The Top 10 Blockchain Protocols Excluding Ethereum

Boat Quay, Singapore, with sweeping views of the financial center, also forms the backdrop of one of the most over-hyped terms in recent times, the "smart contract."
Boat Quay, Singapore, with sweeping views of the financial center. Singapore is home to several of the top blockchain protocols in the world.

Singapore, SINGAPORE – In the race to build the ultimate blockchain protocol, is adoption the key or does it matter who does the adopting? Bitcoin, the original blockchain protocol may be the bellwether for cryptocurrencies, but limitation in its code prevents its extensive use as a tool for decentralized applications or dApps. And while Ethereum is the de-facto blockchain protocol for firms looking to conduct an initial coin offering (ICO), the complexity of its Solidity programming language has limited its use to smart contracts and ICOs. So in the race to build the mother of all dApp platforms, who’s ahead and who has the biggest names building the next generation of dApps on their blockchain protocol?

Here’s a countdown of the Top 10 blockchain dApp platforms based on adoption rate, dApp development, GitHub repositories, innovativeness of the dApps built on the platform, reputation of the dApp builders using the platform and market cap as well as trade volume of the cryptocurrencies powering the blockchain.

10. Wanchain (WAN)

Starting off the countdown at No. 10 is Wanchain. With the goal of creating a new financial market of digital asset by implementing cross-chain transfers across different blockchains, Wanchain is looking to build the protocol to link them all. But the protocol isn’t just for cryptocurrency transfers, through its versatile smart contracts, privacy protection and WAN token, Wanchain can be used to build a myriad of financial applications, which has attracted the likes of companies such as Freedium, a commodities backed stable cryptocurrency to provide financing to global commodity owners and Cryptocurve, a next generation digital wallet for cryptocurrencies that attempts to make cryptocurrencies more accessible to the masses.

Wanchain ranks within the top fifty cryptocurrencies by market cap, providing sufficient liquidity for its tokens.

9. NEM (NEM)

At No. 9 is NEM, the smart asset blockchain that has attracted the likes of COMSA, DIMCOIN, Bankera and LoyalCoin. NEM offers the flexibility of two levels of blockchain, a permissioned, private blockchain as well as an open public blockchain. NEM’s ground up blockchain, which was designed for speed and scalability supports the needs of private companies which may seek the efficiency and security of the blockchain without necessarily wanting to open their business activities to the world at large.

NEM’s flexibility has attracted the likes of COMSA, a platform to provide traditional businesses the opportunity to adopt blockchain technology as well as DIMCOIN, a cryptocurrency-fueled share trading platform and Bankera, a blockchain-based banking solution. NEM ranks consistently within the top twenty cryptocurrencies traded by market cap.

8. QTUM (QTUM)

Singapore-based Qtum, which is backed by some of the biggest crypto hedge funds in the region attempts to mesh the stability of the Bitcoin blockchain, with the flexibility of Ethereum’s smart contracts, while attempting to use the more energy efficient blockchain-securing method of proof-of-stake. Qtum’s attempt to make corporate smart contracts and business applications easy ranks it at No. 8 in our countdown.

The versatile nature of QTUM has sprouted such blockchain equivalents of internet companies such as BitClave, a blockchain-powered search engine that seeks to deliver superior search results while rewarding users for leaving the breadcrumbs of their search data behind and Qbao, a decentralized social network akin to Facebook and WeChat. Medibloc uses the Qtum protocol to improve the healthcare experience and better manage healthcare data while CFun seeks to create a tokenized creativity platform to better manage intellectual property rights.

Qtum provides the only proof-of-stake smart contracts platform and in terms of liquidity, its tokens are normally ranked within the top thirty in terms of market cap.

7. Lisk (LSK)

Ask any programmer what their favorite coding language is and you’re likely to get into a protracted discussion not far off from religious beliefs. For many programmers, selecting a coding language is sometimes like deciding on a particular belief system. Bitcoin’s core is built primarily using C++ which is a difficult programming language at best in that it requires high levels of accuracy and meticulousness. God forbid you should spend several sleepless nights trying to find that missing semicolon. While Ethereum uses Soldity, another complex language that although allows for complex smart contracts, also introduces unforeseen and unforeseeable security vulnerabilities as these smart contracts grow in complexity.

Enter Lisk, which uses a programming favorite, Javascript. Just type in “Javascript programmers” in any Google search and you’ll find no shortage of programmers familiar with the language to suit your budget. For that reason, Lisk ranks at No. 7 in our countdown of the top ten blockchain protocols. The secret sauce powering such dApps as Moracle, a decentralized data service that allows other dApps to request and generate data and embed it into the blockchain for other dApps to access, Lisk also serves Sapiens, a decentralized academic and certification system.

