Building a successful dapp (or a decentralized app) project starts by choosing the right blockchain platform. While Ethereum’s very USP is being the go-to platform for building all kinds of “unstoppable” dapps, it might not be the best fit for your project.
And no, we aren’t talking about the speed or scalability issues Ethereum is trying to resolve. With a backing of billions of dollars, a genius team, and massive support and adoption from the developer community, you can tell it’s going to catch up sooner rather than later.
The REAL question is about suitability.
Think about it like this:
Just the way a web app uses a certain tech stack over others, a dapp uses a certain blockchain platform over others.
And fortunately, you have some very promising Ethereum alternatives. Let’s take a look at three of the top Ethereum alternatives to power your dapp venture.
1. NEO vs. Ethereum
Dubbed as “China’s ethereum,” NEO wants to power a decentralized “smart economy.” NEO isn’t as versatile a dapp builder as Ethereum, but it doesn’t even aim to be one. NEO focuses on empowering dapps in the asset management niche.
One of the top benefits NEO offers its users is allowing them to use mainstream programming languages like C#, Java and others in known IDE environments like Visual Studio, Eclipse, etc. to build their solutions.
Ethereum, on the other hand, needs its users to learn the programming language “Solidity” to build upon the platform. Having to learn a new language is a key initial barrier when considering Ethereum for a dapp.
Another major benefit NEO promises is its potential to reach a speed of 10,000TPS (transactions per second) that makes it a preferable blockchain platform for large-scale applications.
Ethereum, in contrast, faces continuous criticism over its speed that currently sits at 7-15 transactions per second (TPS). Although Ethereum is actively experimenting with techniques like sharding and others to improve its TPS, its speed optimization is a work in progress.
In addition to easier adoption and support for more transactions, NEO also supports regulatory norms like KYC and AML among others. Which means even to start with, you’ll face lesser regulatory compliance risk as NEO covers the basics. The decentralized social media network, Narrative, switched from Ethereum to NEO for this very reason — regulatory compliance.
Guardium, an emergency response dapp originally powered by Ethereum also migrated to NEO for its compliance-friendliness (among other reasons):
NEO has been built from the ground-up with the concept of identity as a core feature. Much like ourselves, the NEO team always has an eye on local-regulations, accountability and identity management.
2. NEM vs. Ethereum
NEM is a blockchain platform that comes the closest to Ethereum because just like Ethereum, even NEM is built to create all kinds of dapps for all kinds of businesses.
In general, NEM is much more scalable, faster, and cheaper than Ethereum. Of course, it’s no match (yet) to Ethereum’s market hold, but it’s becoming increasingly popular with dapp builders because of its low operational costs and high-speed performance. With its Catapult update (beta), NEM promises a 4000+ TPS. Tutellus, one of the early adopters of the Ethereum platform decided to migrate from Ethereum to NEM because it found working on NEM more scalable, faster and cheaper.
Also, unlike Ethereum (and like NEO), even NEM doesn’t require developers to learn any native platform language to get started. FamilyPoints, a blockchain-based startup aiming to bring transparency in the parenting businesses landscape and help parents save costs, chose NEM for the simple reason that they could start right away with the languages they knew.
NEM is also viewed as a safer Ethereum alternative. Its development standards and architecture (almost) guarantee a dapp’s security. Its API-friendliness is also a big benefit it offers.
3. Stellar vs. Ethereum
An IBM and Stripe-backed blockchain platform, Stellar makes transactions as cheap as costing “Fractions Of A Penny.” Unlike Ethereum, Stellar isn’t a platform you can use to build all types of dapps. It’s for dapps that primarily solve fintech challenges. Such “niching” alone makes it a better contender for a lot of niche apps over Ethereum.
One of Stellar’s top benefits over Ethereum is that it’s way more cost-effective to run a dapp on Stellar than on Ethereum. A transaction on Stellar cost around 0.01% of what it costs on Ethereum. Mobius, a blockchain-powered startup (with $39M in funding) that wants to help more companies accept cryptocurrency payments switched to Stellar from Ethereum because of its cheap operational costs.
Another important feature Stellar offers is its processing rate of 1000 transactions per second, which makes it a good blockchain platform for most dapps. Compared to Ethereum, this is lightning fast. An average transaction on Stellar takes about 2-5 seconds while it could run for a few minutes on Ethereum.
