The number of active, open source developers in crypto has reached its lowest point since 2020, according to Web3 VC firms Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) and Electric Capital.
Data from the former’s State of Crypto Index shows that crypto coders have nearly halved from their peak last year, sliding from 36,500 active devs in January 2022 to just 19,630 active devs in September 2023.
The last time developers were below this level was near the start of crypto’s bull market in December 2020, boasting around 18,100 devs at the time before roaring upwards alongside the digital asset market.
Paul Cafiero, a communications partner at a16z Crypto confirmed to Decrypt that the data is accurate. However, CTO Eddy Lazzarin claimed over Twitter that the displayed figure may not tell the whole story.
“In order to track active crypto developers, we use Electric Capital’s popular ecosystems project to identify crypto-related Github repos,” Lazzarin explained over Twitter. The tool effectively tracks crypto-focused repositories on the site, and the number of active developers working with each one.
“We’re curious how much crypto dev is now happening outside of the open source infra repos reflected here,” he said.
“Open-source” development refers to writing source code that is easily available for anyone to view, and can be freely distributed. Crypto founders often prioritize open-sourcing their projects in the interest of decentralization and trust, rather than claiming them as intellectual property.
While the crypto market itself may have also impacted developer count, the firm suspects that a greater number of developers are moving into crypto’s application layer. There, it says, activity is rising, but is much harder to track on a dev-by-dev basis.
The CTO cited a16z-funded projects including Blackbird, Story Protocol, Proof of Play, and IYK, which are all “working principally in the app layer in private repos.”
In fact, other data may suggest that crypto development on the whole is still climbing. A16z also tracks crypto developer library downloads, which tapped an all-time high last month.
“It more reflects the amount of activity as opposed to the number of people working,” a spokesperson for a16z told Decrypt. The representative explained that this may be a better measure of how much development is actually happening compared to a simple developer count.
“One of those developers could just be doing one commit, and another one could be working full time on it, and they’re counted the same,” he said.