Reuben Jackson

I'm a blockchain security specialist and writer living in NY.

The Top 5 Smart Contract Development Platforms

Smart contract platforms are often considered to offer better long-term investment potential than pure cryptocurrencies. Despite Bitcoin now being more than ten years old, cryptocurrencies continue to face criticism for their speculative nature. On the other hand, a development platform can derive long-term value from the various projects built on it.
As things stand in 2019, there are several big-name blockchain platforms to choose from, each with their native tokens. However, each also has its specific characteristics, opportunities, and challenges, which can quickly change over time. Therefore, before making any investment-based decision on these platforms, it’s worth considering how each individual platform is performing in 2019. 

1. Ethereum

Ethereum is the original smart contract platform, and still holds the first-mover advantage of running the most dApps. It’s also probably the platform that’s the closest to gaining mainstream acceptance, given that Microsoft and AWS both offer Ethereum blockchain-as-a-service. 
However, Ethereum continues to be plagued with scalability issues, and limited to around 20 tps, with no apparent solution in sight. The long-awaited ETH 2.0 upgrade, dubbed Serenity, still has no confirmed release date. Most recently, Vitalik Buterin commented that it might be possible for Ethereum to use Bitcoin Cash as a scaling layer. This drew criticism from the community, as it seemed to indicate that ETH 2.0 was still some way off. Furthermore, Ethereum’s market share continues to drop against the dominance of BTC.  

2. RSK

RSK is a smart contract development platform developed as a sidechain pegged to the Bitcoin blockchain. This gives it the significant advantage of being linked to the world’s first, most secure, and most trusted blockchain. 
It’s also good news for RSK that BTC has been steadily gaining market dominance over the recent bull run, topping 65% for the first time in over two years. A managing director at JPMorgan recently commented on the influx of institutional investment to BTC. His views are underscored by the CME hitting record highs on Bitcoin futures trading, and the upcoming launch of Bakkt means a sunny outlook for BTC. 
Investors in RSK have multiple investment options, through the first layer RBTC token, and RSK has also been developing out its platform. There is now a second layer, called the RSK Infrastructure Framework (RIF) OS, which also has its own token. The RIFOS layer provides developer features beyond pure smart contracts, including storage, payments channels, and communication. 
RSK offers everything that Ethereum does, and might possibly have solved its scalability issue as well, achieving up to 100 tps. Perhaps its biggest challenge is that it currently doesn’t attract the same headlines that EOS and Ethereum do. However, given that Bitcoin is currently flying high above the competition, this could quickly change. 

3. EOS 

After a record-breaking ICO, EOS launched in mid-2018 to much anticipation. The platform has a strong team, with CTO Dan Larimer boasting a proven track record from his previous projects Bitshares and Steem. 
However, the major Achilles heel for EOS is its lack of focus on decentralization. There are only 21 EOS block producers, which already indicates weakness to many quarters of a community which prioritizes decentralization. Moreover, previous reports suggest that the block producers have been forming cartels to influence decisions on the EOS network. 
Recently, EOS made a big announcement timed to coincide with the first anniversary of its main net launch. It plans to develop Voice; it’s own decentralized social network on the EOS platform. Within a few short weeks, the announcement was eclipsed by the news that the world’s biggest social network is planning to launch its own cryptocurrency. Time will tell if the EOS Voice network develops into a product that can rival Facebook. 

4. TRON 

TRON has the lofty ambition of “decentralizing the internet” and has outlined its plan of getting there in five stages. It’s steadily gaining users, but unfortunately, 2019 has seen TRON making headlines for reasons unrelated to its platform success. 
TRON CEO Justin Sun’s lunch much-vaunted $4m lunch with Warren Buffett was recently postponed, allegedly due to Sun suffering from kidney stones. The crypto sphere quickly lit up with rumors that he was banned from leaving China, causing him to make an appearance on Twitter denying the claims. The company ran into trouble recently when there was a claim made that they were working in close association with the Ponzi scheme Wave Field Super Community. This lead to major price fluctuations until the company distanced itself from the ponzi scheme after which the price soon recovered. 

5. Stellar 

Like RSK and the polar opposite of TRON, Stellar is a platform that doesn’t often make headlines. However, it has some impressive credentials and a compelling social vision. Stellar CEO Jed McCaleb has long been involved in cryptocurrencies. He was in charge of crypto exchange Mt.Gox although he had left before the hacking scandal. Later, he formed Ripple together with Brad Garlinghouse, before starting up Stellar. 
Stellar aims to provide the world with access to low-cost financial services. The company has established partnerships with IBM and Wirex, as well as several smaller initiatives aimed at bringing cryptocurrencies to developing countries. 
However, the network recently suffered an outage of more than an hour, which appears to indicate that the platform is still too dependent on only a few nodes. Although this could be explained as teething problems, it’s an issue that needs fixing, given that one of blockchains much-touted strengths is decentralization. 
There are other development platforms to choose from. However, these five are among the biggest and brightest in 2019. Each has its own specific strengths and weaknesses, and only time will tell if one comes to reign supreme over the others. As with any investment, always do your research.

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August 6th, 2019

What’s the best way to rank the popularity of a smart contract development platform? Total agreements? Number of apps? Number of apps above each threshold? This is quality introduction to smart contract platforms and trends, but would be great to report on more granular activity.

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