Charlie Lee asserted Litecoin development is alive and well. Meanwhile, reports based on the project’s GitHub numbers suggest it is “being abandoned.”
GitHub numbers suggest Litecoin is being abandoned?
Litecoin has continued to receive scrutiny for its perceived lack of new code development. Electric Capital said Litecoin was “being abandoned,” with the project experiencing a precipitous drop in development activity.
In the venture fund’s March 2019 report, Electric Capital cross-analyzed top cryptocurrency projects and concluded Litecoin was “being abandoned.” The study cited figures showing a precipitous drop in the project’s GitHub commits alongside monthly active developers falling from 40 developers to 3 within 2019.
Charlie Lee directly refutes this supposed lack of development activity. Lee claims Litecoin’s GitHub numbers are do not accurately represent the work the team has done for Litecoin in 2019.
Numbers don’t tell the whole story
Litecoin has a small group of core developers. Include Lee, the team has six developers who consistently work on the project’s codebase.
Litecoin’s code is “kept very close” to Bitcoin’s. This means upgrades from Bitcoin are systematically integrated into Litecoin’s. As a result, only one lead developer needs to merge new code into the project’s code base while the rest of the team performs supporting roles, said Lee.
Another factor that negatively affects Litecoin’s appearance is how GitHub assigns dates for new contributions. Much of the project’s recent code was “mostly written in 2018,” even though the work was modified and incorporated in 2019. GitHub marks the work as if it was done in 2018. Consequently, for those unaware, it would appear “Litecoin developers took the year off,” but this is untrue asserted Lee.
Another factor working against Litecoin’s appearances is how the team manages updates to the master branch—the main version—of the project. For high-stakes software like a cryptocurrency, it’s important to ensure new code is battle-tested to minimize potential damage to stakeholders.
As a result, Charlie Lee and his team don’t tend to work on the master branch of the project. Instead, the team is working on Litecoin Core release 0.18.1 on a personal branch of one of the devs. When the version is merged into the master branch then GitHub will suddenly register all of the development done in 2019.
Just looking at the numbers it’s not unreasonable to assume the project is inactive. However, with awareness of Litecoin’s development process it’s clear the project is far from “being abandoned.”
10/ This is how Litecoin Core development has functioned for years. We even had the same FUD last year! Someone looked at our master branch last year and claimed that Litecoin stopped developing in 2018. And I bet even after this explanation, we will have people confused in 2020.
— Charlie Lee [LTC⚡] (@SatoshiLite) August 11, 2019
Problem with GitHub Commits
GitHub commits are easily gameable, meaning ranking services like CryptoMiso do not accurately measure a project’s developer activity. Software developers have been highly critical of these metrics as it doesn’t accurately represent the work done on a project. Projects like TRON are criticized for their (allegedly artificially) inflated commits, with allegations that developers are making trivial changes to the codebase to manipulate the vanity metric.
In contrast, Litecoin is one of the projects that is inaccurately represented by its commits, implied Lee. Instead for those aware of LTC’s development practices it would seem Litecoin is alive and well.