A smart contract platform is a blockchain where you can deploy your programs. But there are a lot of factors associated with picking the actual smart contract platform that fits your needs.
For instance, a blockchain like Ethereum might not be a good idea if you don’t want your users to pay relatively high gas fees and face congestion.
This article will discuss the technicalities you need to assess before building on a particular smart contract platform.
|Blockchain||Smart Contract Language||Execution Environment||Avg. TPS||Visibility Type||Consensus Mechanism|
|BNB Chain||Solidity, Vyper||EVM||47.9||Public||PoSA|
|Cardano||Plutus, Marlowe||EVM||250||Public, Private||PoS|
|Solana||Rust, C, C++, Python||SVM||3,355||Public||PoH|
|Avalanche||Solidity||EVM, AVM||23||Public||Avalanche Consensus|
|zkSync||Solidity, Zinc||zkEVM||Unavailable||Public, Private||pBFT, DPoS|
These are some of the top smart contract platforms you can look into.
Vitalik Buterin and some others built Ethereum as an alternative to Bitcoin, which did not—at that time—largely support smart contracts. It is one of the most proactive blockchains as it transitioned from PoW to PoS consensus mechanism and now has a tps of 12.5. At the time of writing, Ethereum has about $55 billion in total value locked. It boasts of various DeFi protocols, including Uniswap, Curve, and Balancer.
Standards. Ethereum has been around for over a decade, which gives it an advantage over time. Over the years, Ethereum has developed standards for the composability of tokens. For instance, the popular ERC-20 standard, among others, remains a breakthrough in DeFi. It gives a common playing ground for all the tokens within Ethereum and EVM-compatible chains.
Huge Liquidity. Besides Bitcoin, Ethereum remains the blockchain with the largest market capitalization. It has a huge inflow of liquidity since there are a lot of robust protocols, projects, and even blockchains on it. This financially bubbling nature of the blockchain is why many projects are building on it.
Established dApps. Reputable protocols like Uniswap, PancakeSwap, and Aave are running on Ethereum. It also has other native dApps, such as Metamask. The variety of dApps in the Ethereum ecosystem makes it self-sustaining for its users.
Vibrant General and Developers Community. Ethereum has a strong community of both users and developers. This shows how the chain proactively improves and forges ahead of competitors.
High Gas Fees. The transaction cost on Ethereum can be high compared to other blockchains. The gas fee issues persisted even after the network moved from PoW to PoS. If your users are concerned with high charges per transaction, Ethereum may not be the best for you.
Slow Speed. There are millions of transactions on the Ethereum blockchain, and they keep compounding. This often leads to congestion as some blocks stay longer in the mempool.
Privacy Concerns. Ethereum is public, and the activities of all its users are available on Etherscan. The extreme level of transparency can be both a sword and a shield. There are developments around ZKEVMs as more private virtual machines. This gives a ray of hope that the privacy concerns of Ethereum can be solved.
Frequent Hacks. A relatively higher percentage of the hacks in Web3 happened on Ethereum. To build your smart contracts on Ethereum, ensure you audit your code comprehensively.
The Binance Group founded the Build and Build Chain, often shortened as the BNB Chain, in 2020. The BNB Chain uses a unique Proof of Staked Authority as its consensus mechanism, and it has two subsets: Binance Smart Chain and Binance Beacon Chain.
Since its launch, it has ranked top among smart contract platforms. BNB Chain ranks as the 3rd blockchain in market capitalization and processes around 48 tps.
Accelerator Programs. Consider the BNB Chain if you are looking for the best smart contract platforms to build your project. The projects that scale through the accelerator program can be funded.
EVM-compatibility. The BNB Chain is working efficiently with the EVM. As a result, developers can build with Solidity on it. The tokens on the chain are also in compliance with the ERC-20 standard. In recent news, Uniswap and other prominent Ethereum dApps are on the BNB Chain.
Privacy. The BNB Chain is on track to enhance the privacy of its users with the launch of their native ZK BNB, which is a zero-knowledge infrastructure to maintain discreetness.
Centralization. With its Proof of Authority consensus mechanism, the BNB Chain has only 50 validators. Compared to other blockchains, the power in the BNB Chain validation must be more evenly distributed. Hence the centralization.
Few dApps. The BNB blockchain is in its early days. As a result, only a few native dApps are on it. This needs for more than the dApp ecosystem can be a disadvantage to new projects that want to launch on the chain.
