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Top 10 Smart Contract Platforms in 2022 [Other Than Ethereum]

Top 10 Smart Contract Platforms

A smart contract platform is a framework for building decentralized applications. It’s like an operating system, but instead of applications running on the operating system, the blockchain and its smart contracts function as the operating system (OS) and underlying framework. Just like the OS helped launch the dot-com revolution, smart contracts are the building blocks that help establish their next-generation descendants with decentralized control.

We are at the beginning of this journey, but we can expect massive disruption across most industries. According to Statista, the demand for blockchain developers is increasing by 300-500% every year as more and more businesses deploy smart contracts and build blockchain apps.

Why are they excited about smart contracts? Because this technology helps eliminate intermediaries (aka middlemen) in most transactions, minimize errors, and cut costs. It makes everything more efficient, especially in finance, gaming, and ownership rights, plus it allows users to be part of the network.

This article will discuss the top 10 smart contracts platforms you need to know about to build your dApp in 2022.

A brief history of smart contracts

1991

  1. Haber and W.S. Stornetta came up with a scheme for a hard-to-tamper system to timestamp electronic documents. This system would issue a certificate with the date of creation of the document. Consequently, this certificate generates a link that we can later use to prove the document creation date.

1994

Three years later, in 1994,  introduced the term “smart contracts.” Those were computer programs, replicating the actions outlined in traditional paper contracts. In 1996, Nick Szabo established the following purposes of a smart contract: “observability, verifiability, privacy, and enforceability.”

2008

Satoshi Nakamoto begins Bitcoin, a decentralized payment system, where the transaction history is stored in a distributed ledger built out of blocks. Each one contains a set of transactions, a hash to a preceding block, and a timestamp. It was similar to the approach used by S. Haber and W.S. Stornetta in 1991.

2015

A 19-year old, Vitalik Buterin, brings smart contracts to life by creating one of the first smart contract platforms, Ethereum, featuring Solidity, a Turing-complete smart contract language – allowing for the development of various smart contracts on a blockchain. His goal was to empower people to build and rapidly deploy efficient and secure decentralized applications. Solidity gives developers a lot of flexibility and allows them to write contracts that can solve almost any computational problem.

2021

Today, we have over ten smart contract platforms that run on various blockchain networks, use different smart contract languages and consensus mechanisms. These smart contracts power many businesses and applications, from traditional finance and insurance to crypto investments and major crypto exchanges.

 

Smart contracts explained

Let’s use an analogy with marketing automation. For example, let’s say you set up an email campaign using one of the popular platforms and set up the conditions to execute specific tasks once certain actions are triggered. It can be something like “send a follow-up email if the recipient has opened the initial sequence.” Or, if a person enters their email address into your contact form, they receive a welcome email. This is called IFTT – If This Then That logic.

If This Then That

In a nutshell, a smart contract is If This Then That logic. So if we created a code on the blockchain that states that “if a person A puts money into X contract, then the Y action is executed and a digital contract is sent to the person B. Then a Z action will happen.” Smart contracts trigger a domino effect, where you need a pre-existing event to begin the following action.  Imagine a vending machine, where you put in a dollar, type in a code, and depending on your action, you get a can of soda or a bag of chips. That code that you typed executed the command that triggered that soda fall from the vending machine. That’s a simplified explanation of smart contracts.

To summarize, a smart contract is If This Then That logic programmed onto the blockchain and run by all the nodes on the network, automatically translated into a transparent ledger that everyone can see. 

 

How do smart contracts work?

  • When you deploy a smart contract, it gets an address. For example, you can visit Songbird explorer and see the address of each smart contract here. This address is used to interact with the contract and perform.

smart contracts inforgraphic

  • Smart contracts can store various values depending on the logic that the developer wrote. For example, you can program your smart contract to store the name of a person. It usually looks like this: string name = “Alexandra.”

 

  • Once the smart contract is deployed onto the blockchain, you and other people can interact with it. For example, EOSIO allows the uploading of a new byte code to modify smart contracts, while Ethereum makes modifications impossible.

