A report shared by Richard Muir in our Developer Nation Community.
The distributed transaction ledgers and smart contracts that comprise blockchain technologies have applications in a wide range of industries, particularly in finance, logistics, and government. Today, we present an overview of who is involved in blockchain development and which blockchain platforms they use. Earlier on, we discussed the state of blockchain development in detail in our webinar and you can find a link to watch it below.
Engagement with blockchain technologies
Of the three blockchain technologies we track in our survey, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) garner the least attention from developers — 58% of them show no interest, likely due to its perception as a novelty technology. On the other hand, cryptocurrencies are most salient to developers — 27% are either learning about or currently working on such projects, and non-cryptocurrency blockchain technologies are very close behind, with 25% of developers similarly involved. We discussed this topic in detail in our webinar on the state of Blockchain Development.
We will focus solely on blockchain applications other than cryptocurrencies, as these technologies have the widest range of use cases and thus the most potential to shape our world. We’ll begin by looking at developers’ engagement with blockchain technologies from a regional standpoint and then through the lens of experience in software development. Finally, we’ll give an overview of which blockchain platforms are being used.
A regional view of Engagement with blockchain applications
Engagement with blockchain applications other than cryptocurrencies, referred to as blockchain applications from here on, varies greatly depending on where developers are located. North America and East Asia excluding Greater China are hotbeds of blockchain development — 15% and 12% of developers in these regions, respectively, are currently working on blockchain applications, with another 17% learning about the technology in both regions.
“North America and East Asia are hotbeds of blockchain development”
Further down the list, we see that while the Middle East & Africa has a smaller proportion of developers actively working on blockchain projects; it has the highest incidence of those learning about them (20%). This suggests that the Middle East & Africa could well become important for blockchain development in the future. Indeed, given the region’s history of rapid adoption of new foundational technologies — exemplified by Africa’s mobile banking revolution — blockchain applications in finance and banking are particularly exciting here — though the data suggests that there may still be some way to go.
“Finance and banking professionals in the Middle East and Africa are more interested in blockchain technologies than finance and banking professionals in other regions”
About a quarter of professional developers in the Middle East & Africa who are interested in blockchain technologies are also working in the finance and banking sector. It seems these developers have seen the potential for this technology to shape and disrupt the sector and are getting a head start. Looking at this from the other side, we see that the proportion of finance and banking professionals who are currently working on or learning about blockchain applications is broadly in line with the average for the region (31% vs 33%). However, the proportion who are interested in blockchain applications is 29% higher (37% vs 29%). This is the highest incidence of interest in blockchain applications amongst finance and banking professionals across any region and indicates that blockchain applications could play a pivotal role in this industry in the future.
How does experience affect engagement with blockchain applications?
Developers with 6–10 years of experience are the most likely to work on blockchain projects. It’s likely that these developers have reached the point in their career where their technical skills are sufficiently advanced to enable them to work on such demanding projects. On the other hand, we see that the least and most experienced developers are the most likely to be disinterested in such projects. Those with less than a year under their belts have yet to build their knowledge, while the most experienced developers may be looking to maintain some stability in their career and are reluctant to change tack.
“Many of the least experienced developers are actively learning about blockchain technologies. They constitute a strong pipeline of future contributors”
Developers with 11–15 years under their belts show the most passive interest in blockchain applications — whilst they aren’t learning about or working on such projects, 32% are interested in some way. These developers are at the zenith of their careers and whilst they are some of the least likely to be learning about the technology, they are also some of the most likely to be currently working on it. These developers are likely keeping a close eye on developments in the space — should they spot an opportunity, they will be able to pivot their considerable experience to become effective contributors to the space.
Interestingly, although we see that the least experienced developers are less likely than their counterparts with 1–15 years of experience to be currently working on blockchain applications, they are only slightly less likely to be learning about these projects. This demonstrates that although they lack the skills to be active contributors, the myriad applications and potential of blockchain applications are a powerful draw. We can expect that, as learning materials improve and the barriers to entry reduce — as is the case with many technologies — over the next few years, developers will be able to get involved in blockchain projects much earlier in their careers.
Which blockchain platforms are most popular?
Looking at the specific blockchain platforms that developers report using, we see that Ethereum is clearly dominant amongst learners and those actively developing alike. It’s also unique amongst the blockchain technologies that we ask about, in that it is the only one which is more popular amongst those learning about the technology than those who are currently working on it. This indicates that Ethereum’s ecosystem is in good shape — not only is it large, but it also has a healthy pipeline of new contributors.
Although new contributors are certainly good news — the utility of a blockchain rises with the number of applications that use it — a large influx can also create problems. For example, too many transactions on a network can slow things down severely and greatly increase the price of a transaction. For example, when CryptoKitties surged in popularity, the cost of a transaction on the Ethereum network increased ninefold, from ~$50 to over $450. Such is the price of success. This said, Ethereum’s recent transition to a proof-of-stake model is expected to reduce energy consumption by 99.95% and makes the platform more scalable, secure, and sustainable, potentially mitigating this pitfall.
“The Binance blockchain platform benefits from its association with the Binance crypto exchange and its interoperability with the Ethereum blockchain”
Further down the list, Binance Smart Chain is the second most widely used blockchain platform and is used significantly more by active developers than learners. Here, the Binance Smart Chain not only benefits from its association with the Binance cryptocurrency trading platform, but also its interoperability with the Ethereum blockchain. We also see a similar story with the IBM Blockchain platform — this platform is based on open-source blockchain technology managed by the Linux foundation and clearly benefits from the backing of these two large organisations and their developer and business communities.
Despite the hype, blockchain technologies are still somewhat in their infancy. Blockchain, much like cloud computing fifteen or so years ago, has the potential to underpin and enable many other technologies and experiences, but as we saw earlier, only 9% of developers are currently working on such projects. Rather than affecting an instant technological transformation, blockchain technologies have the opportunity to become a foundational technology on which our digital experience sits, much like TCP-IP — the building blocks of the internet — and developers will be key players in shaping this particular view of the future.
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