6. TRON (TRX)

Another Singapore-based blockchain protocol enters the list at No. 6. TRON, a decentralized entertainment content sharing platform leverages the blockchain and peer-to-peer network technology to cut out middlemen such as the Apple Store and Google Play store to enable content producers to obtain funds directly from consumers. This egalitarian model has attracted the likes of several big name dApps, including GIFTO, the darling of the initial coin offering (ICO) market which sold out US$30 million worth of tokens in half an hour and is a decentralized universal gifting protocol, as well as bike-sharing app oBike.

TRON regularly flirts with the top ten cryptocurrencies by market cap, making the token which powers its protocol both desirable as well as liquid.

5. Cardano (ADA)

Entering the top five blockchain protocols, at No. 5 is Cardano, the world’s first blockchain protocol to incorporate Ouroboros, a proof-of-stake algorithm designed to deliver a secure and sustainable blockchain. Proof-of-stake is an attempt to create a more energy efficient blockchain validation process. Bitcoin, whose blockchain consumes copious amounts of electricity uses a proof-of-work model to secure its blockchain.

Cardano touts itself as being a mature blockchain that is also ready for large scale dApps and notable dApps building on the Cardano platform include decentralized global trade finance ecosystem Traxia, online gambling portal Sp8de and open source consumer electronics operating system Sirin Labs. Cardano scores highly for its ADA token being consistently ranked within the top ten cryptocurrencies by market cap.

4. ICON (ICX)

ICON is creating one of the world’s largest decentralized networks to allow various blockchains to interact with each other via smart contracts. After the invention of Bitcoin, there has been no shortage of new blockchain protocols each addressing specific or generic shortcomings of the Bitcoin blockchain. Recognizing that the blockchain world of the future will need greater tools for communication between the various blockchain protocols, ICON is looking to provide a platform where players from financial, security, insurance, healthcare, education and commerce can coexist and transact on a single blockchain network.

Founded by South Korean fintech company Dayli Financial Group, ICON has attracted no shortage of South Korean companies to its protocol, including some of the biggest names in technology like Samsung and ubiquitous chat app LINE as well as Sentinel Protocol, which provides security for individuals, secures cryptocurrency exchange wallets and payment as well as incentivizes blockchain security professionals to become white hat hackers. ICON has drawn in a slew of some of the most promising South Korean blockchain companies to build dApps on its protocol, many of which are geared to deal with issues specific to the lives of South Koreans. ICON ranks consistently within the top thirty cryptocurrencies, providing its South Korea dApp developers sufficient liquidity to run their dApps.

3. EOS (EOS)

EOS enters our countdown at No. 3 and is a blockchain protocol for the development of dApps similar to Ethereum in function, but broader than Ethereum in versatility. This “Ethereum-killer,” also had the honor of being recently ranked the world’s number one blockchain by the China Center for Information Industry Development, pipping Ethereum for the top spot. A project far more ambitious than any other blockchain protocol, EOS is meshing the best features of Bitcoin, namely security and stability, with the flexibility and computing support of Ethereum, while providing an operating system-like set of services and functions that dApps can make use of. EOS is in a nutshell, trying to create one simple to use, massively scalable dApp platform for the everyday user to empower the impending blockchain economy. What WordPress did for web publishing, EOS is seeking to do for the blockchain. EOS has attracted the likes of Emanate, a blockchain-based music-technology platform to allow artists to collaborate using smart contracts and to better monetize their creativity as well as Tokenika, which is dedicated to the successful deployment of the EOSIO ecosystem, which belongs to EOS, by becoming an EOS block producer.

EOS is also regularly among the top five cryptocurrencies by market cap and is a clear favorite of the Chinese government, which has in turn attracted plenty of projects from China to build their dApps atop the EOS platform.

2. NEO (NEO)

Often dubbed the “Ethereum of China,” NEO is the product of Alibaba’s Antshares. With the tacit approval of the Chinese government, NEO has grown from strength to strength as the blockchain platform for the building of scalable networks and dApps. And although Beijing has a decidedly anti-Bitcoin and cryptocurrency stance, it has consistently ranked NEO as one of the top five blockchains in the world. In a country where cryptocurrency trading is banned, NEO seeks to provide Chinese blockchain developers, businesses, financial institutions and even the government a blockchain platform. And because NEO is not a mined cryptocurrency, there is never a wait for blocks, which makes NEO transactions lightning fast. At its inception, 100 million NEO tokens were created, the maximum amount that will ever exist and 50 million of those tokens were held back by the NEO Foundation to administer development. Because NEO is not mined, there are no transaction fees on the NEO network for now, but that could change in the future. But that’s not to say the NEO ecosystem is without incentives, GAS tokens are used to power smart contracts and the fees are paid to NEO holders, which benefits the growth of the NEO network.