 

  • A set of nodes executes the smart contract functions specified in the transaction at the execution phase. Then these nodes compare their results and decide on the one to be retained according to the consensus mechanism used on the blockchain network.

Nodes execute smart contract transaction

  • Proof-based consensus (Proof-of-Work, Proof-of-Stake, etc.) means that each node must prove that it has executed a specific operation or owns a certain value. The first node that presents valid proof gets elected as the leader. As a result, this node is permitted to add the results of its execution to the blockchain. There are also hybrid consensus protocols, like the ones used by the Solana network, based on both Byzantine Fault Tolerance and proof-based consensus protocols.

 

  • The valid result gets inserted in a block, and this block is then added to the blockchain. If a validated transaction modified the internal variables, these new values now become initial values for future transactions.

Smart contract results comparison

While Ethereum is the most popular smart contract platform for dApp development in terms of sheer numbers, there are a few alternatives that you should know about because smart contract development is still in its infancy, and Ethereum gas fees have been a hot topic lately. So let’s discuss the top 10 smart contract networks to help you pick one for your next dApp. We listed them in no particular order.

 

Top 10 smart contract platforms in 2022

Cosmos blockchain

Cosmos blockchain

Image source: company website

Cosmos is a Layer 0 blockchain with ±140 validators and an inter-blockchain communications protocol. This blockchain aims to create a network or an ecosystem of blockchains that communicate with each other, an internet of blockchains so to speak.  Most blockchains on Cosmos have a limited number of validators.

Cosmos will soon introduce new roadmap features that are planning to bring a lot more utility for the ATOM token.  For example, for staking derivatives and cross-chain staking.  You can use Cosmos as a platform for scalable smart contracts and as a medium for a decentralized exchange.

Tendermint, the consensus algorithm of Cosmos, is extremely high-speed and can handle the flow of information between various blockchains using Proof of Participation (PoS). Tendermint takes scalability to a new level and can reach more than 10.000 transactions per second, making Cosmos one of the most efficient smart contract platforms out there.

 

Near Protocol

Near Protocol

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Another top smart contract platform is Near Protocol. This protocol was founded by ex-Google and Microsoft software developers. They raised $50M in the first four months without even having anything built just by presenting their innovative solutions for blockchain technology.  Near protocol has approximately 60 validators, so it is slightly centralized as of today.

Near is built on a new layer one blockchain. It is sharded and uses the delegated proof-of-stake consensus that allows for scalability and security. According to their website, they are building an infrastructure for Web 3.0 to make it impossible for tech giants to steal your personal data and for governments to shut the internet down.

Their specific proof-of-stake protocol is called DoomSlug. DoomSlug allows Near to achieve practical finality after just one round of communication. It means that instead of waiting for 35 extra blocks on Ethereum, on Near, you just have to wait for one. Therefore, Near allows processings transactions quickly and securely.

Their sharding mechanism is quite unique too. Unlike many other blockchains that use side chains, Near has its own mechanism, called NightShade, where they use shards. The main blockchain has snapshots of all of these shards. Each shard only has 100 seats, and each seat allows you to be a validator. The cost of a validator rises as more people join the shard.

What makes Near attractive as a smart contract platform is its Aurora system. It’s a layer two scaling solution for Near that allows developers to easily copy and paste their Ethereum applications onto the Aurora network.

 

Elrond protocol

Elrond protocol

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When it comes to smart contracts, it’s essential to have a mechanism that ensures that the execution of contracts happens in the correct order and on the right shard. This is where Elrond comes in. This smart contract platform offers a solution for this and eliminates cross-shard locking/unlocking by assigning and moving the smart contract to the shard where its static dependencies reside.

This adaptive state sharding mechanism splits and merges shards in real-time together with growing network capacity. Elrond makes its capacity highly flexible by juggling between network sharding, state sharding, and transaction sharding.

This blockchain uses Secure Proof-of-Stake (SPoS) consensus that elects validators within shards in every round.  Elrond also built a dedicated smart contract execution engine (the Elrond Virtual Machine) on WASM. Developers have the flexibility to code on this machine in any programming language they prefer.

This protocol’s native coin, eGLD, is used as a governance mechanism for validator rewards, staking, and payments for smart contracts and transactions.

