Choice is a great thing particularly when it comes to decentralized technologies, but with the boom experienced in the bull-run of late 2017, early 2018, there are questions as to whether the increased number of projects can lead to further confusion, particularly with those who are interested in the space but not fully conversant in the technology.
In this article we will be looking at four different platforms and what they bring to the table as well as the problems they’re trying to solve: Ethereum, Ripple, Apollo, and Tron.
Ethereum is a programmable Blockchain platform that is by far the most mature of the group, having been live since mid-2015. The premise behind Ethereum was to add a programmable layer to create a platform that can be used to decentralized more than just simple currency.
It suffered several challenges along the way, notably the DAO hack which caused a hard fork but having recently regained its second place by market cap proves that there is a strong community backing this project. This is evidenced further by the number of Solidity programmers that are available which is augmented by the number of tools that are available as well as by how well the platform is documented, maintained.
It remains to be seen how effectively they manage to overcome the evident scalability issues that are plaguing the platform, with which many see as an important hurdle that must be overcome if this platform is to consolidate its position but with a roadmap to do so there is cautious optimism amongst many of its proponents.
Interest in Ethereum also comes from businesses and organisations that can deploy their own Ethereum-based blockchain within the private or consortium model.
Unlike Ethereum, Ripple is only meant to solve one very big problem very well: near real-time yet cheap transfer of value. Interest in the platform comes mainly from institutional clients such as banks that can use it to reduce the efficiencies plaguing the older technologies. Ripple utilises the XRP token to be able to transfer this value.
Ripple’s main selling point therefore is the scalability, with a promised throughput capacity of “over 50,000 transactions/second”, but the trade-off comes at the cost of reduced decentralization, with just 55 validators currently and, perhaps more importantly, each of them required to be a “part of an interconnected web of validators who each trust a specific set of validators not to collude”.
Criticism is often also levelled at Ripple for having control over substantial amounts of coins that have been pre-mined.
The premise behind Tron is that it can offer all that Ethereum can but without any of the scalability issues that plague the Ethereum platform. Having only been released in early-to-mid 2018, Tron inevitably benefited from a lot of the disadvantages Ethereum faced as first mover and it doesn’t take a lot of reading up about these platforms to see that they’re both in each other’s crosshairs, even though competition of this sort can also be healthy in the longer term.
While there are a lot of similarities, such as the possibility to build smart contracts with Solidity, Tron promises a throughput of at least 2,000 TPS as well as no cost for executing transactions on smart contracts (unlike Ethereum).
According to Tron founder Justin Sun, the coin’s airdrop which is also described as Project Atlas, aims to “distribute tokens to users in Q1 of 2019. This will be the biggest platform for blockchain with over a hundred million users. The first step in building Project Atlas was to make BitTorrent Speed, which was built in less than 6 months”, he adds.
Sun also has ambitious plans for Tron especially with the BitTorrent partnership expected to take off in 2019.
“Our next steps in 2019 would be Project Atlas, DApps, community and tech support. In particular, support is very important to us as TRON is community oriented and consumer-focused.BitTorrent Web is another step towards more user acquisition, and thus user empowerment. Lastly, we’re looking at partnership with established companies, such as Swisscom and Oracle to accelerate the decentralization of the Internet”.
Tron uses a TPOS, a delegated proof-of-stake based consensus mechanism where 27 super representatives produce the blocks who are in-turn voted for by TRX account holders. This can in some ways be seen as a compromise on decentralization, but the trade-off, of course, is the higher scalability.
While not a privacy coin, Tron has recently outlined their intentions to be able to provide an optional privacy layer in future development.
Apollo is very much the newest of these platforms. The project is presented as containing all of the features that the other projects have in one way or another already pioneered while adding a few features of their own. Apollo was originally a fork of the NXT platform rather than Ethereum which unlike the other technologies in this list, gives importance to privacy and control over one’s data. Unsurprisingly this is also one of Apollo’s main objectives. In addition to multiple layers of privacy for one-to-one transactions through technologies like IP Masking and integrated coin shuffling, high scalability is also at the core of Apollo’s feature set with Hermes 1.0, Apollo’s newest update incorporating 2-second block speeds, faster than any of the other platforms.
Apollo is a platform that is still very much in active development, perhaps more so than other technologies with core features still being worked on. Development has been consistent though, and features include a marketplace to allow users to list goods and sell them worldwide in a decentralized way, and which is fully finalized and decentralized is already live. This forms a key part of Apollo’s premise of avoiding regulation.
Steve McCullah, Apollo’s Director of Business Development is bullish about the currency’s prospects.
“The Apollo Foundation has launched the first all-in-one cryptocurrency focused on integrating every useful feature from mainstream cryptocurrencies and combining those with unmatched privacy and is now the fastest, most private and most feature-rich cryptocurrency on the market. Because of recent breakthroughs such as it’s Updater, which updates the blockchain using a transaction, Adaptive Block Generation and it’s two-second blocks, there is a case that could be made that Apollo is also the most advanced cryptocurrency.”
A key selling point made by the Apollo platform is that the platform is unregulated, meaning that the privacy elements to it will be beyond any government control. At the same time, they promise to make the platform easily accessible to those who don’t have a bank account by providing physical buy locations, mobile options, and even creating a physical currency.
While details are scarce, another major development for Apollo that is planned for 2020 is Smart Contract support. We are yet to see what sort of languages they support and how the smart contracts will be, such as Turing completeness, which only time can tell.
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