Bitcoin laid the foundation of a decentralized peer-to-peer asset with a unique economic security model that is trustless, borderless, and censorship-resistant. Bitcoin is a standalone blockchain and doesn’t have an execution environment for running smart contracts.
Ethereum brought much-needed flexibility and extensibility to this space by introducing a programmable blockchain that supports smart contracts with its Turing Complete EVM (Ethereum Virtual Machine). Soon after the launch of Ethereum, the smart contract space exploded that led to the ICO boom of 2017-18.
Over the years, we have noticed that smart contracts inherit all the problems of their underlying blockchain architecture, making them less suitable for building large-scale applications. If you remember, a single application called CryptoKitties once brought the entire Ethereum network to its knees due to a large number of concurrent transactions.
CryptoKitties was just a simple interactive game. These days, the applications getting deployed on the blockchain are getting more and more complex. We are now looking at lending and borrowing, DEX, Synthetic Assets, Insurance, Payments, Remittances, and much more.
It has become a known fact that large-scale and complex applications can't rely on smart contracts alone. They need a custom blockchain that is extensible, scalable, and optimized around solving a specific set of problems. Developers have started to realize this, and they are now building custom and scalable blockchains instead of compromising with the limitations of smart contracts.
In this article, we will focus on some of the promising blockchain platforms that are built from the ground up in accordance with the requirements of large-scale and complex applications.
Since last year, the number of purpose-built blockchains is rising with a strong focus on Defi, extensibility with niche-focused smart contracts, cross-chain interoperability, and hyper-scalability with efficient consensus mechanisms.
Let's explore each of these platforms to see how they are building the future of a utility-focused decentralized ecosystem.
Edgeware is a smart contract chain for the next generation of decentralized applications. Edgeware is built using the Substrate framework, and is a fully EVM-compatible platform that allows developers to migrate their smart contracts from Ethereum to Edgeware with little to no changes. New developers who want to get started with Edgeware can use Rust and WebAssembly to build and deploy smart contracts on the platform.
Edgeware comes with a community-managed treasury, decentralized proposal system, and a network of DAOs. Edgeware has a firm focus on community building and the platform helps people connect with each other, share their skillset, and get funding for their projects from the community treasury. If you're a developer or a creative professional, Edgeware is the best place to work in crypto and bring your ideas to life with the help of strong community support.
Acala is another Defi-focused blockchain platform aiming to become a parachain on the Polkadot network. The platform aims to build a set of financial primitives that include a stablecoin (ticker: ACA), a DEX with unified liquidity provisioning, and staking derivatives where users will get Liquid DOT (LDOT) tokens that will represent their stake on the network.
Acala has a native EVM pallet which makes it fully EVM-compatible. This native compatibility allows existing Ethereum developers to migrate their smart contracts to the Acala network without making significant changes to their codebase, and benefit from the ecosystem of the Acala and Polkadot network.
Acala is a perfect example of a niche-focused blockchain built from scratch that is optimized around a specific utility and use case of decentralized finance. This design approach prevents congestion on the network and helps build a more robust ecosystem, unlike other do-it-all smart contract platforms in the ecosystem like Ethereum.
Accord is an open-source blockchain project for smart legal contracts that are called 'promissory notes'. The Promissory notes are debt contracts, and they are common financial instruments in the non-banking world. They are mainly used in supply chain finance or trade and specify the terms under which the parties involved in a transaction will settle the debt.
Through these promissory notes on the Accord platform, sellers around the world can offer credit to buyers with a guarantee that sellers have access to cash flow within the dates specified in the agreement. The Accord project is built with Corda, which is a framework for building permissioned distributed solutions and networks. Corda is suitable to build platforms for highly regulated industries like banking, capital markets, trade finance, and insurance.
Gvanta by Grandeo
Gvanta is an enterprise-focused file sharing blockchain platform that uses state-of-the-art cryptography for file management and encrypted storage for confidential files. Gvanta also uses a blend of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to develop new protocols for storing, encrypting, and sharing data. They also support integration with major cloud service providers like Azure or AWS, along with native support for on-premise data centers to store, manage, and share your data.
