There has been some FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) regarding the amount of Litecoin Core developers recently. Most of it perpetrated by this report which claims that Litecoin has lost over 90% of its developers in 2018. Whilst the report does use its data from Github repos and commits, the analysis purposefully excludes fork activities and commits from open source libraries which paints a rather disjointed picture of reality.
This article will ultimately defeat the FUD surrounding Litecoin developers and will attempt to paint a bigger picture to those people that have fallen victim to this misleading article and claims thereafter as shown here, here, here, here and here.
Let’s delve into four important points.
1. Conflict of interest
Electric Capital is a crypto asset management firm. The company mainly makes its money from its services and from its investment portfolio. On the official website of Electric Capital here, it is mentioned that the company has a portfolio of 4 cryptocurrencies: Bitcoin, Ethereum, Monero and Zcash, with Zcash being the most recent addition.
This is very important to know as it allows you to understand the motives behind making this report and how it shapes the decision making for data gathering and analysis. For example, Electric Capital cherry picks data to suit positive narratives for their own portfolio: Bitcoin, Ethereum, Monero and Zcash exclusively.
Let’s start from the beginning.
Taken from the report:
Only new code count toward “core” protocol activity. We omit code and developer activity from merging changes from the original, forked codebase.
Electric Capital has explicitly stated that it has omitted forks counts. This has serious repercussions. For example, even though Bitcoin Core might release an upgrade to its network which is counted towards developer activity, it will not include this same fork activity from other cryptocurrencies that utilizes the same upgrade. This is Electric Capital cherry picking data to suit Bitcoin’s narrative, even though the code from Bitcoin is released open source meaning that anyone within the space is able to freely use it. This means that crytocurrencies like Litecoin that regularly upstream code upgrades from the Bitcoin network don’t get counted. So even though it does get counted for Bitcoin, it won’t get counted for it on Litecoin. As a result of this cherry data picking, this deflates the number of github activity for other source forks as shown in their report below:
This shows how by omitting Fork activities it alleviates Bitcoin ahead of forks and makes source forks like Litecoin seem less active in comparison when it is not actually the case.
1.2 Commits from Integrating Open Source Libraries
Integrating common libraries does not count toward “total” or “core” code activity.
Electric Capital claims that their methodology counts more Litecoin commits than other development trackers because they look at all branches but in fact, they don’t look at all the branches. They focus on 1 Repo, when Litecoin Project has 36 other Repos as shown here. In fact, this research excludes the other areas of development such as the Loaf Wallet (which is run by the Foundation) and a Litecoin Lightning Network Mobile Application. The fundamental point is that Electric Capital’s research is biased as it does not shown all the Repos and other areas of Litecoin core development. This methodology like with the first point, excludes Commits from Integrating Open Source libraries in their analysis research. As shown via the below chart, Litecoin Core merges most of its source code from Bitcoin Core however, the report explicitly excludes this data and only presents the code that is ‘unique’ to Litecoin which is in blue. This shows a misconstrued reality of Litecoin development.
Electric Capital purposefully counts the developer activity on Bitcoin but will exclude this same data for Litecoin. Electric Capital has stated “this is the best way to attribute work” however, this is very subjective because open source code is not ‘owned’ by any specific person therefore it cannot be only included for one project. For Litecoin, its goals are to complement Bitcoin as a global standard and therefore it aims to stay as close to the core development of Bitcoin as possible. Therefore, it makes sense that any upgrades to Bitcoin will also be merged onto Litecoin and this should be counted.
In addition, the master branches that is actually being used in this report is from Core Repo, however, Litecoin has over 36 other Repos compared to Bitcoin. This is because the Litecoin Github is structurally different to Bitcoin and spaces out development amongst different Repos and doesn’t just put all Core work on 2 Repos, as Bitcoin does. Now, if we were to include all the fork commits across all these Repos and compare them to Bitcoin the results will be different:
56,055 total commits
150 total branches
818 total releases
1,706 total contributors
21,490 total commits
15 total branches
243 total releases
805 total contributors
(Stats taken from my original article here)
Now, this does not mean that Litecoin has more development activity than Bitcoin, but because it structures its Github page differently this should also be taken into consideration. By Electric Capital omitting this open source data it means that the report misleads its readers by making other source forks see more ‘inactive’. Thus, Bitcoin source forks like Litecoin appear to not be as active but they are getting the same fork upgrades as Bitcoin.
1.3 Projects with only 1 Repo:
Activity resulting from changes to the website or documentation does not count toward “core” activity, but counts toward “total” activity.
Electric Capital omits projects with only 1 Repo. This has serious repercussions. For example, Electric Capital removes duplicate developers to capture ‘unique’ developers. When developers have multiple accounts from which they commit code, the report counts that as one developer. This makes Monero and Zcash stand out in comparison with other privacy related cryptocurrencies. In fact, Electric Capital does give a shout out to both their investments in their own report as shown below:
1.4 Projects built on Ethereum.
Only Solidity changes count toward “core” protocol activity. Website changes, documentation, etc. in the same repo as protocol code only count toward “total” commits.