Few DeFi and NFT Projects. Similar to dApps, there are only a few DeFi and NFT projects on the BNB Chain, unlike a popular blockchain like Ethereum, which hosts around 1,300 dApps.
Slowish throughput. The blockchain only processes 47.9 transactions per second. However, with the launch of its zkBNB, it envisages a throughput of 5,000 transactions per second.
Cardano is a smart contract platform founded in 2015 by Charles Hoskinson, one of the co-founders of Ethereum. It uses a proof-of-stake consensus algorithm and a layered architecture for scalability, security, and flexibility. With a focus on peer-reviewed research and academic collaboration, Cardano aims to provide a sustainable and advanced blockchain infrastructure for decentralized applications.
Smooth Fork Transition. Other blockchains have a rigorous methodology of hard-forking their networking. Besides that, the old and new chains cannot interact efficiently because the previous history will be wiped out. But Cardano works differently as it saves the history and causes no hassle for the users.
Energy Friendliness. With its PoS mechanism, Cardano is a blockchain that advocates environmental friendliness. The adopted consensus mechanism only consumes a little power, unlike others like PoS.
Faster Throughput. Cardano is a fast blockchain with over 250 transactions per second. The blockchain is working on Hydra — state channels to turbocharge the overall throughput.
Upgrade Delays. The Cardano ecosystem needs to be faster in carrying out various upgrades. Its research ethos can also be a disadvantage, as there is always a delay in action.
Few dApps. While Cardano has many dApps, only a few are popular and widely used. As a result, the dApps on the blockchain are yet to increase the general Web3 audience.
Four software engineers in Mumbai came up with the idea of Polygon in 2017. It was called Matic Network before it rebranded to Polygon in 2021.
Polygon is a layer-2 scaling solution for the Ethereum blockchain. It makes it possible to carry out transactions on Ethereum in cheaper and faster ways. With over $9 billion market capitalization, Polygon reserves its seat as one of the topmost smart contract platforms.
Security. As an L2 solution, Polygon rides on the Ethereum blockchain’s security, which has proven to be battle-tested in several instances. In addition, the Polygon blockchain itself has a secure infrastructure and checks bad actors.
Cost-effectiveness. Gas fees on Ethereum can be arbitrarily outrageous. But Polygon mitigates this with a scaling solution that facilitates cheaper transaction costs.
Bubbling NFT and DeFi Projects. The Polygon ecosystem has a lot of popular projects, including Beefy Finance, AaveGotchi, Mai Finance, and so on. This makes it a conducive blockchain for anyone who wants to select smart contract platforms.
Ethereum Dependence. Polygon is not a completely independent blockchain. Instead, it relies on the underlying infrastructure of the Ethereum blockchain. As a result, any temporal or permanent stoppage of Ethereum will have ripple effects on Polygon.
Cases of Hacks. Although Polygon appears to have a secure infrastructure, it has been compromised several times. Two whitehats discovered critical vulnerabilities in Polygon architecture and were given a bounty of over $3 million. In 2022, a blackhat robbed the network of about 800,000 MATIC.
Slow Speed: According to Polygonscan, Polygon can only process 31.8 transactions per second.
Anatoly Yakovenko noticed Bitcoin’s transaction speed, which was 16 tps at the time, to be slow and unscalable. He researched and developed a distributed base solution processing up to 10,000 tps. He eventually co-founded Solana blockchain with Raj Gokal in 2018.
What started as a small experimental project has blossomed into a blockchain with over $8B market capitalization.
Speed. The Solana blockchain currently boasts of processing over 3,300 transactions per second. This makes it rank among the fastest blockchains in the world.
Cost-effectiveness. Solana transactions are cheap, unlike some other blockchains like Ethereum.
Energy Efficiency. Solana leverages the unique proof-of-history consensus mechanism, which does not require heavy computation. As a result, it uses fairly little energy.
Mainstream Products. Solana is one of the blockchains thinking outside the box. This is evident in its Saga project. The Saga project is the mobile phone manufacturing arm of Solana. Solana is on track to booming as the Saga phone receives greater adoption.
Frequent Outage. Solana is notorious for epileptic network availability. So far, it has recorded 11 major downtimes and 3 minor ones. This makes it one of the unreliable blockchains in terms of constant availability.
Centralization. Solana is centralized because the top validators have nearly half the network stake. Thus, they have influencing decision power.
Gavin Woods, one of the co-founders of Ethereum, co-founded Polkadot with Peter Czaban and Robert Habermeier in 2017. Polkadot is a technically different blockchain due to its use case and architectural design.
