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State of the Cardano Developer Ecosystem

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In 2022, the Cardano Foundation started conducting an annual survey to assess the state of the Cardano developer ecosystem. The developers were asked 30 questions. In 2023, a second round of the survey took place with a similar set of questions. See how developers answered questions about building on Cardano. In the article, you will find only some statistics that caught our attention.

Who is building on Cardano and how satisfied are they?

In 2022, 389 developers answered the questions. In 2023, it was only 174.

We cannot assess what caused the decrease in responses. It may be that in the first year, the developers had a greater need to comment on the state of the ecosystem. It could also be due to an ongoing bear market or developers being more focused on their work and having everything they need at their disposal. Server results indicate this.

We don't think the number of developers in the ecosystem is lower in 2023 than it was in 2022 given how many projects are currently being worked on. According to the weekly development report issued by the IOG team, third-party teams are working on more than 1,300 projects.

In all the following images you will see the results for 2022 on the left and 2023 on the right. If the pictures are below each other, the year 2022 will be on the top and 2023 on the bottom.

A mix of hobby developers and professionals are building on Cardano. The number of professionals seems to be growing. However, hobby developers are still a relatively large number.

As the Cardano platform matures, we expect more professionals to join as more complex projects arise requiring a focus on security, reliability, and user interface. However, open platforms will always be attractive to hobby developers or those at the beginning of their careers.

The developers building on Cardano are very experienced. Most of them have more than 10 years of programming experience. This is a very positive trend. This may be one of the many reasons why there hasn't been a serious hack on the Cardano platform yet. It would be interesting to examine the composition of developers on other platforms for comparison.

The result may indicate that the Cardano platform is especially suitable for professionals, and it may be more difficult for newcomers to get involved in development. The Cardano Foundation evaluated this result as a need to think about training programs, materials, and support.

Haskell, a functional programming language, was considered one of the obstacles for potential Cardano developers when the platform was launched.

In 2022, many developers in the ecosystem had little experience with functional programming. This changed in 2023 when there was a significant increase in developers with this experience.

In 2022, only 10 developers answered that they had more than 10 years of functional programming experience. In 2023, there were 43 developers, a more than 4-fold increase.

We see a fundamental change in the preference of developers regarding the choice of programming language for writing Plutus scripts (validators). In 2022 it was Plutus. In second place was Marlowe. In 2023, Aiken won, relegating Haskell to second place.

The community of developers managed to build their programming language, which prevailed over Haskell and got to first place during the year. We perceive this as the most positive information from the survey. It shows the strength of the community and the desire to build on Cardano even at the cost of creating a new programming language. It will also be gratifying for the Aiken team.

Only the first 5 are shown in the picture.

While in 2022 there were only 7 languages in which it was possible to write a validator script, in 2023 there are 10. The newcomers are Helios, OpShin, and Scalus.

Cardano Foundation asked developers what they consider to be the most painful point. In 2022 it was mainly tough onboarding and Haskell. In 2023, it is, one might say, similar. It's the complexity of finding documentation and Haskell.

A certain shift for the better is noticeable. In 2022, developers complained about unreliable and cumbersome development of key components and a lack of tools and libraries. At the time, the platform was still young. In 2023, it is already an overcome (or significantly less) problem.

It is pleasing that the UTxO model, the division of the application into on-chain and off-chain parts, or the need to deal with concurrency are not perceived as significant obstacles. The developers seem to understand the differences between developing on Ethereum and Cardano.

What is the biggest asset of the Cardano ecosystem? According to the developers, it is an impressive community. This was true in both 2022 and 2023.

For other reasons, the developers cited core technology and the focus on the fundamentals, a variety of open-source tools and libraries, educational resources, etc. In 2023, Aiken was in third place. This indicates that the developer community is very enthusiastic about this programming language.

Overall, the survey showed that it is necessary to improve the documentation. The documentation is scattered, incomplete, inaccurate, and often out of date. This is a big obstacle for beginners as well as experienced developers.

The good news is that developers consider themselves knowledgeable about Cardano. It turns out that the community is willing to answer questions on the forums and give each other advice. This at least partially compensates for the documentation problems.

Conclusion

Development on the blockchain platform has certain specifics that developers have to deal with. Cardano differs significantly from other platforms, particularly in its accounting model (UTxO model). Development on Cardano must be preceded by the study and understanding of certain principles.

The Cardano platform is still relatively nascent. It can take several years to bootstrap a new platform including complete documentation and all the necessary tools and libraries. The Alonzo hard fork, which gave Cardano the ability of smart contracts, took place at the end of 2021. This means that this year the platform will celebrate its second birthday.

A lot of time, effort, and money was invested to create the platform. There are a large number of developers who build on it. The number of projects is growing. A lot has been accomplished in such a short time.

Developers know how to develop on Cardano. The proof is the relatively large number of applications and the growing TVL. I daresay that Cardano will firmly establish itself in the crypto industry during the next bull market and stay here for a long time.

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