The whole fintech industry is built around the interactions of various institutions. Fintech products can be as advanced and complex as you want them to be; they can solve essential problems for their customers, but in the end, the focal point is always some bank happily sitting on money. Thus, centralized finances are the banks and their subsidiaries. Many things in fintech are controlled by bureaucrats and most fintech apps function only because they are allowed to.
Decentralized finance is another story. Anyone can develop and deploy an application, and nobody can control or stop it - it works as long as the network that hosts the application is up and running.
The only thing that matters in the case of DeFi is the application itself and its many features, which are dependant on the blockchain it will be running on. The main attributes for a blockchain are:
- Programming language
Before starting to analyze these points, we have to choose a few blockchains to be used in our analysis. These blockchains will be:
- Ethereum - The most popular blockchain right now.
- EOS - The so-called “Ethereum killer”. Both are still very much alive.
- Plasma - The newest contender claiming financial freedom for its users.
Which one is the best for building a new DeFi application? It’s impossible to say, as every developer has to choose by themselves depending on their own unique needs. But in this article, we’ll try to help you in making the choice, providing all the necessary information.
Breaking down the blockchains’ capabilities
First of all, security and decentralization. The security of Ethereum is undoubtedly one of the highest right now - it has more than 9,300 nodes running, which means it’s also highly decentralized. The more nodes a blockchain has, the more expensive an attack over its network is. The cost of a one-hour attack on Ethereum is $102,000. Maybe it’s not so much for a one-time occurrence, but it’s definitely expensive enough to run a prolonged attack. Ethereum seems like an obvious choice. The high decentralization makes it one of the favorite networks for developers - with more of them joining Ethereum each month.
EOS provides high-security as well. It’s impossible to attack it due to its architecture - it has 21 block producers. Usually, those producers are large entities such as Bitfinex, they provide their computational power to process transactions. They have been elected by the community, they are trusted, and the EOS blockchain is secure only because these block-producing entities are benevolent. We should assume they have only good intentions, but the reality is that the blockchain is in their control. It’s clear that it’s pointless to talk about decentralization here.
PlasmaPay is a fairly new smart contracts platform and it packs high-level security, as it’s designed to be used by commercial companies and even banks. It features a LpPoS protocol, the nodes with the largest deposit in the network are automatically elected block producers. So, it’s possible to take their place anytime by getting a larger deposit, thus the network stays more or less decentralized, secure, and open to new nodes.
Scalability and development
For Ethereum, scalability is a very sensitive topic. Ethereum can’t scale well yet; it handles only 15 transactions per second, even while its creator, Vitalik Buterin, plans to scale it to millions of tps. It’s simple: Ethereum is still in its early days. It was built with the aim of maximizing decentralization. Those aforementioned 9,000 nodes have to synchronize at every block - that’s why it’s secure but so very slow. Any significant user load simply halts the blockchain - such as in the case of CryptoKitties.
As a tradeoff, it has, as we have already mentioned, a very developed community that creates new projects. Most of the DeFi projects in blockchain space are built on Ethereum, the most popular amongst them currently being MakerDAO. The reason is simple - it’s decentralized and no one can force their censorship over a launched application. The Solidity programming language, its own language for coding smart contracts, is not the simplest one, but it has the first-mover popularity and the community took it as it is.
On the other hand, EOS doesn’t have problems with scalability - it can handle around 4,800 tps. Its scalability potential is enough to move all of Visa’s volume to it - Visa has 1,700 tps on average. But at the same time, almost nobody builds DeFi applications on EOS because you have to entrust your money to certain entities (the block producers) and it’s no better than building a fintech application connected to banks.
As for coding, EOS supports many languages, but its main language for smart contracts is C++. It’s a very powerful language, but it’s not the most convenient choice - it’s even harder than Solidity. C++ coders are plentiful, since it’s one of the oldest programming languages, but due to its complexity it wasn’t the best choice for mass adoption among developers.
Some may be bothered by the block producers, thinking it has the same centralization as EOS, but that’s not the case. The block producers are chosen from the infinite amount of nodes, the only requirement is to have a large deposit at stake. Thus, providing that missing piece of a finance app: decentralization.
The financial industry is large, one of the largest in the world - the global fintech market was valued at $111.8 billion in 2018. By 2023 it is estimated to reach $305.7 billion. Taking the growth of DeFi into account, it would be normal that a large percentage of that amount will be comprised of decentralized applications.
There will be enough space for several platforms, but the ones that are established now and those that are more developer-friendly (adopting a popular programming language and offering an easy-to-use API, such as PlasmaPay) will probably get more attention.
The author is not associated with any of the projects mentioned.