Coming off a casual 1000% increase in 2017, Ethereum is strongly positioned as the number two cryptocurrency in the world by market cap. But things move fast in the cryptocurrency space, and Ethereum isn’t the only smart contract project in town. We’ve got the low-down on two of its quickest-moving competitors: NEO and Cardano.
A quick refresher on why smart contracts are a big deal: they’re automatically enforceable digital contracts, based on preset conditions. Smart contracts could govern a loan, releasing the collateral automatically. Or they could integrate multiple blockchains to create a decentralized exchange. There are teams incorporating smart contracts to do just those things, and many more. Coins with smart contract capability are popping up left and right. Neo and Cardano are both in the top ten by market capitalization.
Chinese Ethereum: NEO
NEO is popularly dubbed “Chinese Ethereum.” The NEO team has made a number of technical improvements over Ethereum. Ethereum contracts are coded in Solidity, a relatively uncommon programing language. But Neo smart contracts are usable in more common languages, like C# and Java. This makes them more accessible. As cryptocurrency grows, more and more talented programmers will gravitate to the field, and they’ll want to use the easiest platform possible.
Neo employs a virtual machine that boots fast and is optimized to execute smart contracts. NeoFS is a distributed storage protocol, that breaks up large files over nodes. Both of these things help keep the network humming fast. Python and Go are yet more common languages, employable in NEO compilers. It all adds up to a platform with tremendous technological potential.
One risk of NEO is it’s location in China. China’s cheap electricity has long made it a crypto hub, with the region hosting some of the world’s largest mining pools. However, the Chinese government has cracked down on crypto. Chinese Bitcoin exchanges were shuttered last year, and there are rumors the country will ban Bitcoin altogether. It’s unclear what the implications would be for NEO.
The New Kid on the Block: Cardano
Another competitor rocketing to attention lately is Cardano. Cardano burst onto many people’s minds when it rode a 2000% increase over 3 weeks. Cardano has a talented team. Former Ethereum and Bitshares employees are onboard as advisors. Unlike Ethereum, which is centralized through Vitalik Buterin, Cardano aims to be self-sustaining and decentralized in the long run. Token holders will be able to vote on whether protocols should be added or not. To an extent, this already happens with miners choosing to decide what software to run. But Cardano formalizes the process and gives the miners less power.
Cardano is implementing some intriguing technical features, but “wait and see,” is still the name of the game for this coin. Cardano has relatively little to show right now compared to Ethereum and NEO, although the team has a lot on the docket for 2018. Currently, only the settlement layer is released, so Cardano can only function as a currency right now. However, the end vision is that it will utilize smart contracts to vote, run their Ourboros proof of stake protocol, and more.
Ethereum is the proverbial eight hundred pound gorilla in the smart contract world, but it better watch its back. Projects like NEO and Cardano have the benefit of hindsight and have been able to make improvements to the technology Ethereum pioneered. They aren’t perfect, but smart contract projects will be duking it out on 2018. We’ll be watching closely to see who wins.