As previously mentioned, Electric Capital are investors in Ethereum so the report has purposefully omitted projects built on Ethereum to discount them from the report. As mentioned previously, this is highly biased and cherry picking its data to suit give an unrealistic representation of the market. Of course by omitting projects built on Ethereum you are omitting many other projects and their developers which puts Ethereum higher ranked in comparison, as shown in the report below:
As a result of this, it make Ethereum stand out from the rest of the developer platforms. In fact, this report by CCN here and here states that 94 out of the top 100 dapp platforms are built in top of Ethereum so this report excludes this ecosystem. Thus, Electric Capital is cherry picking its data to make their portfolio investment more appealing and shows a rather disjointed reality.
2. Github Activity ≠ Developer Activity
The report starts by saying:
The term developers can be broadly defined as “an individual that builds and create software and applications. They write, debug and execute the source code of a software application. A developer is also known as a software developer, computer programmer, programmer, software coder or software engineer.” (Techopedia, 2019). By this definition, a developer includes everything to do with the conception of the desired software through to the final manifestation of the software, often in a planned and structured process.
Now, the Electric Capital report indirectly puts developers in two categories: Core Code & Total Code activity (in page 15–17 of the report). By doing this, they undermine the holistic work of developers and the importance in writing, debugging, executing and managing the source code. The one thing to note about Github commits is that it does not capture the whole code construction from start to finish; only what’s been pushed to the master branch for the main repositories. This means that the process of writing or testing new code is not included in this measurement. Thus, it is important to note that Github commits do not show an accurate representation of the actual development of any given project.
However, Electric Capital purposefully ignores the actual work a developer does and uses Github data that is often the end result of a developer’s role. Typically, developers commit code when they are finished working on them in their own branches and submit pull requests to the main repositories — this is considered to be a good developer practice. However, most cryptocurrency projects are working straight from the Master branch which carries with it some potential risks. Firstly, it inflates the amount of Github commits causing the project to seem more active than it actually is which is the case for many in the previously mentioned report. Secondly, working straight from the Master can also lead to the potential disruption of the source code which might damage the already existing infrastructure built. Thirdly, people and/or businesses compiling from the source code would get whatever random state your current development is at.
Because of all these reasons, Litecoin Core does not use master for staging changes — instead master is supposed to be the latest release. Litecoin Github commits as presented here are synced from the core developers’ forked repositories and into the Litecoin Project Github. Since there is very little difference between the Bitcoin Core and Litecoin Core client, it appears that there is not a lot of activity but that is because we have merged most Litecoin related commits into a few commits and when a new release of Bitcoin Core is tagged, we pull the changes from upstream and pick our commits (and fix merge conflicts). The result is that Litecoin Github commits seem to be decreasing lately but this is is due to the fact that we have been streamlining our development much more effectively and efficiently in a more structured way, and not because development is inactive as will be discussed further in Points 3 and Points 4.
3. Litecoin Core doesn’t need to have many in-house developers
Whilst it is important for cryptocurrencies like Litecoin to strive for innovation and adapt to changing market conditions, the platform in which it operates in is open source. Open source enables many projects to collaboratively work together and this allows for very efficient and effective problem solving solutions. Because of this, it is impossible for any one cryptocurrency project to achieve sustainable competitive advantage through innovating because any other project can just pull or fork the commits and replicate the exact same source code.
Obviously, having many developers actively working on any given project is beneficial but the results are automatically shared with everyone. For this reason, Litecoin Core doesn’t need to constantly have many developers to achieve sustainable competitive advantage because it upstreams upgrades from Bitcoin Core, so in this regards, Litecoin Core also gain the benefits of Bitcoin Core developers. Of course, certain tweaks to the Litecoin source code and regular infrastructure upgrades are needed to avoid any malfunctions, but Litecoin Core Protocol has been worked on for more than 7 years (more than 98% of other cryptocurrencies in this market) and has built a strong foundation on its development history already as shown below:
In 2016, Litecoin played an important role in the adoption of SegWit to Bitcoin as it was the first major coin to innovate and adopt SegWit first and ensured the uncertainty and fear surrounding SegWit was mitigated. Litecoin proudly paved the way for Bitcoin to adopt SegWit and most likely wouldn’t have been possible without major voices such as Charlie Lee with his bounty of $1MM and other Litecoin developers.
