A new dev report released by Electric Capital “fingerprinted 20,000+ code repos and 16M commits” to gauge development progress, finding Litecoin and Dogecoin to have nearly no recent development activity.
Overall they find that “the number of developers working on public coins has doubled in the last 2 years” and that there where “4k+ developers/month contributing code across 2.8k public coins”. They also found that developers have been relatively robust since “the number of monthly active developers fell 4% while the markets fell more than 80%” from January 2018 to January 2019. While they found that high network value coins like Ethereum and Bitcoin have the biggest development communities, their forks are being abandoned by developers.
“Dogecoin has no developers for consecutive months; Litecoin fell from 40 monthly developers to 3 developers in the last year; and forks like Bitcoin Diamond and Bitcoin Gold have had fewer than 5 developers a month since October, 2018.”
They also found that “many developers are working on core protocol for platforms” such as EOS, Cardano, and TRON since they “all have over 25+ monthly core protocol developers on average”. Nevertheless, the research team does admit that “code contribution analysis is nuanced and they know this is imperfect”, but they are open to feedback to improve their data and analysis.
Coin development progressing at different rates, though GitHub activity can be a misleading metric
The changing development communities for different coins illustrates how different coins are developing their networks at different rates in pursuit of different goals. For example, Dash had over 10 times the commits over the past 90 days according to another blockchain analysis group, messari.io.
Since this data does align with some of the findings from Electric Capital’s report, it helps show support for their point that different coins are developing at different rates thanks to different development team sizes. Although, a smaller development team does not always necessarily mean slower development since, as Electric Capital pointed out, Bitcoin Cash had a much smaller development team than Bitcoin, but their code commits were relatively close, according to messari.io.
However, it also brings attention to the fact that github repositories cannot be a single source of evaluating a coin’s performance or development. As a Dash developer previously pointed out, Dash utilizes Squash Merging to help optimize work flows, which initially comes across as smaller commit data. [tweet https://twitter.com/obusco/status/1068936471724400642 align=”right”]
Dash was initially forked off of Litecoin’s code, is now based off of Bitcoin’s code instead, due to Litecoin’s development being effectively abandoned in 2014, which did not pick up again until 2017, and now appears to be returning to past trends.
First-mover advantage, external funding, and internal funding affect cryptocurrency development
With different coins revealing different development rates, it is a useful case study to explore the possible reasons leading to different development outcomes so good outcomes can be repeated and bad outcomes can not be repeated. A major factor in the robust development of Bitcoin is its significant advantage of being the first mover and the biggest cryptocurrency development community for years, which caused most new cryptocurrency developers to initially work on the Bitcoin network and only later forked off to work on other projects. Another major factor for some projects like Bitcoin Cash, EOS, BSV, and others is major funding behind them that can afford to pay developers significant money to work on a specific project and crank out code. Then projects such as Dash have a DAO Treasury system to self-fund and sustain the developer community to continue working on projects throughout bull and bear markets to deliver working digital cash to consumers. While it is still relatively early in the life of cryptocurrencies, a measurement of development structure success will be which coin(s) achieve wide spread adoption first and/or the most robust.