Since the beginning of its history, the cryptocurrency community has been maintaining a consistent culture of open source code. From the start, Bitcoin was open source and so were many of the first tokens. When a project is open source, it means that anyone can see its code and that other people can even work on the code, which helps in the decentralization of the whole thing.
If you take the example of Bitcoin, the network was actually posted on an online forum and it has remained (and will most likely remain in the future) open source. GitHub, a platform for open source code that allows the software creators to upload their projects and receive reviews, has been popular In the crypto community ever since.
In GitHub, other users can edit the code to improve it, which is known as “commits”, a mix of comment and edit. GitHub is the largest platform for open source publishing in the whole world, in fact. It was founded ten years ago, in 2008 with the curious name of Logical Awesome LLC. In only two years, GitHub hosted over a million repositories of code.
Now, the company hosts 80 million repositories and has a total of 27 million users. As the company is very popular and extremely use to use (if you are code-savvy, that is), GitHub has played a major role for the crypto community during its development in recent years.
However, a recent trend seems to be changing things. It looks that, as time passed, more and more companies are not using GitHub anymore. In fact, most of the companies that are not using the platform are choosing not to publish their code at all, which is potentially worrisome.
Several things can be understood when you look at this. Some of them are very telling while others simply do not seem to add so much, though.
In Some Cases, Lack Of A GitHub Account Could Be Evidence of Vaporware
You know the term vaporware, right? It means a project that does not really exist outside of the hype. General vaporware projects try to get funding without showing code because they do not have any of it, so they try to lure the ICO investors using marketing.
Checking the project’s GitHub, for instance, can be a way to know that you are not being scammed and that the company is actually technically sound. Many companies like Drep, Bolt, Uncloak, Toda Network, Marconi, Sparkster and others do not have GitHub pages, while DeepCloud AI, Chain of Things, Liquidity Network and others might even have a page but do not really have code there.
This may be a sign that the code does not exist yet, which can indicate a scam or maybe a centralized company that is selling tokens just to get money from investors and does not have real plans of how to implement the tokens later. In most of these cases, the token is not really useful without the company or if it ever goes bankrupt.
Lack Of GitHub May Not Be Evidence Of Anything, Too
Lack of code on GitHub is not such a red flag, actually. There are valid reasons for companies to do it. A dedicated team may choose to use other tools, like Atlassian, for instance, to integrate the project management tools and make public or private. It’s just a choice.
Some companies, for instance, left GitHub after they were acquired by Microsoft. This caused a massive migration from GitHub to Gitlab but it was no evidence of a scam.
Even on its own, open source code is not enough to be protected from scams, when you look at it. You can also create hundreds of lines of code just to create a more convincing scam. If you do not understand coding very well, you can fall for the scam in the same way.
Less technical investors can be easily fooled as scammers create fake activity on their accounts to look busy. Unless you really understand coding or have access to people who do, there is simply no way of knowing.
However, some people defend that a good project simply need to have open source code and proprietary components if they want to be taken seriously. It is a complicated discussion, after all.
Some Code Is Simply Private
Another point that should be taken into account is that many ICOs are no longer dependent on small investors after the crash at the first quarter of 2018. Now, many projects are looking for the institutional venture capitalists as a way to get funding. Hedge funds are also entering the game in 2018, so it is becoming clear that huge companies are trying to get their hands on the technology.
When this happens, the code tends to remain private. Large investors spend large sums of money and they want exclusivity sometimes, so it is understandable that this might make some crypto companies have to hide their codes, it’s a way of protecting the product in the view of the investors.
If you want to sell your technology, it does not make sense to use open source code. They will use patents and secrecy to protect their IPs against others.
How To Evaluate Project Without An Open Code?
Even if a company has good reasons to hide the code, the community has all the right to doubt their motives. If more people start to hide code, how can it be evaluated in the industry? The cryptocurrency industry will certainly be poorer without transparency, which marketing promises so much, but simply does not deliver sometimes.
The industry is changing, that is the truth, but is there a way to keep the quality standards high and to keep the community engaged, interested and trustful without open source code? That is really hard to answer.