 

The Algorand blockchain

Algorand blockchain

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Algorand is a relatively fast and inexpensive (0.001 Algos per transaction) network with 1,000 transactions per second. Algorand’s smart contracts can support the needs of almost any dApp. It provides programming three languages that offer the right balance to developers: Python, Reach, and Clarity.

This smart contract platform is one of the favorites for asset management platforms and asset issuers. It’s the first carbon-negative system that offers fast smart contracts with the same speed as other transactions at Layer 1.

Algorand Virtual Machine (AVM) executes smart contracts and is rapidly improving. Soon, AVM will enable Turing-complete programming languages for smart contracts. It is similar to Ethereum, where developers write smart contracts in Solidity and then compile them to bytecode for the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) execution. But without the colossal gas fees…

Avalanche protocol

Avalanche protocol

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Avalanche blockchain has rapidly grown in popularity among smart contract developers, and there are good reasons for that. This protocol is interesting because, unlike other blockchain networks, it can survive a “more than 51%” attack. In fact, if you want to control Avalanche, you need at least 80%. That’s a lot! This blockchain can process transactions faster than most blockchain networks today without compromising security and decentralization.

Algorand uses a three-chain subnet architecture and an exceptional consensus protocol that combines the benefits of Nakomoto consensus and all the upsides of classical consensus mechanisms without sacrificing decentralization.

The three-chain subnet architecture means that Avalanche is made up of three blockchains, giving developers maximum flexibility and control over applications. While not all of the so-called “Ethereum killers” are EVM compatible, Avalanche is. This is a massive benefit because developers can seamlessly port their dApps from Ethereum at a low cost. As a result, developers don’t have to learn a new programming language to write smart contracts on Avalanche.

Another advantage of this protocol is that it makes it easy to be a validator. You don’t need any expensive specialized hardware to participate in the network. It’s an incredibly lightweight protocol, making computing requirements very modest. You just need to have 6 GB of RAM and 200 GB of space.

 

Fantom network

Fantom network

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We have seen some pretty dope branding when it comes to blockchains and crypto projects, but none have come near to what you can find on the Fantom network.

What’s even cooler is that Fantom uses DAG. DAG is not a blockchain, where each block contains data, but also must have a preceding block and a block after it, forming a chain. In a DAG,  there is a group of computers in the network, and they all can talk to nearby computers back and forth about transactions they have. Using this method, they agree on the ledger and what data they should store throughout the time.

One of the pros of this P2P “gossip” approach is that the transactions are confirmed as fast as possible without waiting for past transactions. As a result, it increases finality.

Fantom uses a unique proof-of-stake model called Lachesis, with around 50 validators. To become a validator, you need to stake at least 1M Fantom coins. This makes us question Fantom’s decentralization. Another downside of Fantom is that you only need to control 30% of the network to control a DAG and create fake transactions.

Fantom is EVM-compatible, so if you build a dApp on Ethereum, you can quickly move it to Fantom. This protocol is developer-focused, and they reward developers with up to $1M/month to create projects and dApps on Fantom. Unlike other blockchain networks, they don’t give money to users but incentivize developers instead.

In July 2021, Fantom presented an innovative solution for off-the-chain smart contract execution and testing by building an off-the-chain testing environment on a transaction “record and replay mechanism.”

 

Terra LUNA blockchain

Terra Luna blockchain

Image source: company website

This blockchain is an ecosystem that uses the proof-of-stake mechanism to maximize the advantages of crypto potential, focusing on mass processing systems and the creation of stablecoin. Terra is a user-driven economy with over 1.5M users and all the necessary incentive mechanics.

This blockchain is one of the top smart contract platforms because it is DeFi-ready thanks to its fundamental infrastructure, including on-chain swaps, price oracles, stablecoin assets in multiple denominations, and community governance. Terra’s modular plumbing is perfect for powering DeFi smart contracts, enabled by CosmWasm technology. Developers can build smart contracts in Rust, AssemblyScrip, or Go and run on multiple chains.

Terra uses a Tendermint BFT consensus with a delegated proof of stake mechanism driven by top 100 validators. This consensus model allows batches of transactions to happen in only six seconds, meaning fast block finality.

