Always Check Developer Activity When Buying Crypto – Here’s Why

In our quest to identify cryptocurrency tokens that can outperform the rest of the market during the 2024 crypto bull run, we’ve zeroed in on a pivotal yet frequently underestimated metric: developer activity.

This article offers a curated list of the top blockchain networks with the highest number of developer activity, as well as an expert analysis of the significance of developer activity as a crucial metric for crypto valuation.

Key Takeaways

  • Traditional valuation models used in equity investing are not well-suited for cryptocurrency valuation.
  • Developer activity is a crucial metric for measuring cryptocurrency valuations.
  • It can indicate project growth and potential for user adoption and help identify bad exit scams.
  • Polygon, BNB Chain, and Optimism saw the highest smart contract deployment among EVM chains.
  • Ethereum, Polygon, and Polkadot had the highest number of developers at the end of 2023.

Why Is Developer Activity an Important Valuation Metric?

Cryptocurrencies are complex financial assets to evaluate. Traditional valuation models used in equity investing are not suited for crypto valuation as their prices are not driven by traditional financial data like revenue, profits, and interest rates. Instead, crypto prices tend to respond to market sentiment, supply and demand dynamics, regulatory landscape, adoption rates, and technological development – as well as developer activity.

Developer activity refers to work being done behind the scenes to upgrade blockchain systems, fix issues, and add new features and smart contracts to a cryptocurrency network. The open-source nature of cryptocurrency projects allows us to measure developer activity in near real-time by monitoring contributor activity on a developer platform called GitHub and by tracking smart contract deployment on-chain.

According to blockchain data firm Santiment, a developer’s time is an “expensive resource,” and high development activity implies that a project is serious about its future and will introduce new features and fix existing issues.

Crypto expert Daniel McGlynn said in a blog post:

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“Developer activity is a leading indicator for growth in terms of users and potential value. This makes sense on an intuitive level — it’s hard to build a valuable network or app or service if the user experience is terrible or if the functionality is bad.”

Top 5 EVM Chains With the Highest Smart Contract Activity

Now that we have talked about the importance of developer activity, let’s see which blockchain networks are attracting the highest number of developer activity in the form of smart contract deployment.

According to a report by blockchain data firm Flipside, here are the top 5 EVM-compatible chains (EVM meaning Ethereum Virtual Machine) with the highest smart contract deployments.

Flipside observed smart contract activity across seven leading EVM chains – Ethereum (ETH), Optimism (OP), Arbitrum (ARB), Polygon (MATIC), BNB Chain (BNB), Base and Avalanche (AVAX) between January 2022 and March 2024.

Polygon (MATIC)

Since January 2022, no EVM blockchain has seen more smart contract deployment than Ethereum sidechain Polygon. According to Flipside, Polygon saw 34.2% of all smart contract deployments observed across seven leading EVM chains between January 2022 and March 2024.

The introduction of the PRC-20 token – an Ordinals-inspired token standard on Polygon – was attributed as the main reason for a flurry of smart contract deployment on Polygon in November 2023.

BNB Chain (BNB)

Hot at the heels of first-placed Polygon was BNB Chain. The Binance-endorsed Layer 1 (L1) network saw 32.8% of all smart contract deployments observed across seven EVM chains between January 2022 to March 2024.

The BNB Chain saw a surge in developer activity just before the launch of its Layer 2 (L2) network called opBNB in September 2023. The report also showed that smart contract deployment contribution from gaming activities was highest on the BNB Chain vs other observed chains.

Optimism (OP)

Ethereum L2 network Optimism came in third by accounting for 17.8% of all smart contracts deployed across the seven EVM chains between January 2022 to March 2024.

However, the Flipside report noted that Optimism was the hottest EVM chain in terms of smart contract deployment in 2024, accounting for roughly 70% of total deployment volume across all seven observed chains since the start of the year.

Base

Coinbase-incubated Ethereum L2 chain Base accounted for 9.5% of all smart contract deployment observed.

