Crypto Developers Dropped 24% in 2023 as Builders Look Beyond Bitcoin, Ethereum

In the last year, thousands of developers have abandoned crypto—but in several other key metrics, the ecosystem looks as robust as ever. 

That’s according to a new report out Wednesday from crypto venture firm Electric Capital, which says that the number of active, open-source crypto developers has dropped a sharp 24% from the end of 2022 through 2023. As of last month, just over 22,000 developers currently operate in the industry, across myriad blockchains. 

The dropoff was all but certainly thanks to the crypto winter that set in after the $60 billion collapse of cryptocurrencies UST and LUNA in May 2022, and the subsequent collapse of FTX in November of that year, which cratered crypto’s reputation and industry growth

But there’s a silver lining in that trend: The overwhelming majority of developers who left the industry in 2023 appear to have been fairweather builders, who had hardly spent any prior time in crypto.

Over 52% of new crypto developers—with one year or less of experience—left the space by December 2023. In contrast, developers with one to two years of experience only dipped by a marginal 1%, and developers with over two years of experience actually grew as a category by the year’s end, up a resounding 33%.

The geographic diversity of those developers has also grown over time. In 2018, United States-based builders represented 40% of all crypto developers worldwide, according to Electric Capital. By 2023, that figure shrunk to 26%. Meanwhile, the share of crypto developers from non-Western countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America has comparably ballooned in the same period, from 18% to 36%. 

Europe continues to produce the most crypto developers in the world—34% last year.

What sorts of blockchains these developers work on has also developed promisingly over the years. As of 2023, 34% of all builders work on multiple chains, a marked increase that speaks to the scope and depth of development across the increasingly multi-chain crypto ecosystem. 

Ethereum, unsurprisingly, continues to attract the majority of crypto developers; over 8,000 coders consistently contributed to the blockchain last year. But Ethereum scaling network Polygon and rival Solana have also seen a marked uptick in numbers of new contributors. 

Slightly below those three networks in new developer activity, but impressive in their own right, are BNB Chain, Cosmos, Arbitrum, Polkadot, NEAR, Avalanche, Optimism, and Internet Computer—each of which attracted between 2,000 and 4,000 new developers in 2023. 

The fastest growing new crypto ecosystem of 2023 was Base: Coinbase’s Ethereum layer-2 network, which took the industry by storm after its launch in August. 999 unique developers contributed to Base over the last three months of 2023. 

Bitcoin, meanwhile, despite its status as the original blockchain, is no longer the coolest kid at the party. Where once the network could brag, way back in 2015, that it attracted more new developers than any other blockchain—17%—by last year that figure shrunk to a measly 2%.

The Bitcoin ecosystem is now maintained by a core group of just over 1,000 developers. But some of those builders may be busier than others.

According to Electric Capital’s report, less than 10% of Bitcoin developers work on Ordinals, digital assets inscribed in tiny denominations of BTC that are akin to NFTs. Despite that relatively low figure, Ordinals, which were a runaway phenomenon in 2023, have routinely accounted for over 50% of transaction traffic on the Bitcoin network.

Edited by Andrew Hayward

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