In addition to being cost-effective and speedy, Stellar also promises a much more energy-efficient working than Ethereum. All thanks to its consensus mechanism (Stellar Consensus Protocol or SCP). Stellar’s SCP consensus mechanism saves the tiring computations performed in a typical proof or work style consensus that Ethereum uses. Irene Energy, an electricity supply industry startup, switched to Stellar from Ethereum because of Ethereum’s power consumption. Irene Energy explains:
Using a technology that consumes nearly as much as a country such as Ireland, would have been in contradiction to our most fundamental values.
Besides, just like NEO, Stellar too offers regulation friendliness Ethereum doesn’t.
4. Lisk vs. Ethereum
Although Lisk, like Ethereum, can act as an operating system for any dapp, it’s still quite different from Ethereum.
For example, a key difference between Ethereum and Lisk is that unlike Ethereum, Lisk isn’t a smart contracts platform. Instead, it’s more of a custom blockchain development platform. It’s a framework that allows developers to build their own custom blockchains and develop blockchain applications on top of them. Lisk’s focus on enabling developers to easily build their own blockchains is a useful feature for many potential dapp projects.
Here’s what this means for dapp developers in Lisk Cofounder’s words:
If you want to develop a dapp in Ethereum you need to connect the functionalities of several smart contracts. In Lisk you get a complete package. You don’t develop single smart contracts. You build an entire application which is running on its own blockchain.
In fact, Lisk’s custom blockchains are nothing but sidechains that attach to the main Lisk blockchain. A sidechain is a dapp’s personal blockchain and a dapp developer can completely control its features and how it works. Although a dapp’s sidechain is connected to the main blockchain, any congestions or issues in the sidechain don’t impact the main chain.
On Ethereum, on the other hand, every dapp is deployed on the Ethereum blockchain. This is also one of the key reasons Ethereum’s scalability is so poor. Although people are exploring ways of using sidechains with Ethereum, Lisk is built around them.
The team behind Mardana (an upcoming data analytics Lisk dapp) chose Lisk for their dapp over Ethereum and other alternatives because Lisk promised a highly customizable and scalable solution:
Whilst most of the Blockchain platforms offer great teams, good project funding, and extraordinary visions, only one Blockchain will offer us powerful development tools, simple implementation, high scalability and a maturity level above any other project we examined so far. This Blockchain is Lisk.
5. Stratis vs. Ethereum
Stratis — another blockchain-as-a-service platform — promises to be a good Ethereum alternative. It’s quite Lisk-like with its sidechain concept, yet it’s quite ahead of Lisk in terms of development with its white labeled ICO running platform already available.
Stratis — as an alternative to Ethereum — offers sidechains. Just like in the case of Lisk, a Stratis sidechain works independently of the main Stratis blockchain. Likewise, any issues or congestions in the sidechain don’t impact the main chain. Also, all Stratis smart contracts reside on their individual side chains and not on the main chain. Ethereum, on the other hand, hosts all the dapps and smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain.
Speed is another area where Stratis significantly outperforms Ethereum with 20,000 transactions per second.
Also just like Lisk, Stratis too lets developers build their dapps on blockchain using languages and environments they’re familiar with — for e.g., C# and .Net.
Gluon will be the first project to run its ICO on Stratis. Gluon’s team shares how the familiar development environment made their choice of Stratis simpler:
Their powerful BaaS platform has been developed from the ground up in C# and Microsoft .NET framework and is easily deployable within the cloud, which in turn allows Gluon to seamlessly integrate the Stratis platform into their existing infrastructure.
Wrapping it up
There you have them – the top Ethereum alternatives to choose from for building your blockchain-powered application.
At Kapitalized, we don’t believe any of these Ethereum alternatives to be actually Ethereum killers. Sure, they’re great. And as they were developed after Ethereum’s key issues got uncovered, they do offer solutions to some of Ethereum’s most frustrating issues. Yet, for a lot of dapps, Ethereum is actually the best choice.
Scoring blockchain platforms on their technical aspects like the programming languages they support, their speed, their consensus mechanism, operational costs, etc. will help you shortlist your best options. If you need more help in choosing an Ethereum alternative for your dapp, engage a blockchain consultant or advisor.
Also published on Medium.