Robust smart contracts are essential for the efficient performance of blockchain solutions. But how do you decide which smart contract platform best suits your needs?
Blockchain technology can now be found in lots of different spheres, from finance and healthcare to sports and logistics. Its many benefits, such as decentralization and immutability, have helped to secure the technology’s steady growth — blockchain’s market value is estimated to shoot up from $17.57 billion in 2023 to $469.49 billion by 2030.
To ensure that a blockchain solution operates seamlessly, you need to develop reliable smart contracts. These are blockchain-based programs that automatically execute predetermined actions.
Smart contracts can be deployed on various blockchains, so it’s crucial to choose the right one based on your specific project requirements.
In this article, we will examine the five best smart contract platforms, highlighting their unique features, advantages, and potential drawbacks.
Take a look at our detailed overview of Ethereum Merge
This article is part of our larger series dedicated to Smart contracts. To explore this topic in greater detail, here’s the list of articles we recommend:
Best Smart Contract Use Cases Across Industries to Explore in 2024 and Beyond
(In)Famous Smart Contract Hacks: Why They Happened and How to Avoid Them
How to Audit a Smart Contract in the Most Efficient Way
Most Common Smart Contract Vulnerabilities and How to Prevent Them
What are the benefits of smart contracts?
There are several benefits that make smart contracts so valuable:
- Decentralization — since smart contracts are self-executing programs, they require no authority or middlemen, ensuring a high level of decentralization.
- Error prevention — smart contracts leave no room for human error, as they function according to a strictly determined plan.
- Security and transparency — smart contracts are immutable blockchain entities, meaning no one can tamper with them without being detected straightaway.
- Speed — transactions made with the help of smart contracts are fast, with no time being wasted on decision-making or manual operations.
- Expense reduction — no middlemen equals no extra spendings.
Overview of the top 5 smart contract platforms
Over the years in blockchain development, we have worked with many smart contract platforms and examined both their strengths and weaknesses. So now we are well qualified to highlight the top 5 smart contract platforms: Ethereum, Solana, Avalanche, Algorand, and Hyperledger Fabric.
Let’s take a closer look at these platforms.
Ethereum is the first smart contract platform. Since transitioning to the Proof-of-Stake consensus mechanism, Ethereum’s transaction speed has improved significantly. At present, Ethereum processes 20-40 tps, but it is estimated to achieve 100,000 transactions per second (tps) once the platform completes the next upgrade and leverages sharding.
The transition also drastically reduces the environmental toll, lowering energy consumption by 99.95%. What’s more, transaction fees have also plummeted. At the time of writing, the average translation fee is 0.0005 ETH which is less than $1.
Ethereum has a powerful community and lots of documentation and manuals. Moreover, the majority of smart contract developers have experience deploying Ethereum-based smart contracts.
Ethereum’s smart contracts are written in its own smart contract programming language — Solidity. It provides detailed guidelines for building smart contracts, simplifying the process for developers.
Ethereum has a smart contract execution environment called Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM). EVM is compatible with other blockchains such as Solana and Avalanche, allowing developers to transfer their smart contracts to other platforms.
There are, however, some drawbacks of Ethereum. First, as there is a massive amount of users, the network can get overloaded, resulting in longer processing time and higher transaction fees.
Second, some experts say that the transition from Proof-of-Work to Proof-of-Stake consensus may make the blockchain more vulnerable to security breaches.
Solana uses a combination of Proof-of-Stake and Proof-of-History consensus algorithms and can process transactions in parallel, thus significantly boosting the network’s performance. The maximum transaction speed on the network is 65,000 tps. Solana also offers a low transaction fee, just 0.000005 SOL or $0.0002.
Smart contracts built on Solana are written in Rust, C++, and C. These are popular programming languages, so there is no need for a developer to learn a completely new one.
Solana offers a range of smart contract development tools such as frameworks and SDKs. What’s more, developers can also use the Solana Program Library — a collection of tried and tested smart contracts that can be readily integrated into the dApps.
In addition, Solana is compatible with EVM, thanks to the cross-chain Neon EVM solution. It means that developers can run Ethereum-based smart contracts on the Solana ecosystem.
Solana has strengthened its security measures in response to security violations and network outages taking place in 2021-2022. In 2023, the network suffered only one outage in February, maintaining 100% uptime for the rest of the year.
Solana is commonly referred to as one of Ethereum’s key competitors. Therefore, we compared both in our Solana vs Ethereum video. Check it out to better understand their differences and similarities, and choose the one that suits your business case.
The Avalanche network is capable of processing 4,500 transactions per second. However, the number can soon reach 143,000 tps as Avalanche is working on its HyperSDK blockchain upgrade.
The network’s gas fee is low, averaging around 26.4 gwei or $0.011.
Another benefit of Avalanche is EVM compatibility, meaning that developers can leverage all the tools offered by Ethereum and its programming language and then seamlessly transfer their dApps to Avalanche.
