Next only to Bitcoin in terms of market capitalization, Ethereum established itself as the first-choice platform for dApp development, opening doors to DeFi and programmable smart contracts for millions of users. However, just like any blockchain, it has its limitations. Above all, the gas fees can be outrageous since they're based on the current supply and demand, meaning that the busier network is, the more you’re expected to pay for the transaction.
Another frustrating thing about the Ethereum blockchain is its scalability limitations since it can only execute 15 transactions per second. As more users flock to it and more dApps are deployed, the network becomes clogged, resulting in exorbitant fees and longer transaction processing.
Obviously, many people started looking for alternatives to the Ethereum network, and developers rushed to satisfy the demand. Thus, numerous “Ethereum killers” emerged, prompting a heated race between themselves for the title of the new best smart contract blockchain. These five chains, so far, haven’t taken down Ethereum but are actively seeking to do so while building a strong community of supporters around their ecosystems.
Native token: SOL
Market Cap: $11.6 billion (as of July 15, 2022, according to CoinMarketCap)
TVL: $2.54 billion (according to DeFi Llama)
Created in 2017, Solana is a high-speed blockchain platform with smart contract functionality. To verify transactions, the network uses a unique consensus model, a combination of the proof-of-history (PoH) consensus mechanism with the proof-of-stake (PoS). Such a hybrid structure allows Solana to handle over 710,000 transactions per second (TPS) without any scaling solutions Ethereum relies on.
Despite the initial ambitious goal to solve the blockchain trilemma of achieving speed, security, and decentralization at the same time, one component seems lacking. Solana suffering several outrages in a month left many wondering about the actual degree of the network’s decentralization. But, despite these issues, it is still one of the biggest ecosystems in crypto, offering low transaction gas fees for a fraction of a cent.
Native token: ADA
Market Cap: $14.1 billion
TVL: $121 million
Cardano was launched by one of Ethereum’s co-founders, Charles Hoskinson, who left the project over a dispute with Vitalik Buterin. This "Ethereum killer" was designed with an emphasis on peer-reviewed research and evidence-based methods and named after Italian polymath Gerolamo Cardano, while its native coin ADA was named after mathematician Ada Lovelace, who is also considered the first computer programmer.
Cardano’s PoS algorithm is called Ouroboros and is believed to be the most energy-efficient protocol available. The project has already established a few fruitful partnerships, including the development of blockchain-based IDs for Ethiopian students, record storage of trees planted by global reforestation company Veritree, and minting NFTs for the e-sports company Rival.
Native token: BNB
Market Cap: $37.2 billion
TVL: $6.19 billion
Binance is perhaps the most known cryptocurrency exchange, being also the largest in terms of daily trading volume. In 2020, the exchange introduced BNB Chain (formerly Binance Smart Chain), which was designed as an alternative to Ethereum to enable dApp development with higher speed and lower transaction fees. BNB Chain uses a slightly modified version of proof-of-stake known as Proof of Staked Authority (PoSA).
Many, however, criticize BNB's centralization since it has only 21 active validators chosen daily. And given the wary attitude of the crypto community towards centralized exchanges, BNB Chain would have to put a lot of effort into gaining users' trust.
Native token: AVAX
Market Cap: $5 billion
TVL: $2.77 billion
Avalanche advertises itself as a “blazingly fast, low-cost and eco-friendly” blockchain, boasting 4,500 TPS, settlement in under 1 second, and fees that are a fraction of a cent. Such impressive performance is achieved due to its unique infrastructure that connects several blockchains together into a single network. The X, P, and C chains allow Avalanche to distribute the transactional workload and tackle scalability limitations.
Avalanche founders believed that interoperability of blockchains is the future, so its C-chain that hosts the network’s DeFi ecosystem runs on the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM), enabling easy transfers of Avalanche and Ethereum assets between blockchains.
Native token: DOT
Market Cap: $6.2 billion
Polkadot is a PoS-based smart contract blockchain that processes about 1,000 transactions per second. It was launched by Gavin Wood, another Ethereum co-founder who left the project to develop his own vision of the decentralized protocol. Unlike other competing blockchains, which are centered around their native cryptocurrency, Polkadot allows its smart contracts to run independently from the main chain on the so-called parachains secured by their own token.
Initially, Polkadot founders aimed to address the “one-blockchain maximalism,” betting on interoperability that would enable blockchains to exchange data effectively. Apps and services on Polkadot can securely communicate across chains, allowing any type of asset to be sent between previously incompatible networks.
Will any of these blockchains ever kill Ethereum?
Despite the heated competition, Ethereum remains the most popular and recognized platform for dApp development. The upcoming Merge set for September is expected to solve many of its shortcomings. But even if Ethereum keeps its position as the first-mover smart contracts blockchain, there’s a place for more than one platform in the industry. Perhaps, the unique features of the blockchains listed above would allow them to crave the niche in the market that Ethereum is too mainstream to fill.