Bus Factor (Youtube) is the

total number of key developers who would need to be incapacitated (as by getting hit by a bus) to send the project into such disarray that it would not be able to proceed

What is the current bus factor of the Bitcoin standard client?

  • Are there any known issues that will mean trouble for Bitcoin in the future if there is no future development? i.e could it continue forever without any protocol changes (excluding any undiscovered flaws)? – kirian Jan 31 '12 at 23:17
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    @kirian - part of what keeps the economy going is that they see a healthy development community. There are various issues to be tackled, features to be added, a massive scaling effort to be designed and implemented. Without core developers, this can't happen. – ripper234 Feb 1 '12 at 0:17
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    I agree that there is plenty of room for development and improvement but your question just prompted me to wonder if Bitcoin as it currently is could survive indefinitely without any further work. Maybe it should be a separate question on the stackexchange. – kirian Feb 1 '12 at 0:33
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    @kirian As to whether it could survive without any work, I would say, not really. Technology is changing quite fast nowadays, so at least minor tweaks are needed every now and then. For example, I don't know whether the current client could be installed on Chrome OS, which might become an important system eventually. Moreover, in about 50 years the power of GPUs should be high enough to brute force the current cryptography of Bitcoin and thus make it obsolete (at least if they follow Moore's law). – ThePiachu Feb 1 '12 at 1:11

As of today, perhaps 20

Generally what makes a "core developer" as opposed to a "contributing developer" is an ongoing interest in the codebase that typically equates to near full-time employment. Should all core developers fall under the wheels of this continent-spanning bus of doom then Bitcoin would suffer a significant blow.

For a while.

Then various contributing developers (of which there are legion) would likely step up to act as replacements. The discussions on the forums, IRC channels, mailing lists and version control systems will be read and acted upon. Bugs will be fixed and life will go on.

Edit: So where does this number "20" come from? Well it's based largely on my experiences from reading the development mailing list, IRC logs and various Google+ circles. There is no real exact number, though, activity varies over time and various people are "core" to a particular issue as it passes through.

  • Unless someone with admin access to all key resources (website, repository) survives, there are going to be splits, which could ultimately kill the whole project. – o0'. Feb 2 '12 at 13:20
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    There do not need to be splits even if everyone with admin access to all key resources disappears. You just need to find a new group of key resources that the majority accepts. – Thilo Feb 2 '12 at 13:34
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    I upvoted your answer, but I can't accept it yet without some sort of reference, or at least explaination of the number. Is 20 a made up number? A true estimate based on ... something? – ripper234 Feb 2 '12 at 22:58
  • Edited to show sources for my estimate – Gary Rowe Feb 3 '12 at 12:14

Eleven. The answer is definitely eleven.

  • :) From all people, I thought you would be the one the most capable to give a serious answer, or at least a serious attempt. – ripper234 Feb 2 '12 at 22:55
  • And obviously, I'm just trying to gauge an estimate here. – ripper234 Feb 2 '12 at 22:56
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    <Fry>Not sure is serious – o0'. Feb 3 '12 at 13:11

It's somewhere between zero and a hundred million. I don't think anyone can place it any more narrowly than that.

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    Not the most useful of answers. – ripper234 Feb 1 '12 at 15:39

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