We frequently survey our users to better understand what tools they use and why. And we’ve noticed an interesting trend unfold. Software testing teams increasingly prefer using premium (i.e. “paid”) bug trackers in favor of open source solutions, email, or no bug tracker at all.

And this trend seems to be accelerating.

Back in 2010, for example, roughly 27% of testers within our community used email as their official bug tracker. By 2013, that number dropped to less than 17%. And just last year (2016), it fell to 9%.

That’s to be expected, of course. Not relying on a dedicated bug tracker makes the software testing process far more difficult.

What we didn’t expect, however, was the gradual decline of open source bug trackers. Given the cost advantages of “free,” you’d think platforms like Bugzilla would emerge as clear winners. But this isn’t the case at all. According to our internal analysis, premium solutions continue to gain more market share as open source alternatives increasingly fall out of favor.

For example, Jira went from 16% penetration (in 2010) to 29% (2013) to 34% (2016).

By contrast, Bugzilla use has dropped from 6% (in 2013) to only 3% (2016) – that’s a 50% reduction.

And in 2017, this trend will likely continue.

But why would software testers choose premium bug tracking tools over freely available ones?

The Growing Allure of Paid Bug Tracking Solutions

The software QA landscape continues to evolve rapidly. And with tighter deadlines, growing consumer expectations, and increased competition, testers can no longer afford to cut corners. As standards improve, the tools that teams use to meet those standards must also improve as well. And so software testers are incentivized to invest in quality solutions from the very beginning. The market essentially demands that you do – and is very unforgiving if you don’t.

As a result, email bug tracking – or not using a standalone tracker at all – is becoming less of an option.

But how does one explain the rise of premium tools – and the corresponding decline in open source alternatives?

We’ve actually covered the limitations of open source in the past (here and here). And when it comes to bug trackers, many of those disadvantages still apply.

However, we would also add that the “freeness” of open source isn’t really free – especially as it relates to bug trackers:

  • By its very nature, most open source bug trackers don’t provide ongoing support. So teams need to troubleshoot problems on their own.
  • Many open source solutions come with steep learning curves – even when there’s an active community to provide help and advice.
  • Open source bug trackers often charge for hosting and installation, which can further drive up costs.

Similar trends exist for most test management tools in general. Free has obvious appeal on the surface. But the hidden costs associated with open source tools can make premium alternatives a much better value.

Add to this the fact that most paid bug trackers are actually quite affordable to begin with. And they also offer the tools, features, and reliability that testers increasingly require when tackling sophisticated projects.

In other words, testers often benefit from increased productivity and fewer headaches when they use paid solutions.

This is why we’ve designed Testuff to integrate with as many premium bug trackers as possible. Our platform still supports open source solutions – and those who choose to forgo bug trackers altogether. But we believe strongly in software testing and remain committed to providing our users with the tools they need to thrive.

Does this mean that open source solutions are on the way out?

Not necessarily.

The Future of “Free” Bug Tracking Solutions

We expect that open source bug trackers will stick around for a while. They represent a great option for many teams – especially for those who are already deeply invested in a particular platform. Bugzilla still maintains about 3% of the pie, and we’ll continue keeping an eye out for new developments from this particular community.

However, we’ll direct the bulk of our attention to premium solutions – from frontrunners like Jira (34%) to up-and-comers like Axosoft (6%).

Why?

Simple.

Testers want the best tools available and are increasingly turning to affordable but robust paid solutions. This is where the crowd is heading, and this is where we’ll concentrate the lion’s share of our efforts.