FAQs # Forums # IM Capabilities # Marketing Assistance # Ongoing Communications/RSS # Solutions Directory # Support # Tools/SDK # Web Services As you can see from the rating categories, a lot of emphasis has been placed on documentation and support in addition to the technologies themselves. The report states that it’s very important to provide support tools or developers will move to the next platform that does.

And the Survey Says…

Overall, Microsoft scored highest with Google and Yahoo coming in second and third. Facebook and Paypal bring up the rear.

From the diagram above, it looks like the results were pretty close across the board overall. So even though it looks like Microsoft is the best choice, you should look deeper into what categories pushed them there. The following diagram shows Microsoft’s ratings across the categories:

What we see from this chart is that Microsoft is strong in Web Services first, and then scored very well in a number of documentation and support categories. They scored very low in some key areas of web 2.0 functionality, particularly communications/rss. In addition, their API functionality is rated lowest against all the other providers. Interestingly enough, last year Microsoft rated lowest in the Web Services category. They have obviously done some work in this area. "As Microsoft moved from the relatively closed-in MSN portal to the more Web 2.0 savvy Windows Live collection of services, users have begun to recognize it as a provider of top-notch Web services," according to the survey. Now compare this to Google’s individual ratings and you get a slightly different story. For Google, both their Web Services and API functionality scored high along with a number of documentation categories. In many cases their numbers were pretty close to Microsoft’s. Their support comes in second last overall, which is not surprising considering the only way to contact them is via their Google Groups and the odd email address.

The Importance of Documentation

While we don’t argue that good documentation, including SDKs and tools, is important to the usability of a development platform, we don’t necessarily feel they tip the scale when it comes to rating a web 2.0 platform as the best. Shouldn’t the ratings be weighted more on the technology capabilities than on documentation and support? While it would be naive to suggest that if the technology is really good, then you don’t need good documentation, it’s also wrong to suggest that you can have second or third rate technology as long as you document it well and support the people who use it.

The True Value in the Report

Instead of looking at this report in terms of who scored best, look closely at the individual results of each platform provider and see where their strengths and weaknesses exist. There’s also some interesting discussions on Facebook, the new kid on the block, and eBay and Paypal. You can download the full report and have a look for yourself. When you do, let us know what you think of the results and if you agree that documentation/support should play a critical role in determining the best web 2.0 development platform.