It has a main chain and other parallel chains and conducts cross-chain communication among various chains. DOT, its native token, has a market capitalization of over $7 billion.
Interoperability. The main use case of Polkadot is to bridge together all other blockchains so the users can interact from a single standpoint. The team has done this to a large extent and keeps adding new blockchains with time. Choosing Polkadot as your smart contract platform is a great idea if you plan to exist on several blockchain platforms.
Easier Upgradeability. Most other blockchains require a hard fork when they want to enforce monumental changes. But that is not the case with Polkadot, as upgrades are less complicated.
Supports Custom Blockchains. Polkadot uses Substrate, which is an easier language for building blockchains. Any project that wants to launch its separate blockchain should consider Polkadot in its choices of top smart contract platforms.
Excluding Ethereum. Although Polkadot is all about serving as the touchpoint of Web3, they still need an important chain. Ethereum is one of the biggest blockchains, and Polkadot has yet to bridge it due to technical reasons. This shuts the blockchain from the wider Web3 ecosystem.
Slow Progress. Polkadot is an example of a blockchain that progresses quite slowly. The slow nature of execution can be a red flag to founders who desire a more proactive smart contract platform.
Justin Sun, a popular voice in the blockchain space, founded Tron in 2017. It started as an Ethereum-based project before creating its delegated proof of stake (DPoS) chain in 2018. As a result, it moved from using the EVM to its native TVM. Tron has over $6 billion in market capitalization.
Low Transaction Fee. TRX, the native token of the Tron network, is relatively cheap. As a result, the users only have to pay a small amount of TRX to process their transactions.
Fast Transaction Speed. Tron is a fast blockchain that can process about 2,000 transactions per second.
USDD Depegs. The Tron Foundation created an algorithmic stablecoin called USDD. The stablecoin has depegged a couple of times and has fast become unstable. This concern amplifies the inadequacies of the algorithm behind Tron.
Few DeFi and NFT Projects. There need to be more projects on the Tron network. There are better options for projects that want to exist in an ecosystem full of supporting projects.
Founder’s Reputational Concerns. The Securities and Exchange Commission of the United States issued a press release in 2023 against Justin Sun, the founder of Tron. The SEC accused Justin of wash trading and market manipulation, among other financial crimes.
Emin Gün Sirer, Ted Yin, and Kevin Sekniqi—researchers at Cornell University—were the brains behind the Avalanche blockchain. Even though the chain launched in 2020, it rose quickly as one of the most prominent layer-1 smart contract platforms. It supports both the EVM and its Avalanche Virtual Machine. Regarding speed, Avalanche successfully processes around 23 transactions in a single second, a far cry from the promised 4,500 yet still a significant improvement from 1-2 tps from the past year.
dApp Suitability. Avalanche was built with a tech stack to support the development of scalable dApps.
EVM-compatibility. Due to their compatibility with the EVM, the Avalanche community loops into the Ethereum ecosystem. As a result, projects on Avalanche can also enjoy the influence of Ethereum.
Security. Avalanche runs 4 active bug bounty programs at HackenProof. External security researchers are rewarded for finding weaknesses in AVAX systems. In addition, we have seen cases where community members discovered and reported architecture bugs that were promptly fixed by AVAX developers.
High Validation Requirements. Any prospective validator in the Avalanche blockchain must have 2,000 AVAX, around $34,000. This can be a limiting factor to a lot of other prospective validators.
No Punishment for Malicious Validators. Blockchains like Ethereum punish validators by taking away their staked 32 ETH. This often serves as a way of checkmating unconditioned behaviors. But Avalanche is yet to adopt a similar approach. Thus, validators make illegal or malicious moves since no punishment exists.
New Smart Contract Platforms
Apart from the older smart contract platforms mentioned above, some new blockchains are emerging. You should check them out to see if they exactly suit what you are trying to build:
The founders Illia Polosukhin and Alexander Skidanov started Near as an AI-focused startup before transitioning to being a blockchain in 2020. Near is one of the latest PoS smart contract platforms in Web3. It currently boasts over $1 billion in market capitalization.
Native Domain Names. Near assigns native domain names to all their users for a better experience. This makes transactions and account management easier for the users.
Carbon Neutrality. Its PoS mechanism makes it possible for Near to be carbon neutral.
Fast Speed. Near is incredibly fast, handling around 4,000 transactions per second.
