If the majority of developers aren’t convinced by blockchain technology, why should we invest time in building developer programs for it?


Web3 and blockchain aren’t universally known - or trusted - but perceptions are changing

The 2022 Stack Overflow yearly survey has now been out for a few weeks, and it’s been great fun poring over its insights. Although the respondent demographic is disproportionately skewed to the western hemisphere (US especially), it’s the biggest global survey of its kind and an unmatched data-driven deep dive into dev-world. We’re grateful to Stack Overflow for making this information publicly available.

As developer ecosystem specialists with clients across all areas of tech, an interesting response set was that of blockchain. Though blockchain is one of many elements of a wider decentralized web3 possible future (or present, depending on who you talk to), it’s arguably the most well-known at the moment.

Here’s what caught our eye on Stack Overflow’s question/answer set with regards to blockchain:

It seems to have caught Stack Overflow’s eye, too, as they also sent out a “pulse” survey (regular, shorter questionnaires on a single topic) around the same time - specifically asking about web3:

It’s an interesting split with opinions right across the spectrum, and one you arguably only see with nascent technologies where knowledge or application isn’t yet widespread. Looking at the data, it also transpires that newer developers/those learning to code are more likely to be favorable towards it than those who have been professional developers for longer. And cross-examining against data earlier in the survey, it’s shown that newer developers are usually younger. So, it’s not a huge stretch to say - roughly - that younger folks tend to be more favorable towards web3 and crypto.

It’s actually not that surprising that 37% of respondents don’t know what web3 is. Let’s consider a comparison. This time last year, “blockchain”, “crypto”, or “web3” weren’t even mentioned in the 2021 Stack Overflow yearly survey, an omission suggesting the concepts weren’t widespread in industry - or on SO itself - enough to garner consideration. A later pulse survey in May/June 2021 addressed the “explosion of interest in the area” (blockchain in particular) and got responses from 693 developers:

Of those, however, less than a quarter had actual development experience with blockchain technologies, and the majority of respondents were doing so as a hobby or side project. Important to note is that Stack Overflow did give a third option - “Never heard of it” - which wasn’t chosen by a single respondent, implying that the data gathered in this survey should be appreciated as biased towards people who have heard of it and have a watershed opinion on it - and decided to take the pulse survey.

Stack Overflow was certainly right: there was an explosion of interest in the area. If we take Google searches as a proxy for human interest, we can look at the actual data for just the word “blockchain” over the last 12 months:

In visual terms, interest over time is represented as a scale from 0-100 “Numbers represent search interest relative to the highest point on the chart for the given region and time. A value of 100 is the peak popularity for the term. A value of 50 means that the term is half as popular.” As you can see, interest over time was at peak or near-peak popularity for sustained periods.

Back to 2022, then, and the initial question remains: If a lot of people don’t know what web3 is, and still others are not inclined to be positive about it, its potential, or its uses, why invest time, effort, and money into building developer ecosystems for it?

The answer is: Because, while web3 and blockchain aren’t part of every industry right now, it doesn’t mean they won’t be in the future. In addition, in the areas that they matter right now, they really matter. 

Why this interests us at Catchy

For over a decade, we’ve partnered with clients to build, grow, and manage developer experience platforms that extend the usage of their company’s products and services. In a little more depth, this covers a wide range of things, depending on the client: Market research, audience intelligence, Go-To-Market strategy, content and editorial, performance marketing, and program management. We’re experts in our field, and have a publicly-available developer marketing framework.

With regards to web3 and blockchain, a number of our current and recent clients are in industries building a brighter, more equitable, innovative, decentralized future. The global developer community sentiment on web3 matters to us because the applications of web3 and the developers needed will continue to grow. 

Currently, less than 10% of developers identify as web3 developers, but the number grows every year. Web3 (and crypto/blockchain in particular) usage continues to scale globally, and the corresponding need for developers in this area will increase. The very paradigm of web3 has an incredible platform to activate new global generations of developers - not just experienced developers who move into web3. For instance, as more places around the world adopt crypto technologies, and the accessibility of software development increases in these areas, this represents an untapped market of developers outside of the traditional (Western-centric) marketplace.

Looking ahead

Who knows what the future holds. Hilarious Predictions that have been made about the internet have been wrong in the past, but a heck of a lot have been spot on. There are individuals positing that the web3 market will change or correct, but it seems unlikely that it’s going to disappear. 

One thing we’re almost definitely able to predict, however, is that the 2023 Stack Overflow survey questions around web3 will have fewer respondents picking “Unsure” or “Never heard of it”. New technologies trickle into mainstream in myriad different ways, not least (as in the case of blockchain) people exploring them in their own spare time, as hobbies - reducing what Will Larson describes as the wideness of steps of change. That said, ignorance is a wonderful thing; “the state you have to be in before you can really learn anything.”

Today, web3 (including decentralized internet, blockchain technologies, and token-based economics) already has a place in our society. The question of whether mainstream adoption will happen is besides the point - developers and industries are already using, learning, growing, building web3. And good developer programs are desperately needed to support them.