From the Ground Up: Developer Empowerment for a Sustainable Future

The following is a guest post from Sunny Lu, the CEO of Vechain.

Web3 builders are the beating heart of the blockchain industry. Without them, this technology wouldn’t be the disruptive technical engine that it is in 2023. However, while there are more monthly active developers today than there were before 2021, we saw a 27% decrease in developer counts between now and October last year, and newcomer retention has also been low. 

There are likely several factors driving this trend, including blockchain programming language proficiency, a lack of funding in the space, as well as a lack of simple, intuitive tools that abstract the blockchain experience to something more reminiscent of Web2. There’s also another missing puzzle piece: education around sustainable development. 

Not only do we need to deliver decentralized technologies that improve the trustworthiness and resilience of data, but we must also educate developers on how to build sustainably. To guarantee the longevity of their participation and the blockchain industry, and facilitate a sustainable, decentralized future, it’s vital we demonstrate real-world value. How can we, as an industry, motivate people to act individualistically, yet ensure their efforts drive greater goals? 

Through blockchain, we are building new ecosystems that incentivize and enable collective action on entirely new scales, delivering tangible impacts for matters such as sustainability. Through blockchain, we can derive new forms of value from the actions taken by individuals, leveraging their metadata, for example, by choosing one fashion retailer over another on the basis of sustainable reuse of recycled materials. 

With this mission statement in mind, we start to see the onboarding successes of Web3 devs as a collective win, for both blockchain and a new kind of digital economy. These builders will unleash a new wave of blockchain-enabled real-world impacts, incentivizing and motivating participation in Web3 ecosystems.

It’s imperative that blockchain leaders—especially those spearheading layer 1 protocols—can give developers the tools, support, guidance, and ultimately the vision to solve these challenges. 

Demonstration: The best education

Web3 projects have consistently and successfully engaged with developers over the years by hosting hackathons where prospective developers can learn more about existing layer 1 protocols and how to build on them. The provision of innovative tools at hackathons, such as those that allow the seamless deployment of customizable smart contracts without the knowledge of coding, are vital cogs in the sustenance of this industry. 

Hackathons have proven to be a powerful yet often overlooked catalyst for success. For instance, looking at Web2 examples, Techstars Startup Weekend’s hackathons played a pivotal role in the creation of unicorns such as  Rover and Pillpack. Additionally, Twitter’s (now X) founding and success story dates back to Odeo’s hackathon, where early contributors like Noah Glass played a crucial role in shaping Twitter’s concept. These exemplars highlight the humble hackathon’s transformative potential in fostering the production of innovative real-world applications.

While hackathons are important in empowering developers, they can also offer a valuable secondary function – as a touchpoint for sustainable development education. At these events, there should be an onus on industry leaders to encourage the development of sustainability applications through the provision of green infrastructure, building tracks, and judging criteria. 

For example, layer 1s that use alternative, greener consensus mechanisms should apply a concerted effort in allocating sufficient funds and resources to host these events. Industry visibility of greener layer 1s is just the first step – facilitating educational networking events for developers by these layer 1s is what’s most important. 

From Work, to Stake, to Authority 

While Proof-of-Stake (PoS) systems have been commended and spotlighted for their energy efficiency when benchmarked against early Proof-of-Work (PoW) networks, greater heed is yet to be paid to other, even greener consensus mechanisms like Gossip protocol, Practical Byzantine Fault Tolerance (PBFT), and Proof-of-Authority (PoA). 

PoA systems work by allowing machines to earn the right to generate new blocks after passing an initial, strict vetting process. The PoA consensus mechanism is based on a smaller number of pre-approved block validators, not only making it scalable but positioning it as a more energy-efficient alternative to PoS systems, due to less computational power requirement. 

With familiar layer 1s like Ethereum, Polkadot, Cosmos, and Bitcoin continuing to house the most monthly activity developers, we blockchain leaders must assume responsibility to diversify the space by educating Web3-curious developers about the alternative ecosystems they can build in. As a response to 2021’s blockchain industry carbon impact cries, sustainable development should be front and center when choosing a network for application development. Some alternative systems to those I’ve just mentioned are now so energy efficient, their annual carbon footprint is equivalent to almost one gasoline-powered passenger vehicle driven for one year.  

The Outcome: Impactful, Sustainable Real-world Applications

The result of leader support, funding, tooling, and inspiring the next generation of builders is finally reaching our collective goal: onboarding the next billion Web2 users. By building genuinely beneficial, rewarding, and engaging Web3 applications that effectively meld with modern lifestyles, it’s not a case of if, but when we reach those numbers.

This effort will be collaborative, with multiple layer 1s pushing the fore of possibility. In turn, we unlock an information revolution, reestablishing the notion of value and allowing individuals and enterprises to sit at the same table in transparent, collaborative ecosystems. Businesses that leverage blockchain ecosystems to transparently share product and sustainability information will naturally benefit from greater public trust, and thus market share, for their products. 

By laying effective foundations today, we’re enabling the self-perpetuating Web3 ecosystems of tomorrow. This is an attainable and sustainable approach to driving the future of Web3, and we look forward to building it with the leaders who join us in our mission.

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