Smart contract platforms allow developers to create fully decentralized dApps. Some of the more popular platforms are Ethereum, EOS, Cardano and Rootstock. In this article, we will go over these options and explain what’s unique about each one. Let’s get started!
Unlike Bitcoin, Ethereum is an ecosystem whose focus is to discover new use cases for blockchain technology. The Ethereum network is designed to allow anyone in the world to build dApps using smart contracts. These next generation applications can operate with no expected downtime, fraud, or interference by malicious actors. dApps are the main selling point of Ethereum and is the focus of the ETH network.
According to Solidity’s documentation:
“Solidity is an object-oriented, high-level language for implementing smart contracts. Smart contracts are programs which govern the behavior of accounts within the Ethereum state.”
The Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) is the runtime environment for smart contracts on Ethereum. It is sandboxed and completely isolated, meaning any code running in the EVM doesn’t have access to the actual Ethereum network. The EVM has a few concepts such as Accounts, Transactions, Gas, Storage, Message Calls, Create and even Self Destruct that help it facilitate smart contract applications.
Ethereum is the pioneer for smart contract applications. It was the first cryptocurrency network to allow users to code smart contracts and execute them on the network. ETH’s main strength is the fact that it has the most users, developers, documentation and dApps on the network.
On the other hand, Ethereum’s main strength is also its weakness. Because Ethereum has the most users, it’s network is also congested most of the time. As such, any interactions with dApps cost way more than they should, and many times there is a long wait for transaction confirmation. Luckily, Ethereum block producers recently raised the gas limit by almost 25%, which is comparable to raising the block size limit for Bitcoin. As such, it relieved network congestion but will create more bloat on the blockchain. Ethereum is looking to solve this scalability issue by upgrading to ETH 2.0 come January 2020.
After Ethereum made the dApp ecosystem much more popular, EOS became the main contender when it came out with its own virtual machine and smart contracting platform. Unlike Ethereum, you didn’t have to pay transaction fees – EOS doesn’t have a concept of Gas. Moreover, EOS had the capability of processing transactions at a much higher rate than Ethereum. These two factors gave EOS more attention and led many people to believe it to be a superior choice over Ethereum.
Compared to Ethereum’s Solidity, WebAssembly apps can be more challenging to code because it requires knowledge of C++, which can get quite convoluted. Moreover, since EOS is newer, there’s less documentation and examples to work with when it comes to implementing smart contract dApps on the EOS blockchain.
EOS emerged as a competitor to Ethereum ever since it’s introduction back in 2018 when it raised over $4.1 billion on its ICO. Block.one’s EOS ICO was a year long and ended up being the largest ICO in history! With so much money backing it, EOS was able to develop an impressive blockchain and with it some awesome dApps.
Ethereum’s main disadvantage compared to EOS is the network congestion. Not only does it render some dApps unusable during high traffic times, but some interactions with Ethereum dApps can cost way too much. This is where EOS comes in, not only are there no transaction fees, but most dApp interactions occur instantly. This creates a much better experience when using EOS dApps.
EOS also has its disadvantages when it comes to Ethereum. For example, because there is a steeper learning curve for developing dApps on EOS, there are less killer dApps overall on EOS than on Ethereum. Moreover, because EOS is newer there are less users that are willing to try out EOS applications.
The other issue with EOS is the semi-centralized nature of its platform. Because there are only 21 block producers that are responsible for keeping the EOS blockchain running, it creates a very small group that can essentially control the blockchain as they please. While that centralization is certainly a disadvantage, that’s the caveat to being able to scale the EOS blockchain and process such a high amount of transactions.
Cardano is a technological platform meant to run financial applications. Its native token is the ADA cryptocurrency and its blockchain uses a brand new POS consensus system called Ouroboros. Cardano is built with a scientific philosophy led by academics and engineers. Due to its design, the POS system is mathematically proven to be very secure.
According to the Plutus documentation:
“Plutus provides an execution platform and functional programming language that runs on the Cardano settlement layer and provides considerable security advantages.”
Cardano’s strength lies in its network and smart contract security that comes from the way its network is engineered. Moreover, Cardano’s ecosystem is focused on being interoperable, so it can provide cross platform support to many dApps on different chains.
The problem with Cardano in its current state is the lack of usable dApps on the network. Cardano recently released its testnet back in June, but they have yet to fully launch the platform.
According to RSK’s whitepaper:
“RSK is a platform that enables the execution of smart-contracts that use bitcoin as the native asset, contributing to Bitcoin’s value as the leading global cryptocurrency and expanding its reach to all potential use cases of dApps.”
The smart contracts platform RSK, has its own chain – called a sidechain. Rootstock takes many features from Ethereum which allows it to be cross compatible with ETH dApps.
Since RSK has a two-way-peg with Bitcoin´s blockchain, Rootstock’s native tokens are called “Smart Bitcoins” with a ticker of RBTC. RSK also provides Bitcoin miners additional incentives with merged mining. By providing their hashing power, miners can further monetize without additional hardware requirements.
Rootstock also has benefits when it comes to Ethereum users and developers. Notably, RSK is extremely compatible with Ethereum dApps which allows developers to seamlessly transfer their dApps to Rootstock’s blockchain. Another benefit that RSK brings to Ethereum dApps, is the reduction of transactions’ costs when interacting with the applications. RSK has its own approach to scalability that enables both a reduction in space per transaction and a compression mechanism that allows more transactions to be bundled in the same amount of space.
Rootstock uses the same smart contract language as Ethereum – Solidity. While Ethereum’s runtime environment is the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM), Rootstock has the RVM (Rootstock Virtual Machine). While Ethereum has Gas to facilitate operations on its network, Rootstock has RBTCs which fuel their smart contracts.
The main benefit with RVM over EVM, is the fact that compromised contracts on the Rootstock platform won’t affect Bitcoin’s blockchain. Instead, they might affect the Rootstock sidechain which acts as a sort of buffer between Bitcoin. This approach to contract security is why vulnerable contracts won’t have the same effect as they do on ETH. For example, when the DAO was exploited on Ethereum, the whole network came to a halt. This has many negative consequences to ETH investors and users because it renders the whole cryptocurrency unusable until a solution arises.
Rootstock’s main strength has to do with security, because RSK runs as a sidechain of BTC and it creates a truly sandboxed environment for dApps. Another strength for RSK comes in the form of its RVM which is easily compatible with Ethereum dApps. Solidity is an extremely intuitive language to learn and one that already has many developers. As such, developers can easily create apps for both Rootstock and Ethereum without the need to translate them into different languages.
We discussed four smart contract platforms: Ethereum, EOS, Cardano and Rootstock. Each platform has its own benefits when it comes to certain applications. If security is extremely important to your application, then your best bets are Cardano or Rootstock. If you want the most users for your dApp, your best choice is Ethereum. On the other hand, if you want a feature rich dApp that requires many interactions, EOS is the best choice because it has extremely fast transaction speeds.
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