One more tangible perk is that the platform is able to withstand the “51% attack”. To take control of Avalanche, fraudsters will need to hold 80% of the validation authority.
However, Avalanche still has a long way to go to catch up with its more firmly established counterparts, such as Ethereum and Solana. Also, some experts fear that Avalanche can be subjected to some degree of centralization since its nodes may delegate their tasks to third parties, creating the conditions for node hoarding.
Algorand smart contract platform offers a transaction speed of 7,500 tps at an average price of 0.001 ALGO or $0.0001.
Algorand’s consensus algorithm, Pure Proof of Stake (PPoS), provides each user with an equal chance of being selected as a validator. Thus it ensures the highest possible degree of security, since no one knows who the next block validators are.
Developers can write Algorand smart contracts in Transaction Execution Approval Language (TEAL) or Python. Plus, the platform has its own smart contract execution environment — Algorand Virtual Machine (AVM).
The main disadvantage of Algorand is its low level of adoption and the very intense competition. Also, there are centralization concerns, because 60% of Algorand’s token supply is controlled by founders and private insiders.
Hyperledger Fabric is an enterprise-oriented smart contract platform, leveraged by giants such as Walmart, Hitachi, and Amazon.
There is a good reason why it has attracted this attention: in contrast to the other platforms mentioned, which are public blockchains, Hyperledger is a permissioned one. Its transaction records are only accessible to authenticated users, which is a very important consideration for a range of industries, from supply chain to healthcare. Moreover, Hyperledger Fabric allows the creation of private channels for selected users if the data and transactions are highly sensitive.
The platform is capable of processing 20,000 transactions per second at a zero transaction fee.
Hyperledger Fabric utilizes a Crash Fault Tolerance (CFT) consensus algorithm that can withstand system failures, such as crashes and network partitioning, while correctly processing transactions and reaching consensus.
When it comes to the drawbacks, Hyperledger Fabric doesn‘t have a token system: this limits the types of smart contracts that can be deployed via its platform. Also, it has a complicated architecture, and not many programmers have the necessary skills to work with Hyperledger.
Get acquainted with Echo — blockchain ecosystem for smart contracts and dApps development
How to choose a smart contract platform for your project?
There is no one-size-fits-all option, so to choose a suitable smart contract platform you should carefully weigh up your blockchain project’s requirements and functionality.
The key aspects you need to consider are:
- Transaction speed
- Transaction fee
- Programming language and the tools a smart contract platform offers
- Consensus algorithm
You can lean towards Ethereum if you want a time-tested solution that offers robust tools and comprehensive documentation. Yet it might not be the perfect option if you need the fastest and the cheapest transactions.
In this case, try Solana, Avalanche, or Algorand. These platforms don’t lag behind Ethereum in terms of smart contract development tools, and they offer swift transaction execution at a very low cost. However, be very aware of security and take all possible measures to shield your smart contracts from any fraudulent activity.
If your project involves sensitive data, Hyperledger Fabric is a good choice, as it ensures that unauthorized users cannot access this data. However, this framework won’t serve you well if you need smart contracts for token management.
The pool of smart contract platforms is not limited to these 5 options. Based on the specific goals and needs of your project, a different blockchain might be more suitable. Thus we highly recommend turning to seasoned blockchain consultants before choosing a smart contract platform. They will recommend a solution that is specifically tailored to your business needs.
Creating smart contracts: Mantra DAO use case
Mantra DAO, a community-governed DeFi platform, was seeking to enhance scalability and offer lower transaction costs. To achieve it, the project turned to PixelPlex’s blockchain experts to move their smart contracts from Ethereum to Solana.
After a thorough analysis of smart contract platforms, we concluded that Solana meets Manta DAO’s requirements best. PixelPlex tech specialists worked out 3 different migration options.
Having considered the pros and cons of each option, we decided to rewrite all the existing smart contracts in Rust (+ fixed existing security bugs). This allowed us to achieve better flexibility and increase the smart contracts’ performance.
The transition facilitated Mantra DAO’s successful growth and user acquisition. Now the platform can boast 776.26 million tokens staked and a large community of users from more than 100 countries.
Find out how PRISM NFT marketplace managed to enhance their smart contracts after our thorough analysis and security check
Choosing the right smart contract platform is one of the most vital aspects that will determine the speed, security, and overall success of your blockchain solution. There is a great variety of platforms with Ethereum, Solana, and Avalanche taking the lead.
Each smart contract platform comes with its advantages and drawbacks that are to be discussed with regard to your blockchain project and its specific needs. The main features we recommend paying attention to are security, transaction speed and cost, and programming tools.
At PixelPlex, we have gained great experience over a decade spent building blockchain solutions, including smart contracts. Feel free to contact us with any questions: our well-versed specialists will provide you with valuable insights and guide you through every aspect of smart contract implementation.