With so many DLT projects vying for attention, identifying the top blockchain platforms can be quite tricky. On the one hand, the brightest stars are seemingly ever-present in the headlines and at the top of the price charts. However, depending on the chosen criteria the names in any arbitrary “top blockchain platforms” list may vary.
For this list, we decided to examine the best blockchain platforms in terms of their ability to attract and support development activity. Some of the usual suspects will inevitably be here, but other projects might surprise you:
So without further ado, let’s see our picks for top blockchain platforms for development in 2021. The list is in no particular order.
Kicking off this list with Ethereum is practically a no brainer. While the platform has received some criticism for its limited scalability and high transaction fees, it is by far the most used platform for blockchain development – especially when it comes to the development of decentralized apps. This is to be expected, however, as Ethereum pioneered the concept of programmable, general purpose blockchain. From ICOs and DAOs, to decentralized finance and NFTs, Etereum has been at the forefront of blockchain innovation pretty much since its inception.
Nowadays there are plenty of Ethereum challengers and would-be ‘Ethereum killers’ that claim to do everything that Ethereum does, butin a cheaper, faster and more convenient way. But while there are some incredible Ethereum alternatives out there – some of them on this very list – none of those have seen levels of activity comparable to what Ethereum has had to deal with for years. It still remains to be seen whether the current crop of Ethereum killers will continue to perform so strongly if they become more widely used.
We also need to acknowledge that Ethereum is evolving and the community is working hard on a number of scaling solutions aimed at solving many of Ethereum’s current problems. In fact, some of the platforms in this article are designed to provide scaling solutions for Ethereum.
Ethereum is also a major force in the enterprise blockchain space. Hyperledger Besu, one of the major frameworks for building private networks and other enterprise-focused solutions.
Having started as Matic Network in 2017, the platform began gaining popularity after a successful 2020 mainnet launch which happened at a time when rising gas fees on Ethereum were driving serious demand for an effective scaling solution. The platform rebranded to Polygon in early 2021, a move that reflected its growing ambition to establish a protocol and a framework for building scaling solutions for Ethereum. Currently, Polygon offers a popular sidechain solution and a Plasma-based solution. Earlier this year, Polygon also bought Hermez, a zk-rollup scaling network for Ethereum.
You can read more about Polygon in our detailed overview of the project.
Next we have Solana, which is one of the hottest blockchain projects, currently. The soaring price of Solana’s native token SOL (currently the fifth-largest token in terms of market capitalization) is a testament of the hype that the protocol has been able to generate over the past few months. And the enthusiasm around the project is certainly well placed, as Solana is already proving to be among the top blockchain platforms.
Solana introduces a number of big innovations, such as a novel Proof of History consensus mechanism, that allow it to score significant performance gains in terms of throughput and transaction costs. The team behind Solana claims that the protocol is scalable, decentralized and secure, which essentially solves the ‘scalability trilemma’ problem that has been associated with earlier iterations of blockchain technology like Ethereum.
Thanks to its robust performance, the platform has been able to attract some very promising projects and has emerged as one of the major players in some of the biggest trends in the blockchain space. An example of this is the recent boom of Solana-based NFT marketplaces, led by Solanart.
Often described as a “blockchain for blockchains”, Polkadot is certainly among the most ambitious blockchain projects out there. Thanks to its unique architecture, Polkadot has been able to take sharding to a whole new level and power and connect a complex ecosystem of chains. This multi-chain architecture enables developers to build specialized chains, optimized for specific purposes. Polkadot developers also have access to Substrate, a powerful blockchain-building framework, whose modular design makes it easy to add features and functionalities that fit the design and purpose of their chains.
Recently, CryptoDiffer posted data showing that both Polkadot and its ‘cousin’ network Kusama top the charts in daily development activity on GitHub.
Binance Smart Chain
One of the platforms that has benefited the most from the demand for a more scalable Ethereum alternative, the Binance Smart Chain (BSC) has established itself as one of the top blockchain platforms for smart contract development. The decision to adopt a more centralized consensus model has allowed the platform to realize significant gains in terms of transaction throughput and cost efficiency compared to Ethereum. At the same time, BSC is compatible with the Ethereum Virtual Machine, which allows for an easy transition from Ethereum. Prominent BSC dApps include PancakeSwap, CryptoMines and BinaryX, among others.
Born following a successful initial coin offering in 2020, Avalanche has already attracted significant development activity. The platform supports the Ethereum Virtual Machine, which enables cross-chain operability for Ethereum assets.
One of Avalanche’s most interesting characteristics is that it has three different chains that run on two different consensus algorithms – Avalanche, which supports fast transactions, and Snowman, which offers secure smart contracts.
Hedera Hashgraph is one of the most exciting DLT platforms and the only reason we have it as an honorable mention is because it’s not a blockchain, but a DAG-based DLT protocol. It’s innovative architecture and consensus mechanism allows the protocol to outperform many competitors in terms of transaction throughput. The protocol comes with robust features, such as the Hedera Consensus Service and the Hedera Token Service. Recently, the platform also launched Hashport – an interoperability portal that connects Hedera with EVM-compatible networks. LimeChain played a crucial role in the development of the project and is one of the validators tasked with ensuring security for Hashport users.
Cosmos is one of the major players on the multi-chain front and arguably the biggest competitor of Polkadot. The platform aims to create the ‘Interchain’ – a network of interconnected chains aimed at providing a decentralized alternative to the Internet. Central to the Intrachain vision is the Cosmos Hub – a blockchain that connects compatible chains, powers bridges to external networks such as Ethereum and Bitcoin, and provides other essential features to the entire Cosmos ecosystem. The platform also offers a robust framework for building custom chains, apps and services.
According to the Cosmos website, there are currently more than 260 apps and services in the Cosmos ecosystem.
Optimism is a scaling protocol for Ethereum that utilizes optimistic rollup technology to achieve 10-100x improvements in scalability. The project has attracted significant investment from VC firm Andreessen Horowitz. A number of popular DeFi apps, including Uniswap and Synthetix, have already launched on Optimism.
The other major player in the optimistic roll-up space, Arbitrum already supports an impressive number of dApps.