We are just a couple of weeks before the first anniversary of IOST’s very successful mainnet launch. Leading up to this momentous event we will be initiating a series of articles where we will be pitting IOST blockchain to the different leading public blockchains in the industry. The primary purpose of this series is to provide an honest and accurate comparison of IOST to other public blockchains. We start by comparing how IOST and the other blockchain fare in resolving the persistent blockchain trilemma, then move on to compare developer tools and support and finally compare the existing Dapps as well as how well the community responds to them.
To kick things off we will be comparing IOST to the leading blockchain platform, Ethereum. It has been enjoying a significant advantage for being the first public blockchain to have a scripting language built into its platform. This opened a whole new world of possibilities for blockchain developers through the implementation of smart contracts. It marks the beginning of an explosion of different decentralized applications (DApps) that go beyond the financial system and its application in various industries.
However, despite its major advantage, Ethereum has failed to achieve mainstream status as it struggled to achieve the scalability required for mass adoption. Unlike Ethereum, IOST was built from the ground up to be a high-performance blockchain that will be able to scale and meet the existing and future requirements of its users. IOST developers are keen on making IOST the most scalable public ledger out there and continue to push the envelope through research and development with the aim of achieving 100,000 Transactions Per Second (TPS) and beyond.
According to the IOST team they have been hitting 8,000 or more TPS in Testnets which is a lot more than the current iteration of Ethereum is able to offer. Ethereum can process around 25 TPS max, which in order of magnitude is lower than the capacity of IOST’s blockchain. IOST is able to do this by using a proprietary consensus mechanism called Proof-of-Believability (PoB) which offers a more scalable consensus protocol without the other issues in the blockchain trilemma such as decentralization and security. This begs the question of how IOST fare in terms of these aforementioned attributes.
Decentralization is perhaps the most important aspect of the blockchain trilemma and the specific attribute that makes blockchain technology such a revolutionary technology. This characteristic is directly tied to the type of consensus mechanism a blockchain has. Bitcoin and Ethereum share the same proven and time-tested consensus protocol called Proof-of-Work (PoW) which until now is widely considered the most decentralized and most secure consensus protocol. Perhaps this is the primary reason why despite its scalability issues Ethereum is still the preferred smart contract platform in the industry.
IOST offers an entirely different consensus protocol, called Proof-of-Believability which the IOST believes to be a more efficient consensus protocol in terms of carbon foot-print and an effective alternative to POW. Arguably one can consider PoB as a more decentralized consensus mechanism because it significantly lowers the barrier to entry to participate in consensus activities as well as having a more randomized block miner/producer or in this case block validator. While PoW is the gold standard for decentralized blockchain one cannot ignore that this type of consensus mechanism is increasingly becoming centralized with mining power concentrating on a few mining pools.
Proof-of-Work only works if there is participation, this can be said for all consensus protocol but there is a significant barrier to entry for those who do not have the infrastructure and the energy resources to run a sustainable crypto mining operations. If there are fewer participants in mining the threat or 51% attacks become very real allowing bad actors to double-spend in the network. The increasing centralization of mining activities may remove the very value proposition of cryptocurrencies, which is to provide a decentralized monetary system that is incorruptible, censorship-resistant and cannot be coerced by any one entity.
IOST uses a variant of Proof of Stake (POS) or more appropriately a proprietary delegated Proof of Stake (DPOS) called Proof-of-Probability (PoB) which significantly lowers the barrier to entry of participants and at the same time implements a mechanism for randomizing blockchain validators. In effect, a greater number of validators will be able to participate in the consensus mechanism from a greater number of participants. Such a mechanism is so effective that future versions of Ethereum will migrate from PoW to POS, which looks like a seal of approval coming from the leading blockchain platform.
Developer tools and Support
Developers breathe life into a blockchain, they create different decentralized applications (DApps) that cater to various use cases that leverage blockchain technology. DApps is also the primary driver for the adoption and awareness of blockchains. They are user-facing applications that enable users to experience first hand the benefits of emerging technology. Hence, it is of paramount importance that developers will be given the right tools and support for the entire development life-cycle and roll-out of the DApps.