There will still be regular commits to the master branch as development continues as per our 2019 goals here. Some things that have been already released this year is the Litecoin Core v0.17 which included basic code upgrades and also a reduction in network transaction fees by 10x. In addition to this, the Litecoin Core developers are also working with Beam Core developers on bringing confidential transactions to Litecoin blockchain. There has been great progress so far in understanding potential privacy technologies like MimbleWimble and its use case within the Litecoin blockchain. As this is still being researched, this data is not included in any github or development tracker but it is currently being researched and worked on by the Litecoin core and Beam core developers. Once research has been complete, an LIP (Litecoin Improvement Proposal) will be presented to the community which will detail potential implementation technique — this is currently being written up. As confidential transactions will be decided by the community, a consensus will need to be formed over how it is to be implemented and this will take time.
In addition, most of the Litecoin development is outsourced and not made in-house — this means that work being done on the Litecoin blockchain is primarily from partnerships and strategy collaborations. For example, Litecoin Core has started collaboration with X9 developers and XSN to enable Litecoin support on Neutrino; which is a light Lightning Network client, in order to build the the maintenance and hardening of the Litecoin Development on Lightning Network. Lighting Network is an off-chain solution that will help to improve Litecoin’s scalability and capacity as a payments solution. In addition, the Litecoin Foundation has accredited CoinGate as its official Litecoin Lightning Payment processor and currently are beginning a trial with their first selected merchant SurfSharkSecure. Progress on the Lightning Network is growing day by the day, with Litecoin now reaching 210 nodes, with 1,094 channels and around 252.76 LTC ($23,484.67) network capacity.
Some people have this common misconception that active Github commit activities translates to higher network security, but that is not the case for cryptocurrencies. The security element that governs cryptocurrencies like Litecoin and Bitcoin are based on the activity levels of the miners themselves. When there are more miners in the network there’s a lot more competition required to validate blocks and thus, hash rate levels increases. The more hash rate a cryptocurrency has the higher its network security. Litecoin has one of the most largest hashrates in Scrypt (~474 TH/s) as well as having over 90% market share making it extremely secure. In fact, recently Litecoin surpassed its previous all time high in hashrate meaning the network is even more secure than it has been. Adding to this, the Litecoin mining network is also distributed amongst many pool operatorsand not one single entity owns more than 24% which maintains its decentralization.
In fact, Litecoin has been running constantly with no downtime for over 7+ years; without double spending, irreversible transactions or malicious 51% attacks to its network as what happened recently with Bitcoin Cash. These qualities are fundamental for a cryptocurrency to thrive in the long term and are qualities clearly shown in Litecoin.
4. Litecoin works as global money today
Litecoin currently processes over $2B worth of transactions each day and works as a global decentralized sound money today, that can’t be censored, can’t be reversed or taken away, can’t be counterfeited and can’t be devalued.
In fact, Litecoin is only one of three cryptocurrencies in the market to be listed on all major exchanges and all major wallets — the other two are Bitcoin and Ethereum. Whilst other cryptocurrencies in the industry are dedicating their resources on achieving this level of integration, Litecoin has spent 7 years successfully doing this already. And the results speak for itself: Litecoin is one of the longest surviving coins that’s maintained its top 5 position as a mineable coin ever since its inception. It’s highly liquid, secure, reliable and one of the most traded cryptocurrencies in the market today. Litecoin is highly recognised and has grown a large net effect within the industry.
You can also pay with Litecoin at many hundreds of thousands of merchants worldwide ranging from art & collectables, to clothing stores, to jewellery & accessories, to health & beauty, to domains & other digital services, to food & drinks, to games, to furniture, to education, to motor vehicles & accessories, to music & electronics, to travel, to property. It is also expected that Litecoin can reach a potential 1 million merchants through Clover POS+ as stated here. This vast network of adoption has be driven by a strong grass-roots approach within the Litecoin community which has set it apart from most other communities in this space. Litecoin continues to evolve and grow globally with the focus towards mainstream adoption and we’ve already seen the starting blocks of this by our recent partnership with merchant processors such as Aliant Payments and major businesses such as UFC, Glory Kickboxing, Miami Dolphins, HTC and WEG Bank. As more outside businesses enter the cryptocurrency space, Litecoin will be at this forefront pushing for mainstream adoption.
In conclusion, Litecoin Core have been working over 7 years on development and still continues to do so even today. The result is that Litecoin has become this highly liquid, secure, reliable and traded cryptocurrency in the market today. Github commits are only one aspect of measurement and certainly does not show the whole development or progress of research behind the scenes. In fact, Litecoin Core has been streamlining its Github commits recently so it appears that activity on the Litecoin Github page is decreasing when in reality, the core developers are making it easier to upstream new code and safeguard existing source code. All these new processes and procedures enables Litecoin to evolve in the next stage of its evolution which is bringing about mainstream adoption. Adoption is what will move us out of this bear market cycle.
Join the revolution with Litecoin now as it leads the industry in mainstream adoption.
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Github. (2019). Litecoin Project — Github. [Online]. Last accessed: https://github.com/litecoin-project. [08/04/19].