Stack Overflow

For other uses, see Stack overflow (disambiguation).
Stack Overflow

Screenshot of Stack Overflow as of February 2015
Type of site
Knowledge markets
Available in English
Owner Stack Exchange, Inc.
Created by Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood
Alexa rank 43 (November 2016)[1]
Commercial Yes
Registration Optional; Uses OpenID
Launched September 15, 2008 (2008-09-15)[2]
Current status Online
Content license
CC-BY-SA 3.0
Written in C# [3]

Stack Overflow is a privately held website, the flagship site of the Stack Exchange Network,[4][5][6] created in 2008 by Jeff Atwood and Joel Spolsky.[7][8] It was created to be a more open alternative to earlier question and answer sites such as Experts-Exchange. The name for the website was chosen by voting in April 2008 by readers of Coding Horror, Atwood's popular programming blog.[9]

It features questions and answers on a wide range of topics in computer programming.[10][11][12]

The website serves as a platform for users to ask and answer questions, and, through membership and active participation, to vote questions and answers up or down and edit questions and answers in a fashion similar to a wiki or Digg.[13] Users of Stack Overflow can earn reputation points and "badges"; for example, a person is awarded 10 reputation points for receiving an "up" vote on an answer given to a question, and can receive badges for their valued contributions,[14] which represents a kind of gamification of the traditional Q&A site or forum. All user-generated content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribute-ShareAlike license.[15]

Closing questions is a main differentiation from Yahoo! Answers and a way to prevent low quality questions.[16] The mechanism was overhauled in 2013; questions edited after being put "on hold" now appear in a review queue.[17] Jeff Atwood stated in 2010 that duplicate questions are not seen as a problem but rather they constitute an advantage if such additional questions drive extra traffic to the site by multiplying relevant keyword hits in search engines.[18]

As of April 2014 Stack Overflow has over 4,000,000 registered users,[19] and it exceeded 10,000,000 questions in late August 2015.[20] Based on the type of tags assigned to questions, the top eight most discussed topics on the site are: Java, JavaScript, C#, PHP, Android, jQuery, Python and HTML.[21]

Stack Overflow also has a Jobs section to assist developers in finding their next opportunity. For employers, Stack Overflow provides tools to brand their business, advertise their openings on the site, and source candidates from Stack Overflow's database of developers who are open to being contacted.


The website was created by Jeff Atwood and Joel Spolsky in 2008.[7] On 31 July 2008, Jeff Atwood sent out invitations encouraging his subscribers to take part in the private beta of the new website, limiting its use to those willing to test out the new software. On 15 September 2008 it was announced the public beta version was in session and that the general public was now able to use it to seek assistance on programming related issues. The design of the Stack Overflow logo was decided by a voting process.[22]

On 3 May 2010 it was announced that Stack Overflow had raised $6 million in venture capital from a group of investors led by Union Square Ventures.[23][24]

Content criteria

Stack Overflow only accepts questions about programming that are tightly focused on a specific problem. Questions of a broader nature – or those inviting answers that are inherently a matter of opinion – are usually rejected by the site's users, and marked as closed. The sister site is intended to be a venue for broader queries, e.g. general questions about software development.

User suspension

In April 2009, Stack Exchange implemented a policy of "timed suspension",[25] in order to curtail users who either show "No effort to learn (the community rules) and improve over time" or engage in "disruptive behavior" and become a nuisance. The suspension is accompanied by temporarily setting the user's reputation score at '1' and a notation on the user's profile page indicating the suspension and remaining duration.


A 2013 study has found that 77% of users only ask one question, 65% only answer one question, and only 8% of users answer more than 5 questions.[26] As of 2011, 92% of the questions were answered, in a median time of 11 minutes.[27] Since 2013, the Stack Exchange network software automatically deletes questions that meet certain criteria, including having no answers in a certain amount of time.[28]

As of August 2012, 443,000 of the 1.3M registered users had answered at least one question, and of those, approximately 6,000 (0.46% of the total user count) had earned a reputation score greater than 5000.[29] Reputation can be gained fastest by answering questions related to tags with lower expertise density, doing so promptly (in particular being the first one to answer a question), being active during off-peak hours, and contributing to diverse areas.[29]

In June 2015, 125,313 posts were deleted within the past 30 days, of which about 8% were deleted by moderators.[30]


Stack Overflow is written in C#[3] using the ASP.NET MVC (Model-View-Controller) framework, and Microsoft SQL Server for the database[31] and the Dapper object-relational mapper used for data access.[32] Unregistered users have access to most of the site's functionality, while users who sign in (for example, by using the OpenID service) can gain access to more functionality, such as establishing a profile and being able to earn reputation to allow functionality like re-tagging questions or voting to close a question.


Stack Overflow has received general praise for its architecture of handling questions and answers as they are regulated by the community.[33] The success of Stack Overflow has often been attributed to self-regulation.

