In a nutshell, Web3 was probably summed up best by Andreessen Horowitz partner Chris Dixon. It’s “the internet owned by builders and users, orchestrated by tokens,” he posted as part of a lengthy tweet thread in September. “Tokens” refers to cryptocurrency.

This future version of the internet will be built on blockchains. The technology allows for many stakeholders to agree on what’s “true,” such as who owns a crypto token or an NFT, without relying on a central authority. With that capability, blockchains could enable a reshaping of the economy as we know it, providing for wide scale decentralization and governing by consensus.

The way this all would work is in the technical details unique to blockchains. In order to allow for governing by consensus, for instance, blockchain technology relies on mechanisms known as "proof of work" and "proof of stake." There are also layers to the technology: “layer-1” chains provide programming language for “layer-2” products to build on.

Given all these elements, some technologists think that the future of the web will be “multi-chain,” with different blockchains being best-suited for different uses. But there is also a fair amount of “tribalism” in the cryptosphere, where some advocate for a future with only one triumphant blockchain. Undoubtedly, there is competition among various players to provide infrastructure for tokens, applications, and organizations.

One way to get a sense of who’s leading the blockchain race is to look at GitHub “commits.” A popular platform for developer collaborations, GitHub is where a lot of activity happens around developing blockchains. “Commits” are the action that takes place when users save their work on GitHub for a particular project. A unique ID is created for each “commit.” 

Using this “commit” data, which was collected by Thinknum, we were able to get a sense of how much developer activity is happening for each blockchain. It stands to reason that “commits” are a solid indicator for where talent is congregating and where innovation is taking place. Here is more about what we found.

All Layer-1 Blockchains

As we can see above, Ethereum by far is the blockchain with the most developer interest, followed by Polkadot and Solana.

Measuring the growth of Github commits against the first week of 2021 for each blockchain, we can see that Solana was first in early September with over 175%. That is exactly when it became viral on social media and its token price skyrocketed. Polkadot also experienced significant growth in the first semester of 2021, hitting almost 200% percent in mid-April. 

Interestingly, many blockchains finished the year with 75% lower developer activity than they started it, including Ethereum, Polygon, Polkadot, and Terra. None finished the year higher than it started it. This underscores how much impact bitcoin’s surge to $39,000 back in December 2020 had in this space.

Ethereum (ETH)

Ethereum started last year with four times as many GitHub commits as it ended the year with. Its developer activity peaked in early May with 36,515 weekly GitHub commits. Despite its downward trend, Ethereum is still the blockchain with by far the most GitHub commits, boasting twice as many as its closest counterpart.

Binance Smart Chain (BNB)

Binance is the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the world, and has built its own blockchain, which supports smart contracts, for developers to build on. It was the 4th best-performing blockchain by developer activity in 2021.

Solana (SOL)

Solana had a surprising rise in 2021. While we can see developer activity building up from the beginning of 2021, it started to dominate media attention in September last year. Indeed, it came at a time where gas fees were at all-time-highs on Ethereum due in part to high NFT transaction volumes. Solana’s innovative consensus mechanism, “proof of history,” allowed for much more scalability and reduced gas fees to fractions of a penny. Many observers saw Solana as a necessary innovation to take crypto mainstream, though critics argued it was not secure and decentralized enough.

Cardano (ADA)

Cardano is a proof-of-stake blockchain founded in 2015 by Ethereum co-founder Charles Hoskinson. By developer activity it is one of the 3 lowest ranking blockchains in the nine featured here. Much like other blockchains, it started 2021 with twice as many GitHub commits as it ended it. It steadily rose to all-time-high territory in May and July with 300 weekly average commits per day before a steady slump back till the end of the year.

Polkadot (DOT)

Polkadot, the most commonly held asset by crypto funds in Q3‘21, has had a cyclical developer activity averaging 2,400 weekly average commits per day for the first three months of last year.. By June, it started steadily declining to almost 10 times fewer GitHub commits than it started the year with.

Terra (LUNA)

Terra started the year with around 90 weekly average GitHub commits and rose to 160 by August and September before declining to about 20 by the end of the year. The developer activity does not exactly mirror its price fluctuations for the year 2021, though. Indeed, LUNA, the cryptocurrency that Terra powers, saw its price rise spectacularly from $0.56 on Jan. 1, 2021 to $91.36 on Dec. 31, 2021.

Avalanche (AVAX)

Avalanche which launched in September 2020 has had a quick rise from $4 to $114 by the end of last year. It was created by computer scientists at Cornell University to be both eco-friendly and offer a highly customizable programming language to develop decentralized finance applications. Avalanche’s developer activity has started the year with 250 daily Github commits and ended it with about 50 following a steady decline since mid-May. In late March last year, Avalanche had 500 daily commits, its maximum to date.

Polygon (MATIC)

Polygon is a blockchain designed for other developers to build blockchains that are tailored to their needs, and allow for blockchain integration to enhance features. It has had a steady growth in developer activity from January to May 2021, rising from 400 to 600 daily GitHub commits. Since May, its developer activity has declined gradually to 50 daily GitHub commits by the end of 2021.

Algorand (ALGO)

Algorand was founded in 2017 by MIT professor Silvio Micali. It provides some advantages over other blockchains such as immediate “transaction finality.” This means that new blocks are rapidly validated (and do not require more time for other miners to confirm that it is legitimate). Its developer interest was relatively steady throughout last year, fluctuating around 25 daily commits with small swings up and down from 10 to 40 at most. In mid-April its number of daily GitHub commits for a short period was around 70.

About the Data:

Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online, jobs, social and web traffic, product sales, and app ratings, and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue, and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales.

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