Codementor launches Dev Protocol, which uses blockchain to help developers build their reputations

Dev Protocol is a new project that uses blockchain to give software developers a secure place to build their professional reputations. Created by Codementor, an online mentoring platform and on-demand marketplace for software developers, one of Dev Protocol’s goals is to make the industry a more level playing field.

“You can take it from job to job and we believe it will bring meritocracy to software developers, whether they live in or outside of Silicon Valley,” Weiting Liu, Codementor’s co-founder and chief executive officer. As a founder, Liu has been through Y Combinator and Techstars, but many talented software developers are overlooked for jobs simply because they don’t have well-known organizations listed on their resume.

“If you are a developer working at Google or Facebook and you graduated from Stanford, you probably don’t have this problem because you already have a lot of awesome brand names on your LinkedIn or resume. You are surrounded by other great developers and it’s relatively easy for potential employers to do a solid reference check on you,” says Liu. “But for people who are not as lucky, maybe they aren’t in Silicon Valley, we are enabling great developers in Russia, Madison, Wisconsin, Vancouver or Alberta or in Taiwan, to have a platform for them to earn their reputation fairly and transparently.”

Dev Protocol, which will launch first to members of Codementor’s developer community, is a decentralized reputation and payment protocol, so clients can use it to find references for developers, send payment in escrow to them and then leave reviews once a job is wrapped up. Liu says Codementor, which was founded in 2013, is now the largest live mentoring platform for software developers in the world, with over 300,000 developers in its community and over 9,000 experts who have been vetted by the company and provide one-on-one code review, debugging help, programming tutorials and other guidance. The startup also runs its own freelance hiring marketplace.

“We’ve been spending a lot of time transferring payments and vetting developers, so we realized this is a huge opportunity to realize our vision faster,” Liu says. “We’ve always wanted to build a trustworthy developer network that enables them to help each other out and help clients find developers more easily and securely.”

A decentralized reputation protocol is more trustworthy than other platforms, he adds, because it’s open and transparent. Since it’s decentralized, developers don’t run the risk of losing reviews if they are banned or lose access to any particular platform (which is a risk they face if they get most of their work from a single marketplace). Clients can then send developers’ payment to escrow using Dev Protocol, which protects both of them.

“If there is a dispute for something in software development, it’s much more complicated than a dispute for an e-commerce transaction would be,” Liu says. Dev Protocol enables developers who have built strong reputations to act as arbitrators instead of relying on a centralized third-party (like Codementor, for example) to settle disagreements. “For the clients, this means you can rely on the developer community to protect you from single bad actors in the community. For developers it means no more clients from hell, because in many instances, the client is the side at fault.”

The transparency and security of blockchain means that other companies and researchers have been looking at its potential applications for reputation management, including preventing fake reviews, fraud and identity theft. Startups also building decentralized reputation protocols include Ink Protocol and Monetha, which both focus on e-commerce. Liu says software development should have its own protocol, however, because the industry is large and complicated. Though he’s been asked if Codementor will expand to other verticals, such as design, marketing or sales, for the next few years at least it will focus on serving developers.

“I think it’s definitely possible [to expand], but in the next three to five years, we are essentially doubling down on the developer community,” says Liu. “That’s why it’s called the Dev Protocol instead of, say, the Top Protocol. The plan is to enable other communities and marketplaces to integrate the Dev Protocol as well, after we are the first to integrate it.”