Programmer George Olivetti criticised Stack Overflow, claiming that its policies discouraged women from being actively involved.[34] Researchers have conducted empirical studies to identify what types of barriers exist for women, as well as men, to post on Stack Overflow.[35] The study suggested that the site encourages oneupmanship, flame-wars and down-voting which makes it less likely that female users will participate. The study criticises the rewards system that the site uses. It also found instances of "gender swapping" with females adopting male or gender-neutral personas and some males masquerading as females in the belief that they will not be treated as harshly. Stack Overflow has also occasionally been criticised for maintaining a negative atmosphere for newcomers.[36]

See also


  1. " Site Info". Alexa Internet. Retrieved 2016-09-17.
  2. Spolsky, Joel (2008-09-15). "Stack Overflow Launches". Joel on Software. Retrieved 2014-07-07.
  3. 1 2 "Which tools and technologies are used to build the Stack Exchange Network?". Meta Stack Overflow. Stack Overflow.
  4. Sewak, M.; et al. (18 May 2010). "Finding a Growth Business Model at Stack Overflow, Inc." (PDF). Stanford CasePublisher. Stanford University School of Engineering. Rev. 20 July 2010 (2010-204-1). 204-2010-1. Retrieved 23 May 2014.
  5. 1 2 Jeff Atwood (2008-04-16). "Introducing". Coding Horror. Retrieved 2009-03-11.
  6. Jeff Atwood (2008-09-16). "None of Us is as Dumb as All of Us". Coding Horror. Retrieved 2009-03-11.
  7. Jeff Atwood (2008-04-06). "Help Name Our Website". Coding Horror. Retrieved 2014-07-14.
  8. Alan Zeichick (2009-04-15). "Secrets of social site success". SD Times. Retrieved 2009-04-16.
  9. "Spolsky's Software Q-and-A Site". Slashdot. 2008-09-16. Retrieved 2009-05-23.
  10. Joel Spolsky (2009-04-24). "Google Tech Talks: Learning from". YouTube. Retrieved 2009-05-23.
  11. Jeff Atwood (2008-09-21). "The Gamification". Coding Horror Blog. Retrieved 2011-01-24.
  12. "What is reputation? How do I earn (and lose) it?". Stack Overflow. Retrieved 14 August 2010.
  13. "Case Studies/".
  14. "Closing changes: on hold, unclear, too broad, opinion-based, off-topic reasons, bye-bye to Too Localized".
  15. "The war of the closes".
  16. "Dr. Strangedupe: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Love Duplication".
  17. "Users". Stack Overflow. Retrieved 15 April 2014.
  18. "10,000,000th question is here!". Stack Overflow. 21 August 2015. Retrieved 10 August 2016.
  19. "Tags". Stack Overflow. Retrieved 9 December 2014.
  20. "J.Atwood & J.Spolsky founding -- but we need a logo.". 30 April 2008. Retrieved 23 May 2014.
  21. Ha, Anthony (4 May 2010). "Stack Overflow raises $6M to take its Q&A model beyond programming". VentureBeat. Retrieved 23 May 2014. The money we've raised means that, for the next ($6m / monthly burn rate) months, we can take on new projects, hire new people, and build new expert Q&A sites on a wide variety of new topics. Instead of opening sites in exchange for money, we’re about to launch a new, democratic system where anyone can propose a Q&A site, and, if it gets a critical mass of interested people, we'll create it.
  22. Anthony, Ha (5 May 2010). "Stack Overflow Raises $6M to Take Its Q&A Model Beyond Programming". NYTimes. Retrieved 23 May 2014.
  23. Atwood, Jeff (2009-04-06). "A Day in the Penalty Box". StackOverflow Blog. Retrieved 2009-04-06.
  24. Wang, Shaowei; David Lo; Lingxiao Jiang (18–22 March 2013). "An Empirical Study on Developer Interactions in StackOverflow". Singapore Management University. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 February 2014.
  25. Mamykina, Lena; Bella Manoim; Manas Mittal; George Hripcsak; Björn Hartmann (2011). "Design lessons from the fastest q&a site in the west". CHI '11 Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems: 2857–2866. doi:10.1145/1978942.1979366. ISBN 9781450302289.
  26. "Turbocharging the Roomba: solutions for premature deletion".
  27. 1 2 Bosu, Amiangshu; Christopher S. Corley; Dustin Heaton; Debarshi Chatterji; Jeffrey C. Carver; Nicholas A. Kraft (2013). "Building Reputation in StackOverflow: An Empirical Investigation" (PDF). Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0290, USA: Department of Computer Science, The University of Alabama.
  28. "What posts get deleted, and why?". Meta.StackOverflow. 10 June 2015.
  29. Jeff Atwood (2008-09-21). "What Was Stack Overflow Built With?". Stack Overflow Blog. Retrieved 2009-05-23.
  30. Sam Saffron (2011-03-30). "How I learned to stop worrying and write my own ORM". Retrieved 2014-07-22.
  31. Anderson, Ashton; Huttenlocher, Daniel; Kleinberg, Jon; Luskovec, Jure (2012). "Discovering Value from Community Activity on Focused Question Answering Sites: A Case Study of Stack Overflow" (PDF). Cornell University.
  33. Ford, Denae; Justin Smith; Philip J. Guo; Chris Parnin (2016). "Paradise Unplugged: Identifying Barriers for Female Participation on Stack Overflow" (PDF). Seattle, WA, USA: ACM SIGSOFT International Symposium on the Foundations of Software Engineering.
  34. "The decline of Stack Overflow".
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