The Ethereum network is valued largely for its adaptability. This is usually credited to the blockchain’s “smart contract” functionality, which as Reuters explains makes it possible to write DApps, or decentralized applications (like DeFi and NFTs). Particularly as the Ethereum codebase has shifted to become more efficient and scalable, some consider these features to have set the network up as the “backbone of the new internet.” If successful in its apparent mission to replace existing web protocols, Ethereum would in principle represent the opposite of the increasingly centralized web of today.
As a cryptocurrency, ETH has for some time now taken a strong second place after Bitcoin in terms of market cap. Nonetheless, crypto enthusiasts as well known as Elon Musk famously believe that the public doesn’t yet adequately value Ethereum. That may be the case, but in spite of active development, Ethereum is also now nearly a decade old –– a ripe old age, in this space –– and competitors are hot on its tail.
The following are some such alternatives to be aware of.
Just like Ethereum, Polkadot is capable of supporting smart contracts. This alternative, though, is valued for its speed, which is brought about not just via the use of a proof-of-stake consensus model, but also the ability of the user to connect parallel chains (parachains) to the primary one. This core feature makes it such that Polkadot is highly interoperable with other cryptos. For instance, Tether has now announced that it is going to be deployed on the Polkadot ecosystem after launching first on Kusama. Meanwhile, other Polkadot parachains like Moonbeam aim to build compatibility with Ethereum so that those used to developing for Ethereum will be able to use its tools.
Cardano was to no small degree the brainchild of a former Ethereum developer — something it shares with Polkadot — pushing for faster and more secure protocols. Although its smart contracts may not currently be the best right now, there is a good deal of active development on the project. The organization is very proud of the fact that development is subject to scientific peer review at all milestones, which it hopes will contribute to a robust protocol over time. This is certainly one reason people purchase Cardano, at any rate. The blockchain is certainly trusted enough to be used in a number of real-world applications like anti-counterfeiting on consumer goods and the tracking of fresh produce.
Unlike the proof-of-stake consensus used by the cryptos mentioned above, Solana uses a proof-of-history model based on the timestamp of events. People invest in the Solana network largely because they see it as an Ethereum alternative that has legitimate perks of its own to offer –– including its speed and the tiny fees that its consensus model affords by minimizing the taxing of computer resources. As a result, Solana is a popular platform for building DApps, which now number in the thousands.
Departing even further from Ethereum in software terms, this one isn’t a blockchain at all. Rather, what it promises to do with some very clever validation techniques is bring cryptographic-backed decentralization to local machines –– in other words, using peer-to-peer connections and not necessarily relying on the cloud. That said, the project isn’t even in beta yet at the time of this writing, meaning people who buy Holochain HOT tokens tend to be the aggressive investors willing to bet on a less-proven solution. Being the least developed on this list, HOT tokens are still actually generated using Ethereum, for now.
Ethereum is already getting long in the tooth, and many competitors have already stepped up to try and become the crypto platform of choice. It remains to be seen whether any of them will succeed in overtaking the incumbent in terms of popularity, or whether the speed, cost, and feature set of Ethereum can become comparable to the point that the alternatives’ advantages are minimized. Time will tell.