Gvanta enterprise blockchain is built using the Hyperledger Fabric framework developed by the Linux Foundation. Gvanta is taking a modular approach and has built a range of different projects to integrate with the Gvanta ecosystem, including Stor3, DNA Chain Genome Solutions, Blockchain Voting Systems, and a machine learning research platform.
Popular Frameworks For Building Blockchains
Building a blockchain isn't as easy as rolling up a series of smart contracts. However, we now have various frameworks that make it easier to build and launch niche-focused and purpose-built blockchains. These frameworks provide a layer of abstraction and take away most of the complexity that the developers have to deal with, such as the consensus layer, managing transactions and accounts, etc.
There are three most popular frameworks for building customized blockchain platforms; Substrate, Corda, and Hyperledger. Let's discuss each of them to see how they facilitate the developers.
Substrate is a blockchain development framework that provides a rich set of primitives and takes a modular approach towards blockchain development. Developers can use Substrate in one of the three ways, as they have to choose between technical freedom and development ease.
Substrate also comes with a unique set of features that are never seen before in any live and public blockchain platform. It offers Hot-swappable and pluggable consensus, where you can change your consensus mechanism on the fly, and Hot-upgradeable and pluggable STF, where you can change your state transition function even when your Substrate-based blockchain is live.
Substrate is a product of Parity Technologies, a company founded by Dr. Gavin James Wood back in 2016. Before founding Parity Technologies, Dr. Gavin Wood was the co-founder and CTO of Ethereum. He coded the alpha release of Ethereum, wrote the original Ethereum Yellow Paper that described the EVM specifications, and later worked on the general platform architecture and early design of Solidity.
Corda is a framework to build permissioned distributed solutions and networks. Unlike the Substrate framework, Corda is more focused on enterprises, such as the traditional financial institutions, to build distributed and shared ledgers and reduce human involvement in managing specific tasks and transactions.
Corda framework isn't for building public and trustless blockchains. The whole idea of Corda is to target permissioned environments where the parties (nodes) are known to the network, and every party has to join the specific Corda network with permission from the node operator. This permissioned architecture is useful, especially when dealing with sensitive and private data.
Corda is a product developed by the team at R3, a company founded by David E. Rutter and Todd McDonald back in 2014 to drive digital transformation in highly regulated industries. The founding team has a background in financial services and capital markets, where they saw a serious lack of trust in how different firms in highly regulated environments collaborate and transact with each other. To solve this problem, the team launched Corda, a framework for purpose-built distributed ledger applications.
Hyperledger is a set of community-focused, open source frameworks and libraries for enterprise-grade blockchain deployments. Under the umbrella of Hyperledger, we have various DLT frameworks such as Hyperledger Fabric, Sawtooth, Indy, Iroha, and Besu, along with developer tools like Hyperledger Caliper Explorer, and a set of libraries like Hyperledger Ursa, Quilt, and Transact.
Like the Corda framework, Hyperledger focuses on building permissioned blockchains for enterprise environments where the nodes are known across the network, and there is a level of trust among the parties. Hyperledger has gained a lot of traction in recent years and has clients across the globe ranging from many different industries, including finance, healthcare, and supply chain.
Hyperledger was launched back in 2016 by the Linux Foundation, one of the largest nonprofit organizations in the world, working to enable innovation through open source software. Soon after the launch, the Hyperledger project announced over 30 founding members that include the likes of Intel, IBM, Accenture, VMware, and Wells Fargo, to name a few.
The blockchain space has evolved very rapidly, from simple smart contracts to now large-scale and complex applications to cater to the growing needs of the consumers in the ecosystem. Building and launching a custom blockchains is hard, but we do have frameworks that add a layer of abstraction in building new blockchain platforms that are optimized to solve specific sets of problems.
These blockchain frameworks offer the required flexibility, and extensibility, so the developers can focus on both technical freedom and ease of development.