Developers Are Still Flocking To Crypto Amid Its Brutal Winter
Despite plummeting crypto markets in 2022, Electric Capital’s annual developer report found that full-time crypto developers reached an all-time high last year, with 23,000 monthly individual developers contributing to open-source code.
The report measured the number of one-time, part-time, and full-time developers contributing to 250 million code commits in open-source code repositories, including GitHub and Bitbucket.
“Especially in the bear market, it’s really important to track the health of full-time developers,” says Maria Shen, Partner at Electric Capital and one of the authors of the annual developer report.
Monthly active developers grew 5% year-over-year, despite a 70% decline in prices, the report found. Now in its fourth edition, Electric Capital compared 2022 numbers to those of the last crypto winter cycle, starting in January 2018. Since then, monthly active developers have increased a whopping 297% across multiple blockchain ecosystems.
The largest developer growth was seen outside Bitcoin
Significant growth in these ecosystems comes from full-time developers, who are measured in the report as those contributing 10 or more commits per month. This emphasis, says Shen, boils down to the fact that they contribute the vast majority of the code.
“They keep the lights on, they build the core protocol, and they’re sticking around,” says Shen.
New developers, on the other hand, tend to follow price cycles, Shen adds, stating that one-time or part-time developers add code to repositories as a hobby or as part of hackathons. Indeed, 95% of developer churn came from these developers, with most code contributed by full-time developers.
Despite an increase in developer numbers, the main issue plaguing crypto and blockchain companies is its varying coding languages and an overall shortage of qualified software engineers. Coding smart contracts requires knowledge of specialized coding languages like Solidity or Rust which can easily alienate experienced engineers working in traditional, Web 2 companies.
“We have to consider quality,” John Wu, president of Ava Labs, the New York-based creator of the Avalanche
But a decrease in prices and a slow-down of the crypto hype may be just what developers needed. “Developers have switched from having to brute force themselves from [crypto winters] to positioning themselves for the next market cycle,” says Gokal.
Solana, this year’s fastest growing ecosystem, grew by 83%. Gokal points to Solana’s use of Rust as its main coding language as one of the potential reasons for its growth. Despite being 83% down in year-to-year prices, Gokal shares that there was little difficulty finding experienced developers for Solana-based applications.
“The quality ends up being much more highly concentrated with Solana because it attracts developers that are more used to lower level programming languages, like C and C++,” he says, adding that in his experience, it usually takes developers fluent in those languages two weeks to learn Rust.
Full-time developers are also increasingly working across chains, the report found. While most developer accounts still only deploy contracts to one chain, the average number of chains rose to nearly 1.4 in 2022, particularly in Ethereum virtual machine (EVM) compatible chains.
“A lot of ecosystems have more of these cross-chain developers than they have native developers,” Shen says. Avalanche, for example, lost 28% of primary developers while multichain developers building on the system grew by 8%.
The report also touched on some of the year’s most talked-about events, including the Ethereum Merge and the collapse of Terra
Ethereum monthly developers grew by five times since the last crypto winter cycle to 5,819, becoming the ecosystem with the largest number of developers and accounts for 16% of all new developers in crypto. Full-time developers, which increased 9% from December 2021, were largely in charge of the Merge, which transitioned Ethereum from a proof-of-work mechanism to a proof-of-stake chain.
“These types of fundamental events mean that the slow and steady developers grow a little bit more slowly, because they put in so much work,” says Shen.
Ethereum’s next update—named Shanghai update—is expected to go live in March of this year, allowing withdrawals of ethereum staked on the chain’s Beacon update.
As for Terra, which topped last year’s list, as the highest growing ecosystem in terms of full-time developers, the report found that 56% of developers that worked in Terra stopped contributing to open-source code after its collapse.
The ecosystem saw a growth of 313% from December 2020 to December 2021 accounting for a total 33 full time developers, but by May 7, terraUSD de-pegged from the dollar, fell to 35 cents and companion token LUNA
Shen defended the firm’s methodology, saying that “it wasn’t a bug in the code” that led to the collapse. “It was because the financial mechanism of how the stablecoin worked that was broken, so that was exploited,” she added.
Following the crash 42% migrated to other ecosystems, while 9% stayed to work on Luna 2.0 The largest share (13%) went to Cosmos