The most powerful draw of NEO for dApp developers though is the sheer variety of programming languages that the NEO protocol supports. Right now, NEO is by far the most flexible blockchain protocol which supports programming in C#, VB.Net, F#, Java, Kotlin and Python and there are plans to support C, C++, Golang and the all-important JavaScript. The sheer amount of programming languages that NEO supports puts it head and shoulders above many other blockchain protocols.

NEO’s potential to unlock the hitherto restricted cryptocurrency community in China means that many companies have thrown their hat into the NEO ring, betting that Beijing will one day unleash NEO on its substantial population. Companies like Singapore-based Switcheo, which launched the world’s first decentralized NEP-5, NEO token exchange and Zeepin, which seeks to empower creative content producers by providing greater protection, recognition and connectivity. NEO is ranked within the top twenty cryptocurrencies in the world by market cap and regularly flirts with the top ten.

1. Aion (AION)

Aion is a third generation blockchain network, providing a multi-tier blockchain protocol that addresses the unsolved questions of scalability and interoperability in blockchain networks. Just like the personal computers of the pre-internet days, blockchains today do not communicate with one another and one day they will need to. Aion seeks to solve that problem by providing what is in essence, the “internet for blockchains.” Aion will enable any private or public sector organization to send data and value between any Aion-compliant blockchain and importantly, Ethereum. Aion is also about speed, providing fast transaction processing and increased data capacity, both of which are crucial if cryptocurrencies are eventually going to be used in mainstream retail or commercial transactions. Aion is also flexible, allowing the creation of customized public or private blockchains or hybrid blockchains that maintain interoperability with other existing blockchains, while allowing dApp developers to choose the governance, consensus mechanisms, issuance and participation of their specific blockchain.

Aion’s ability to balance both the needs of the public blockchain as well as the private blockchain have attracted some of the most prominent names in business and government, including telecommunication giant Vodafone, accounting giant Deloitte. Aion’s protocol is also being used by a slew of banks and financial services firms including TD Bank, RBC Royal Bank, Scotiabank, Northern Rock and BMO Bank. Regulators and governments such as the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and Ontario Government also use Aion as well as the Toronto Stock Exchange.

But if you thought that Aion’s popularity with both traditional companies as well as governments and regulators would make its token a hotly traded commodity, you’d be wrong. Aion barely breaks into the top sixty cryptocurrencies by market cap. Shunned for ideological reasons, Aion actually provides the gateway drug for some of the biggest legacy companies and conservative governments to come onboard the blockchain. But the idea of a hybrid protocol such as Aion which facilitates both centralization and decentralization on the blockchain is anathema to blockchain purists who follow an ethos of “decentralization or bust.” Yet in the rush to develop the brave new blockchain world, purists may be ignoring the fact that legacy institutions move at a glacial pace at best, as does the rest of the world. Change is difficult and confusing and while the decentralized blockchain world that many dream of is certainly something to aspire to, it will need broader and more wholesale adoption by legacy institutions as well as the participation of cutting-edge blockchain companies to make the next leap forward. For that reason and the sheer number and quality of dApps as well as activity around Aion is why it hits our countdown at No. 1

The Blockchain Protocol to End All Blockchain Protocols

Ultimately, the blockchain is about people and the blockchain protocol that will eventually stay on top will be the one that considers the interest of all its stakeholder.
Ultimately, the blockchain is about people and the blockchain protocol that will eventually stay on top will be the one that considers the interest of all its stakeholder.

While every effort has been made to ensure that the rankings were as fair as possible according to the criteria set, ranking blockchain protocols is still prone to subjectivity. One part science, one part art, blockchain protocols and their advocates support their favorite blockchain protocols with a religiosity that borders on fanaticism. And well it should be. The blockchain world is for now an open canvas and it’s too early to call which blockchain protocol will ultimately rule the day. Just as Yahoo’s dominance was deemed to be unassailable, there will come a day as well when some of the leading blockchain protocols of today will fall by the wayside. With that in mind, it’s important to look out for the blockchain protocols that will provide their entire ecosystem, not just their dApp developers, but investors, traders and users as well, with sufficient flexibility, versatility and community engagement to weather the inevitable state of flux that will necessarily characterize the development of the blockchain world.