 

The Polkadot relay chain

Polkadot

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The Polkadot is an ecosystem of individual blockchain united under one network. Therefore, in its essence, it is not a smart contract platform. However, since it has parachains connected to the relay chain, these parachains support smart contracts. To launch smart contract functionality, Polkadot introduced Moonbeam. It is a smart contract platform that allows developers to build natively interoperable dApps.

If there is one thing to mention about Polkadot, it would be Substrate. It is a development framework that provides an almost unlimited canvas for developers’ experiments. Substrate gives developers complete control of the economics, consensus, underlying storage, and state transaction rules of the network. Substrate has a built-in contract pallet. Moreover, Polkadot allows parachain to implement EVM and support almost straightforward ports of Ethereum smart contracts.

The design of Polkadot allows for shared securing within the network to reduce the load on parachain builders and provide parachains with a framework to communicate with each other.

 

Cardano ADA smart contract platform

Cardano ADA Blockchain

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In September 2021, Cardano went through one of the most critical upgrades in the history of its mainnet – Alonzo.

We are currently in the third development cycle of Cardano, Goguen, the central part of which is the integration of smart contracts. Alonzo mainnet upgrade introduced a significant step forward in the development of the Cardano network. This cycle also launched a special-purpose language for the network, Marlowe, that allows financial contracts to be written in the financial language instead of using general-purpose programming languages on the blockchain. Cardano is already gaining mainstream adoption in the supply chain. This upgrade will push this smart contract platform further into the finance and insurance sectors.

The next step for smart contracts on Cardano will be to allow them on mobile devices without downloading the entire blockchain.

Unlike other blockchains mentioned in this article, Cardano does not promise ground-breaking features as it emphasizes a research-driven approach. It uses scientific research that gets its code verified mathematically and all Cardano’s updates are tested by academics and peer-reviewed by experts. As a result, updates are quite slow for Cardano due to the long backtesting process.

 

Solana blockchain

Solana blockchain

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We have written an overview about Solana and the projects being built on this scalable and super-fast network, but let us give you a summary of the smart contract capabilities of this blockchain.

Solana is a rapidly growing, permissionless, high-performance blockchain, offering lightning-fast, scalable and cheap transactions. This blockchain supports smart contracts built with C++, C, and Rust programming languages.

There are many exciting DeFi projects within Solana’s ecosystem thanks to its scalability, sub-second block times, and ability to process thousands of transactions per second. Solana uses Byzantine Fault Tolerant (BFT) consensus that utilizes a Proof of History cryptographic function.

In traditional blockchains, a single process verifies and gathers all the transactions that are included in the next block. In contrast, Proof-of-History allows the events to be processed in parallel, helping boost the network’s performance.

The crucial difference between Solana and EVM-based contracts is that external accounts can interact with smart contracts deployed on Solana and store data related to program integration, creating a logical separation of accounts and contract logic. Accounts on Solana can store data, such as wallet information, while Ethereum accounts are just references to users’ wallets.

Solana’s adoption is growing exponentially. It already hosts 400+ projects, including popular NFT marketplaces, DeFi projects, and Chainlink, the decentralized oracle network. FTX co-created derivatives exchange Serum on Solana that aims to become trustless, entirely DeFi based, and non-custodial DEX.

 

Conclusion

Choosing the right smart contract platform will be one of the most important decisions you make when developing your decentralized application. Your choice is not just about technology. You need to consider what the different platforms provide, how they’re evolving over time, and who’s involved in each one.

Every blockchain platform implements smart contracts differently. Ethereum, for example, is a deterministic platform, so account balances and the order of transactions are strictly determined. Other platforms allow for randomness and possibility. Some use technologies such as PoS or PoW, while others still use other methods such as delegated PoS.

There’s a lot to consider in choosing a smart contract platform for a dApp. However, speed, cost, and adoption should be your main criteria. Measuring adoption is easy by looking at the market cap of native tokens.  It’s an important factor as, without decent adoption of the blockchain network, your dApp will most likely fail.

We hope this article provided you with some basic knowledge about smart contracts.

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