When Satoshi Nakamoto created Bitcoin in 2009, he, she, or they — no one really knows who Satoshi Nakamoto is — launched blockchain technology into an unsuspecting world. Although the technology confused many people at the time (and still does, to be honest) blockchains have grown dramatically since in their scope and functionality.
From their origin as a financial tool, blockchains are now serving as the technological foundation for any number of applications from healthcare to logistics. Along with the increased security and transparency offered by blockchains, the ease with which new applications can be developed has also profoundly increased thanks to a proliferation of blockchain platforms.
Before we venture into the various platforms out there, let’s take a brief look at exactly what these platforms do.
Blockchain Platforms for the Uninitiated
At its most fundamental level, a blockchain is just a distributed ledger, a copy of which is kept by everyone involved. With each ‘block’ being a collection of data — most commonly transaction data — once the data storage in a block is full, a new block is created and linked to the previous one, hence the chain.
Due to their decentralized nature — everyone holding a copy of the ledger — blockchains are incredibly difficult to forge or manipulate as every single copy would need to be hacked in order to do so. Voila — high security.
Creating blockchains from scratch, however, can be a complicated and lengthy process. As a result, a number of blockchain platforms have arisen that offer the basic building blocks of the technology that can be tailored and built upon to meet different demands.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the top platforms you could choose from to create your world-changing blockchain application.
Straight in at #1, perhaps unsurprisingly, is…
With Ethereum having been developed by Vitalk Buterin in 2013, it’s one of the oldest and most established blockchain platforms out there. An open-source platform powered by a Proof-of-work algorithm, Ethereum currently has more than 460,000 token holders and serves as the basis for a huge number of high-profile blockchain applications including USD Coin, Tether, BAT, and Chainlink.
With the platform’s huge exposure in the crypto market, it’s become the go-to platform for blockchain developers. That said, it’s not without its weaknesses. As an open-source platform, it’s relatively slow when it comes to processing transactions (a characteristic common to open-source platforms that’s worth bearing in mind) — and Ethereum’s transaction fees are definitely on the high side. However, with Ethereum 2.0 set to solve these issues, Ethereum is still the platform to look at first.
Binance Smart Chain
The Binance Smart Chain (BSC) platform was launched in 2020 as an entirely separate upgrade to its previous incarnation Binance Chain (BC). Although BC is fast, it lacks smart contract capabilities and can be hard to program. Binance could have just incorporated smart contact tech into the original platform, however, they didn’t want to compromise the platform’s speed. Instead, they launched BSC which works in parallel with BC and emulates the functionality of dApp platforms like Ethereum and Tron (we’ll get to Tron later).
What separates BSC from Ethereum, however, is that BSC utilizes a Proof-of-Stake mechanism as opposed to Proof-of-Work which results in generally faster transaction speeds and lower costs.
The Polkadot platform has made a name for itself by offering functionalities that no other platforms, including Ethereum, provide. Allowing unrelated blockchains to efficiently share data without the need for a third party, the Polkadot is one of the more innovative platforms in the blockchain space. Able to process over 1,000 transactions per second, it’s also one of the fastest thanks to its parachain technology. A system that uses multiple parallel blockchains (parachains) to divert the burden of processing away from the main chain, the ever-increasing number of parachains in the Polkadot network means that it’s only a matter of time before it reaches speeds of one million transactions a second.
If speed and stability are going to be central to your blockchain app, then Polkadot may well be the way forward for you.
Perhaps the best choice for content creators, Tron is a blockchain-based operating system. Flexible and fast — up to 2,000 transactions a second — the platform was specifically created to allow developers and content creators to actually earn money from all their hard work. Normally, the big tech companies step in and take a huge slice of a creator’s profits, however, Tron is designed in such a way that all data on the platform is open and under no central control.
As a result, Tron is one of the fastest-growing platforms in the blockchain space. Offering high scalability and multi-language functionality, Tron provides huge scope when it comes to building apps and exchanging digital assets like NFTs. With its native token, TRX, considered one of the most viable investments in the crypto arena, Tron is most definitely worth a look.
A little more corporate-minded, but no less attractive for it, IBM Blockchain is a private network that has proven to be a popular choice among more mainstream developers. Particularly well-suited to financial services, banking, and supply chain management, IBM has spent a lot of time and energy creating a set of user-friendly blockchain tools that make everything from the setting up of the network to the testing and deployment of smart contracts a remarkably simple process.
While IBM Blockchain may be at the conservative end of the blockchain spectrum, its functionality, ease of use, and ability to integrate seamlessly with legacy technologies make it a powerful development tool for businesses and enterprise clients.
A platform aimed squarely at the financial sector, Ripple is a digital payment platform that allows the efficient transfer of multiple currencies — whether they be crypto or traditional — via the platform’s native XRP token. A notable energy-efficient platform, Ripple offers low transaction costs and high speed along with its environmentally friendly construction.
Via Ripple, financial organizations of all kinds from banks to digital asset exchanges can connect to the open-source blockchain and offer free, instant financial services. With the blockchain able to process payments in less than three seconds, Ripple’s peer-to-peer technology is at the heart of an increasing number of financial apps.
While Solana may not be the name on the tip of everyone’s tongue in the wider population, it probably should be. Certainly, within the crypto industry it’s one of the hottest blockchain properties. With its SOL token currently the fifth largest in terms of market capitalization, the excitement around the platform stems from its sheer speed. While Bitcoin can manage around seven transactions a second, and Ethereum around thirty, Solana can handle a colossal 65,000 transactions a second.
And the platform isn’t just fast, it’s cheap to run too, with costs less than $0.01 per transaction. When you couple this with the fact that the Solana team are committed to keeping the platform censorship-free and you have a super-fast, cost-effective blockchain that will remain open and free to developers for as long as the chain is in existence. Impressive stuff.
Some Issues to Consider
When venturing into the blockchain space, there are some fundamental features you’re going to need to consider before you commit to a platform.
As mentioned before, public blockchain platforms tend to be slower than private ones — with private chains like Ripple having a smaller group of users, it takes them far less time to validate a transaction. While this speed makes private blockchains and the applications that run on them easily scalable, private blockchains tend to have centralized networks, which raises issues regarding security. A public blockchain may be slower, but its completely decentralized nature makes it virtually impossible for hackers to breach the network. It’s a trade-off — speed vs security.
You’re also going to need to decide which consensus mechanism you prefer. In general, you have two basic choices: Proof of Work or Proof of Stake. Proof-of-Work (PoW) is the verification method most well-known, involving miners around the world making trillions of mathematical guesses in order to earn the right to validate the next block. Although the process notoriously uses a lot of energy, it’s also remarkably fair due to the inherent randomness of the SHA-256 hash function that underpins the mechanism.
Proof-of-Stake (PoS) is an energy-efficient alternative, the system relying on holders staking their tokens in a bid to win, via lottery, the opportunity to mine the next block. The problem here is that PoS systems not only hand control of the blockchain to token owners, but they do so in proportion to token ownership — if you won 20% of the staked funds, you have a 20% chance of winning. What’s more, with PoS systems far more centralized than PoW systems, they’re more vulnerable to attack.
There’s a lot to think about, that’s for sure — and we hope we’ve helped in some small way. Either way, we wish you luck with your blockchain project and look forward to reading about your phenomenal success in the not too distant future.