Evolution of blockchain projects on GitHub

A new study of the global open-source platform, GitHub, offers key lessons on blockchain development—how projects have grown, what’s likely to come next, and the implications for financial services firms.

Repositories reveal interesting trends about organizations

The core code supporting Bitcoin was published in April 2009. Since then, the number of projects on GitHub related to blockchain has grown significantly, averaging more than 8,600 new projects a year. In 2016 alone, there were almost 27,000 new projects (figure 3).

The growth in the number of projects has been matched by the rapid growth of content produced to develop these blockchain technologies. Please see figure 4, and Repositories by year in our interactive dashboard.

In analyzing blockchain repositories and their content, we noticed that increasingly more organizations appear to be getting involved. In 2010, organizations developed less than 1 percent of all projects. By 2017, their blockchain projects accounted for 11 percent (organizations currently account for 7 percent of total—not just blockchain—software development on GitHub). And recent data about the rate at which commercial organizations can find success with blockchain initiatives through open source seems promising; some high-profile, large commercial entities are already doing so. (Please refer to Repositories by organization in our interactive dashboard.)Of particular significance, some projects that organizations have developed have resulted in new platforms (such as Ethereum, Ripple, Corda, and Quorum) which some developers now use to build applications. Organization-owned projects also tend to be updated more frequently than those developed by users, and are reportedly five times more likely to be copied, implying that the blockchain community has deemed them most relevant.When a project is copied, all of the content becomes available to the account that copied the project, thus working as a de facto knowledge-transfer mechanism. This process is commonly referred to as a citation network, where projects that are most often copied occupy a more central role in the network of projects, which we refer to as project centrality. Under this rubric, some of the most central projects have been developed and maintained by organizations: Bitcoin core, the C++ and Go implementation of Ethereum, Python clients for Ethereum, and the Bitcoin Improvements Proposal. To interactively explore a depiction of the various networks in GitHub, please see Network visualization in our interactive dashboard.

When exploring the aforementioned interactive graph, keep in mind that the initial projects of Ethereum and Bitcoin are maintained by organizations (foundations), and that a vast amount of blockchain projects and applications in GitHub are actually built on top of these two projects. In short, organization-led projects are the backbone code for thousands of other projects. Out of the 20 most central projects in the blockchain space measured by popularity, citation, and collaboration , 18 were created and maintained by organizations.

Organizational commitment in open source appears to be dominating the core development of blockchain because it is most likely more demanding and purposeful than individual participation in development. Once resources are put into place by an organization, there is generally more incentive to ensure that the project is successful. Given that organization participants are tied to one another beyond any particular project, there is often greater accountability to one another, which also drives ongoing development.

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April 17th, 2018 by