All smart contract platforms and decentralized applications (dApps) are looking to improve upon their centralized counterparts whether it be trading, lending, gaming, collectibles, insurance, gambling, etc. In order to do so, they all need to be able to support millions of users/billions of transactions in an open and permissionless environment while exhibiting cheap fees, low latency, high performance, and quick finality/assurances. Obviously, this is no easy task! However, the bigger the problem solved, the bigger the reward.
Not all smart contract platforms are made equal! Each platform comes with trade-offs and is optimized for different things. The projects outlined below, as well as others not discussed like NEO, EOS, Ethereum Classic, Cosmos, Hedera Hashgraph, Avalanche, NEAR, Solana, and others, all are competing to solve the issue in their own way. For now, Ethereum is the clear-cut leader in the space thanks to its first-mover advantage, network effects, developer community, and emphasis on decentralization. However, the space remains one to watch over the coming years, especially if ETH 2.0 falters.
Ethereum is the largest, most valuable, and popular smart contracting platform. It is a decentralized value-settlement and computational layer that powers decentralized applications and financial services by leveraging smart contract technology. Ethereum, while the most established and accepted network, is currently undergoing a goliath upgrade from the original Proof of Work chain to a sharded, Proof of Stake network.
Polkadot is an open-source blockchain network designed to enable various separate, siloed blockchains to become interconnected, application-specific sub-chains called parachains. The Polkadot network is the entirety of all parachains that plug into a single base platform known as the Relay Chain. This Relay Chain does not support application functionality but instead provides security to the network's parachains and contains Polkadot's consensus, finality, and voting logic.
Tezos is a self-governing and self-amending smart contracts and decentralized applications (dApps) blockchain platform that launched in 2018. The project aims to improve upon Ethereum and other smart contract platforms by implementing on-chain governance, Liquid Proof-of-Stake (LPoS), and formal verification.
Cardano is one of the newest Proof of Stake (PoS) smart contract blockchain platform aiming to challenge Ethereum’s dominance in the space. The project spent 4+ years in development while it looked to solve latency, throughput, security, and decentralization issues that commonly plague other blockchains. Cardano is unique in the fact that it was the first projects to commit to the Proof of Stake consensus protocol as well as promises a number of advanced architectural solutions, including a multi-layered network, hierarchical deterministic (HD) wallet, and a community-governed treasury.