Stack Overflow turns to Google for hosting and AI features, trusts in Gemini for tech answers

Stack Overflow turns to Google for hosting and AI features, trusts in Gemini for tech answers

Developer question and answer site Stack Overflow has signed a deal with Google Cloud, through which Stack Overflow users will get AI assistance driven by Google Gemini, while Google will integrate with Stack Overflow in Gemini and in the Google Cloud Console.

According to a statement today, Stack Overflow will adopt Google’s Gemini for AI features, including using it for “an accelerated content approval process” and “further optimized forum engagement experiences” – wording which suggests some level of shift away from human moderation towards AI-assisted moderation. It is a difficult balance for the company (Stack Exchange) to strike, given that it also touts human validation – referenced in the release as “community-vetted knowledge” – as a key differentiator between answers on its site, versus those delivered by AI assistants alone.

Stack Overflow has also “selected Google Cloud as the platform of choice to host and grow its public facing developer knowledge platform”.

The content on StackOverflow is provided by its community, contributed under a Creative Commons License, currently CC By-SA 4.0 which provides for free sharing and adapting of the data subject to attribution. This data is therefore not exclusively available to Google, as confirmed to DevClass by Prashanth Chandrasekar, CEO of Stack Overflow. “This is not exclusive to Google nor does Google have access to proprietary Stack data, customer data (on any product at Stack), or any user personal information as part of this partnership,” he told us, confirming that Google will have the same access to the same Stack Overflow data as the public API.

That said, there will be a new OverflowAPI which Google’s Gemini will use, and it will also be possible for developers to access Stack Overflow “directly from the Google Cloud console,” the companies state.

New questions on Stack Overflow, as reported by Stack Exchange Data Explorer

The background to this is declining activity on Stack Overflow, at least as measured by the number of new questions, according to queries of the data on Stack Exchange Data Explorer. This also shows that although there are many sub-sites, such as Mathematics and Server Fault, it is Stack Overflow that has the majority of questions, currently 24m in total versus 1.6m for the second-placed Mathematics site.

Declining use of Stack Overflow maps well to rising use of AI coding assistants. Possible reasons are the immediacy of AI answers, and the fact that they are trained on a huge amount of data. The Stack Overflow knowledge base is part of that data, though like all community-driven resources, the quality of that data depends on continuing high usage. 

Stack Overflow and its moderators have struggled with AI and its implications for the way the site works. Last year some moderators declared a “general moderator strike” over being restricted from removing AI-generated answers, mostly resolved a few months later. The company is also developing OverflowAI as an AI-driven service, presumably now using Google AI under the covers.

More details of the new integration between Gemini and Stack Overflow are promised at the Google Cloud Next event in Las Vegas from April 9th, including a preview of features which will be available by the end of June this year.