If 2019 was a tough year for investors, it was harder for cryptocurrency developers. A new report has highlighted significant changes in the type of developers working in cryptocurrency projects, as well as the sort of projects many are moving too.
By indexing code and tracing original authors, crypto investment firm Electric Capital created an image of the current developer community, as well as highlight key trends.
Estimating there to be more than 6,800 engineers actively working in the space, the report found that more than forty blockchain projects lost developers since June 2018. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) had the heaviest losses, losing nearly a third of its developer community.
NEO and TRON (TRX) also experienced large drops in developer numbers. Meanwhile, the MakerDAO (DAI) developer community nearly doubled during the same time period, growing 80%. The number of full-time Maker developers increased from nine to twenty-three.
The number of Bitcoin Cash developers shrank by 32%. The sharpest drop was between December 2018 and January 2019, when the number of full-time developers fell from twenty-four to eleven.
Although the number of full-time developers has since stabilized, contributions from part-time and infrequent contributors fell at the beginning of Q2. The significant drop in Bitcoin Cash developers may be due to November’s hard fork, which split the community in two. Some of these developers may have left to the now-rival BSV network.
The report also documented changes in the types of projects and level of commitment for blockchain developers.
Overall 800 developers left the space or stopped committing in the past year, most of them working on projects outside of the top hundred. Eighty percent of these losses were developers who either worked part-time or one-time per month. Meanwhile, the number of full-time developers increased by 13% over the past year, consolidating in larger projects.
For example, the number of full-time developers on Ethereum (ETH) increased by 34% in the past year, but it was offset by a gradual decline in one-time developers. Over the same time frame, Cardano’s (ADA) full-time community increased significantly, but there was little to no change in the number of part-time and one-time developers.
“We really care about full-time developer count,” Maria Shen, head of data science at Electric Capital, explained on the Unconfirmed podcast. “These are the developers who are really building core-functionality.”
The change in developer communities reflects a shift in priorities. While interest in money and payment systems, like Bitcoin Cash, appears to have declined since the beginning of the year, there has been a substantial rise in activity on DeFi projects in the past nine months or so.
That might explain why Maker – the largest DeFi application in the space – experienced the largest increase in developer numbers during the first half of the year. As the DeFi space continues to expand, developer numbers might begin to concentrate around these type of applications.