The L2 chain, which launched its main net less than a year ago, has seen a flurry of new token releases since its public launch in August 2023. According to Flipside, over 52% of smart contracts deployed on Base were stand-alone token contracts.

Ethereum (ETH)

Ethereum saw lower smart contract deployment than other EVM chains on the list due to the growing popularity of L2 chains on Ethereum. According to Flipside, this trend is expected to accelerate with the upcoming Dencun upgrade, which is expected to help L2 chains offer cheaper gas fees to end-users.

However, Ethereum remained the preferred destination to deploy NFT-related smart contracts as the L1 chain saw the highest proportion of NFT smart contracts deployed across all observed chains.

Which Blockchain Network Has the Highest Number of Developers?

Here are the top 10 blockchains with the highest number of monthly active developers, according to data compiled by Electric Capital.

Ecosystem Total developers, as of 31 December 2023 One-year change Two-year change
Ethereum (ETH) 7,684 -25% -12%
Polygon (MATIC) 2,800 -36% -24%
Polkadot (DOT) 2,107 -19% -25%
Cosmos (ATOM) 2,035 -21% +5%
Arbitrum (ARB) 1,823 -15% +15%
BNB Chain (BNB) 1,650 -36% -40%
Solana (SOL) 1,615 -46% -49%
Avalanche (AVAX) 1,485 -6% -3%
Optimism (OP) 1,299 -16% +21%
Near (NEAR) 1,137 -25% -8%
Active Crypto Developers
Total monthly active developers on all observed ecosystems. (Electric Capital)

What Do the Experts Have to Say About Developer Activity?

When asked about the importance of developer activity and crypto market price, Shiven Moodley, COO and macro strategist at 80eight Group, told Techopedia that as a crypto investor, he always considers two principles: a project’s market perception and technological development.

“With many new projects coming up in the crypto space, it’s critical to consider how they (developers) will get involved as the market matures. As an investor, I consider two principles: the project’s market perception and technology development.

 

When you understand the fundamentals of how developers talk to their communities, in these principles, you’ll start to identify the long-run application of their technology.”

Moodley said evaluating developer activity can help investors make “sound investments.”

“Developers can negatively impact the token price and vice versa. Thus, be cautious of the lack of updates about the project, protocol breaches, project deadlines, developer disagreements and the regulatory outlook for the application.”

In a note to Techopedia, Denis Polulyakhov, CEO of Carbyn Group VC and co-founder of Asterizm Protocol, explained that:

“The more developers use the blockchain to launch their applications, the greater the chances that some of them will become popular, attract a large number of users, and these, in turn, will perform numerous transactions.

 

“To cover the expenses for executing transactions, a coin is needed. Organic demand for the coin appears, and this should lead to an increase in price.”

Polulyakhov said that developer activity should “logically” influence the price of a network’s native token, but the complexity of the crypto market may not always allow this relationship to materialize.

He added:

“As known, in a bull market, things that logically should not grow do grow … The opposite observation is also true – in a bear market, even very solid projects with unquestionable development dynamics fall in price. Simply, this market is very speculative, young, and prone to high volatility.”

The Bottom Line

Developer activity is a key crypto investing metric that investors have to evaluate before jumping into an unpredictable cryptocurrency market. Investors can study developer activity on blockchain data platforms like Flipside and Santiment. They can also receive direct updates from leading blockchain developers on social platforms like X and Discord.

Remember, cryptocurrencies are highly-risk assets. Always do your own research before investing. The information in this guide does not constitute investment advice and is meant for informational purposes only.

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Mensholong Lepcha
Crypto & Blockchain Writer

Mensholong is an experienced crypto and blockchain journalist, now a full-time writer at Techopedia. He has previously contributed news coverage and in-depth market analysis to Capital.com, StockTwits, XBO, and other publications. He started his writing career at Reuters in 2017, covering global equity markets. In his free time, Mensholong loves watching football, finding new music, and buying BTC and ETH for his crypto portfolio.