It seems to me that "leading edge" is the more established phrase, while "bleeding edge" is basically the same thing but the user has adapted the phrase for extra (rather meaningless) emphasis.
Or is there a meaningful distinction between the two?
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It only takes a minute to sign up.Sign up to join this community
There is, in fact, a distinction.
Leading edge in this sense, means cutting edge. It refers to the most highly sophisticated development in a field. However, it rarely or never has the connotation of risky or untested. It is almost always used to describe the best; not necessarily the newest.
Bleeding edge would refer to a development that is so new that it could have a high risk of being unreliable and may incur greater expense in order to use it:
Bleeding edge: A pun on "leading edge." It implies that using the latest technology is often risky because it has not been tested with enough users and may not perform as expected. Introducing an advanced product or service is also risky because the user community may not be ready for it or really want it.
There is a slight semantic difference here.
Leading edge refers to people or things who are the foremost or the best in a technology, science, art, skill, etc.
Bleeding edge also refers to this fact of being in the foremost, but the difference between bleeding edge and leading edge, is that bleeding edge is risky. Leading edge is not risky. Bleeding edge is. For example:
Bleeding edge technology refers to technology that is so new that it could have a high risk of being unreliable and may incur greater expense in order to use it.
PC Encyclopedia defines bleeding edge:
A pun on "leading edge." It implies that using the latest technology is often risky because it has not been tested with enough users and may not perform as expected. Introducing an advanced product or service is also risky because the user community may not be ready for it or really want it
Note how it's derived from leading edge.
In the context of social change rather than technology, "leading edge" concepts are widely accepted, with proponents receiving accolades. While "bleeding edge" concepts are not yet so widely accepted and proponents bleed, metaphorically, as a result, even if the concept is adopted and becomes leading edge at a later date. Thus, a very big difference between leading edge and bleeding edge.
Bleeding edge as others have said is very high risk, mostly is rolled out in commercially unstable environments.
Leading edge is industry leading, but risk is reduced and adoption is starting to pick up.
Trailing edge technologies simply support the leading edge.
As per the article below, it seems that these patterns are presented as S-Curves in patterns of nature as well as technological, cultural and scientific paradigm shifts.
Source - What can we learn from Elon Musk