Cost-effectiveness. The users do not need to pay expensive fees to process their transactions.
Unequitable Token Distribution. There is an inequality in the tokenomics of Near. There is an allocation of the total supply to the core team. This gives the team members too much power within the network.
Few DeFi and NFT Projects. The Near ecosystem is still in its early days. Compared to other bigger blockchains, Near does not have enough DeFI and NFTs.
Mo Shaik and Avery Ching founded Aptos, a Byzantine-Fault-Tolerant blockchain. Aptos’ history goes back to 2019. It originated from a company called Diem that Facebook later acquired to create a stablecoin called Libra. The Libra digital currency did not take off, and the program eventually stopped, but key persons from the former Diem team established Aptos Labs, a team behind the Aptos layer-1 public blockchain. Aptos Mainnet came to life in October 2022 and has already amassed nearly $2 billion in market capitalization.
Increasing Popularity. Aptos is a unique blockchain that has gained the interest and attention of many people in a short period.
Scalability. With a robust architecture and research underpinning, Aptos is a scalable solution that can handle large transactions without compromising efficiency.
Slow Speed. The team behind Aptos promised 160k transactions per second. However, the actual speed has averaged around 10 tps.
Move Barrier. Aptos uses Move, which is a programming language they developed. Due to the unpopular nature of the language, there is a learning for devs on Aptos.
The Matter Labs team founded and rolled out the mainnet of this blockchain in 2023. The blockchain uses two consensus mechanisms: Delegated-proof-of-stake and practical-Byzantine-fault-tolerant. zkSync is one of the most popular zero-knowledge-based scaling solutions on Ethereum as it processes about 3,000 transactions per second.
Privacy. The zero-knowledge architecture abstracts the data of the transacting parties from the general public. If your users are privacy-conscious, you should choose zkSync as your smart contract platform.
Speed. zkSync is fast. It can conveniently handle over 3,000 transactions within a second.
Cheaper Transactions. Since the transactional computations won’t happen on the Ethereum mainnet, zkSync’s off-chain processing reduces the gas.
Centralization. The Matter Labs team is directly in charge of zkSync. This posed a security threat of centralization and inequitable leadership representation.
Slow L1 Interaction. Even though zkSync claims to be fast, some users have complained about delayed transactions to layer-1 protocols.
You must consider these critical factors to choose the best smart contract platform for your project.
TPS and Fees. Speed and friendly fees are crucial factors you must consider before picking a blockchain. If the number of transactions per second is low, such a blockchain cannot give your users the speed they want. In addition, human psychology dodges unnecessarily high fees, so it is better to pick a blockchain with lower fees.
Offered Tools And Smart Contract Programming Languages. Every blockchain has its peculiar smart contract languages. For instance, Solidity and Vyper are the official languages of Ethereum. Research the language and assess its security and syntax. In addition, check out the tools and frameworks that the blockchain supports.
Consensus Algorithm. The nodes in every blockchain agree through various consensus mechanisms. Ascertain your prospective blockchains’ mechanism and review them with your ethos. For instance, Bitcoin utilizes proof-of-work, which is energy intensive and may not be the choice of an eco-friendly project.
Security and Scalability. Security is essential in the assessment of your smart contract platform. Ensure the protocol, dApp, and smart contracts are well audited. In addition, ensure that the blockchain has bandwidth for increasing users. This is essential to ensure it can accommodate the increasing number of your project’s users.
Ecosystem and Liquidity. Assess the architecture of the smart contract platforms you plan to use. Check if the blockchain has many arms and how vibrant they are. Liquidity is another factor you must take advantage of. A smart contract platform with sufficient liquidity is a greener pasture where projects will thrive.
Leaders’ Reputation. Besides technicalities and other criteria, research the blockchain leadership you plan to use. You can ask these questions:
The blockchain space had progressed beyond when only a few smart contract platforms existed. Many of them now leave founders wondering how to pick the best.
We have pointed out some top smart contract platforms and how you can pick the best for you. With the recent incidents of hacks, we emphasize ensuring any platform you choose has undergone a comprehensive smart contract audit. We recommend this short post to understand why getting audited has become a necessity in Web3.
Ethereum is relatively the best smart contract platform. But at the same time, other factors determine what will be the best blockchain for a particular project.
Smart contract platforms include Near, Aptos, Avalanche, Polkadot, Cardano, and Polygon.
Smart contract platforms serve as an on-chain place where developers can deploy programs to facilitate particular transactions and state changes.
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