Blockchain-based applications use a distributed ledger to track transaction details, where every user’s computer stores a copy of the transaction record. While originally used to underpin cryptocurrency transactions, the technology has quickly evolved to serve a wide range of business practices, solving a whole host of previously unattainable challenges.

Aware of this, many businesses are looking to build solutions either internally or by contracting developers. While it’s still possible for companies to build their proprietary blockchain architecture to support the application, that adds time and complexity to the development cycle.

Luckily, there’s a wide range of blockchain platforms available to allow developers to focus on adapting the platform to fit their needs rather than starting from scratch. When deciding which route to take, you’ll want to compare the features of the available platforms in relation to your needs.

Among the most popular blockchain platforms, each one will have features that might fit one industry very well while not being the best for others. We assembled this guide of the most popular blockchains to help you decide which one is right for you.

Factors to Consider

Some of the differences you’ll find among the architectures featured in our blockchain platforms list have to do with their industry focus (or universality), governance, open-source nature, smart contract availability, and consensus type.

Ethereum

Industry: Cross-industry
Governance: Ethereum developers
Ledger type: Permissionless
Open source: Yes
Smart contracts: Yes
Consensus type: PoW (Proof of Work)

Considered by many to be the industry-leading enterprise blockchain platform, Ethereum has certainly racked up an impressive number of uses. Now it has probably the widest base of developer talent available, making it accessible to choose as a platform.

Created in 2014 by industry visionary Vitalik Buterin, Ethereum was founded on the goal of creating a trustless, contract-based generic ledger for open-source development.

Hyperledger Fabric

Industry: Cross-industry
Governance: Linux Foundation
Ledger type: Permissioned
Open source: Yes
Smart contracts: Yes
Consensus type: Pluggable framework

The blockchain was introduced in 2016 by the Linux Foundation, a nonprofit technology consortium founded in 2000 to standardize Linux and support open-source development based on the platform. With a solid backing organization like that, Hyperledger Fabric quickly jumped to the top of the list of popular blockchain platforms.

Some key points about the blockchain are that it is production-ready, already boasting 185+ collaborating enterprises, a modular architecture and read-only history inquiries. Crucially, Hyperledger underpins the IBM blockchain solution network, putting a wealth of resources behind the technology.

R3 Corda

Industry: Financial
Governance: R3 Consortium
Ledger type: Permissioned
Open source: Yes
Smart contracts: Yes
Consensus type: Pluggable framework

Corda is a culmination of a multi-year development collaboration with 200 industry partners to create a financial industry-specific open-source blockchain platform. Developed by tech consortium R3, Corda caters to financial solutions due to the fact that it can handle extremely complex transactions and limits access to transaction data.

There has been some controversy surrounding the conservative approach the company has taken with transparency, often accused of having a bank-like attitude. For some financial solutions, the platform is still poised to bring targeted benefits.

Ripple

Industry: Financial
Governance: Ripple Labs
Ledger type: Permissioned
Open source: Yes
Smart contracts: No
Consensus type: Probabilistic voting (passive)

Another finance-centric blockchain platform, Ripple has had quite a journey in the industry. Considered by many to be less open-source than other solutions, slowly but surely more parts of the code have been opened up to developers. Increasingly, banks and lending institutions have been using Ripple as a settlement infrastructure technology.

Some drawbacks of the technology as a platform for development is that fewer developers have experience with it, and there’s less transparency than in other solutions. The lack of integration of smart contracts makes transaction times faster, but limits the availability of automated safeguards to approve transactions.

Quorum

Industry: Cross-industry
Governance: Ethereum and JP Morgan Chase
Ledger type: Permissioned
Open source: Yes
Smart contracts: Yes
Consensus type: Majority voting

While based on and created in collaboration with Ethereum, Quorum is worth mentioning because it’s one of the first open-source blockchain platforms put out by such a large and well-established financial institution as JP Morgan Chase.

In addition to an innovative graphics design interface, Quorum makes use of a majority voting consensus mechanism for smart contracts, which some prefer due to the required user interaction.

Multichain

Industry: Cross-industry
Governance: Coin Services
Ledger type: Permissioned
Open source: Yes
Smart contracts: No
Consensus type: Probabilistic voting (passive)

Released in 2017 by Coin Services and led by Dr. Gideon Greenspan, this popular open-source blockchain platform is built off bitcoin’s blockchain. Limited by the blockchain’s slower transaction times and lacking smart contract support, this solution is more basic.

The main strength of the Multichain platform is the open-source nature, free or very inexpensive pricing, and ease of entry for developers.

IOTA

Industry: Cross-industry
Governance: IOTA Foundation
Ledger type: Permissioned or Public
Open source: Yes
Smart contracts: Not currently, but supposedly under development
Consensus type: Probabilistic voting (passive)

While technically a cross-industry solution, IOTA is tailor-made for the Internet of Things (IoT). The unique mechanism of the platform allows for much faster transaction settlement times and unlimited scalability of the network. As more and more devices communicate with each other, this system will likely help to coordinate all those ‘transactions.’

Founded in 2017 by David Sonstebo and Dominik Schiener (IOTA Foundation), the architecture allows users on the network to listen to all transactions, or to listen to a trusted ‘coordinator’ who is verifying all transactions. It’s a unique centralized approach to a decentralized system, but allows for unlimited scalability.

How to Choose a Blockchain Platform

As you can see, there are many options for a blockchain platform to support your business. We only highlighted the most popular ones, while there are many others out there and it’s an ever-growing list. Depending on your industry, your needs and your technical expertise, the best first step is to find a blockchain development firm to help you decide which platform will work best for you.

Even if you have an in-house development team, talking to a blockchain expert is going to set you on the right path and reduce chances for wasted effort by picking the wrong platform. The same is true if you think none of the currently available platforms meets your needs — blockchain consultants will help you verify this before you spend money reinventing the wheel.

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