Virtual Machine and Smart Contract
Virtual machine design and Smart Contract capabilities are widely recognized by blockchain developers to be essential for the successful mainstream adoption of Dapps. Ethereum virtual machine (EVM) has been touted as the first Turing complete VM but in reality, it is not as there are limitations of EVM. Its calculations of instruction are constrained by gas, limiting the number of calculations that can be completed, thus it is not Turing complete. It also lacks complete standard library support, floating-point numbers are not supported, there is also difficulty in testing and debugging and contracts cannot be upgraded.
The crypto community is abuzz with news that Ethereum is dialing back financial support to many Ethereum based projects brought about by the prolonged bearish markets and tightening of its belt. This means that support for startups will dwindle over time or completely cease which is likely. This is in direct contrast to IOST who has been looking for projects that will be built on its high-performance network. Developers seeking support will likely get more out of building in IOST in terms of financial and other support.
The Ethereum blockchain has been saturated with many DApps that basically offer the same functionality and becoming more redundant. Those who want to build DApps that they plan to release in mainstream and thus requires mass adoption scalability has a higher chance of delivering it on IOST. Not only is it an easier development platform it has a scalable infrastructure out of the box. While there are efforts to make Ethereum more scalable it is still uncertain when they will be production-ready.
DApps (Decentralized Applications)
Admittedly Ethereum has a clear advantage in this category. Being the first-mover in the space it was able to partner with the most important, relevant and biggest DApps in the market today. It can be said that Ethereum is the reason why we have a thriving DApps ecosystem, however, its inability to scale has made it difficult to achieve mass adoption for obvious reasons. This gap opened the doors of other smart contract platforms to enter the industry to offer a more scalable blockchain solution that can provide the necessary scalability for DApps to go mainstream.
Image Source: IOST Digital Asset Report By Crypto Briefing Research Department
IOST, NEO, EOS, TRON, and others are some of the high-performance blockchains that are trying to fill this gap or even usurp the top smart contract platform in the blockchain industry. Each of these has its own strengths and weaknesses which we will compare to IOST to discover how IOST fares against all the leading smart contract platforms. This benchmarking will allow us to determine how IOST sits relative to other platforms and what improvements can be done to make it the most complete, useful and best platform out there.
According to Dapp.Review since the release of IOST’s mainnet 43 DApps has been launched with Game and Casino DApp categories. This is minuscule compared to the 2,146 Ethereum Dapps listed on its DApps aggregator site with 1,223 of them still active in 2019. It is easy to see where IOST needs to improve. IOST needs to attract more developers into its ecosystem and ensure that those apps will offer a more diversified and relevant decentralized application. Games and Casino applications are welcome but these categories are already saturated and no real innovation is being offered to differentiate each of them.
IOST needs to have more DApps of the same caliber of Berminal and Bermi.tv. These two DApps have in the making IOST’s first two killer apps if they play their cards right. We believe that IOST has not fully exploited the potential of these two applications. It seems that after a very powerful start peaking in April 2019 it has been losing steam ever since. It would be interesting how IOST will re-energize these two applications after rebranding them into the EMOGI brand.
It is not hard to see that from a technological standpoint IOST beats Ethereum convincingly for the time being. It would be interesting how this comparison will play out when Ethereum 2.0 is released but due to a history of delays, we are not sure when this happens. By that time the IOST team would have released its own protocol improvements promises higher performances and security for its blockchain. As it stands IOST is the clear winner in technology, moreover, IOST is in a better position to support new startups compared to ETH which has publicly said that it is dialing down its efforts due to financial constraints and burn rate controls.
Ethereum is still king in terms of relevant DApps in the industry. It seems that despite its obvious weaknesses it still remains the top choice for smart contract platforms. However, this can change soon as more projects want a platform that has the capacity to scale up to mass adoption. More importantly, perhaps IOST needs to improve in marketing itself directly to relevant dApps developers where high-performance blockchain is required. Generally, we can conclude that IOST is a strong contender against Ethereum, it just needs more high profile DApps that can compete with Eth Dapps.