Open source movement is built on the principle of openness and decentralization of effort. But whether the decentralized model is indeed sustainable for the development of public blockchain in the long term is questionable. Hence, we explore the open-source community dynamics to identify what mechanisms drive the process of innovation.
There are over 152 K developers in the Ethereum GitHub community who have generated over 1.2 M activities over the past 10 years. 200,000, roughly 17%, of those activities were effective changes of code in the form of commits. When we look into the structure of the activities further, 80% of all activities are performed by the top 5% of Ethereum GitHub users. (We also calculate the Gini coefficient, and its value is 0.844, which indicates an acute disproportion of community participation in Ethereum development.) But this is no surprise. Active minority domination is common for other OSS communities, such as Apache or Mozilla.
Interestingly, Ethereum has other features in common with major OSS projects. We rely on a significant body of OSS research and test whether the Ethereum developers community experiences the same network dynamics as other OSS communities. We find that, for the most part, the prior findings for non-blockchain OSS projects check for the Ethereum blockchain, too.
The open-source collaboration forms a dense network. Over time, as the project complexity grows, the density of connections between developers decreases, and the clusterization increases. Interestingly, these tendencies are opposite for the core developers, who shape the software code and the rules by which the whole ecosystem lives. On GitHub, only developers with permission have a right to change the code. We refer to them as core. Other developers who are peripheral can also suggest code changes by requesting a core developer to review them first.
Peripheral developers and Network effects also determine project awareness and contribution.
With Every 10 new peripheral developers, 5 new developers start watching the project, and one attempts to create a contribution fork. The developer community managers can leverage these dependencies to make predictions about the level of innovation and maintenance in the long term.
Overall, the open-source model benefits technology development by bootstrapping innovative inputs from voluntary contributors. Nevertheless, the expectation should be calibrated by the innate selectivity and inequalities in participation.