Blockchain technology has the potential to disrupt many industries and transform how we interact online. While Bitcoin brought blockchain into the mainstream, many other projects are pushing the technology forward in new and exciting ways.
In this article, we’ll look at 10 of the most important and promising blockchain projects that are worth watching closely.
Launched in 2015, Ethereum is the most well-known and widely-used blockchain platform behind Bitcoin. Unlike Bitcoin, which is designed to operate as a digital currency, Ethereum is a programmable blockchain that allows developers to build and deploy decentralized applications (dApps) and smart contracts.
Some key features of Ethereum:
- Smart contracts – These are programs stored on the blockchain that run automatically when certain conditions are met. They enable the exchange of assets and information in a transparent and conflict-free way without a middleman.
- Decentralized apps (dApps) – Developers can create decentralized apps on the Ethereum blockchain that take advantage of smart contracts. Examples include games, financial apps, social networks, and more.
- Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) – This serves as the runtime environment for smart contracts in Ethereum.
- Ether – This is Ethereum’s native cryptocurrency, which is required to pay for transactions and interact with smart contracts.
Ethereum allows developers to create powerful decentralized apps and organizations (DAOs) that do not rely on any central authority. As blockchain adoption grows, Ethereum has established itself as the go-to network for enterprise and institutional use cases. Major companies like JPMorgan, Microsoft, and Intel are using Ethereum to streamline financial markets and global supply chains.
Created by one of Ethereum’s co-founders, Polkadot aims to be an interconnected blockchain network that allows different chains to exchange information and transactions in a trustless way.
Launched in 2020, Polkadot is seen as a potential blockchain that can challenge Ethereum’s dominance. Some of its notable features include:
- Interoperability – Polkadot connects public and private chains, oracles, permissioned chains, and future blockchains. This allows these independent chains to share information and transactions through Polkadot’s relay chain.
- Scalability – By spreading transactions across multiple chains, Polkadot can process many transactions in parallel, allowing higher throughput.
- Flexible governance – Polkadot allows chain builders to create their own governance systems instead of enforcing a uniform model across all chains.
- Security – Polkadot leverages heterogeneous sharding to improve security by eliminating single points of failure.
As a next-generation blockchain, Polkadot simplifies the creation of new networks by providing common services, making it easy for developers to focus on their specific use case. The interoperability between chains also allows for more novel uses that go across multiple chains.
Developed by Ethereum co-founder Charles Hoskinson, Cardano aims to be a more sustainable and scalable blockchain platform powered by proof-of-stake consensus. Launched in 2017, it has touted itself as the first third-generation blockchain network.
Some unique aspects of Cardano include:
- Academic research – The protocol was developed using peer-reviewed research to build a secure and flexible blockchain.
- Proof-of-stake – Cardano uses Ouroboros, a proof-of-stake consensus protocol that is less energy intensive than proof-of-work models.
- Smart contracts – Native support for smart contracts using the Plutus platform allows the creation of dApps and DeFi products.
- Scalability – Cardano is developing scalability solutions like Hydra, sharding, and sidechains to achieve high transaction throughput on layer 1.
- Governance – Cardano has a governance system that allows ADA holders to vote on protocol updates.
- Interoperability – As a third-generation protocol, Cardano is focused on cross-chain interoperability to bridge traditional finance and decentralized finance.
Cardano aims to be the most environmentally sustainable blockchain platform while still providing security and scalability. It has robust development activity and is one of the largest proof-of-stake networks.
Launched in 2020, Solana is one of the newest blockchain networks that has quickly risen to prominence. Called an “Ethereum killer”, Solana prioritizes scalability using innovative solutions like proof-of-history andtower BFT.
Here are some standout features of Solana:
- Speed – Solana currently processes over 2,500 transactions per second, making it one of the fastest blockchains today.
- Low fees – With faster transactions, Solana offers significantly lower fees compared to Ethereum and Bitcoin.
- Proof-of-history – This protocol timestamps transactions to efficiently process order and speed up consensus.
- Programming – Supports development of dApps and DeFi protocols using programming languages like Rust and C++.
- Governance – SOL token holders can vote on network proposals as part of the decentralized governance model.
Backed by Sam Bankman-Fried of crypto exchange FTX, Solana has quickly become a contender due to its compelling speed and scalability. As the demand for fast and low-cost blockchain networks grows, Solana is well-positioned to see massive adoption.
Previously called Matic Network, Polygon is a layer 2 scaling solution for Ethereum that provides faster and cheaper transactions. Launched in 2017, Polygon has gained popularity as a way to scale Ethereum without compromising on security.
Here are some key capabilities of Polygon:
- Plasma chains – Polygon uses multiple Plasma sidechains to scale Ethereum’s throughput.
- Proof-of-stake – Validators stake MATIC tokens to validate Plasma sidechains and commit blocks to the Polygon network.
- EVM compatibility – Polygon is highly optimized for Ethereum; most Ethereum based apps can work on Polygon with minimal modification.
- Interoperability – Polygon bridges allow transferring assets between Ethereum, other blockchains, and Polygon sidechains.
- Low fees – Polygon reduces transaction fees substantially compared to the Ethereum mainnet.
Polygon provides a strong Layer 2 foundation for the Ethereum ecosystem to scale dApps, DeFi, and Web3 projects. It’s used by popular protocols like Aave, Curve, and Sushiswap.
Launched in 2017, Chainlink is the most widely used decentralized oracle network. It provides external data inputs (like price feeds) to blockchains in a reliable and tamper-proof manner.
Why Chainlink is important:
- Decentralized oracle model – Uses independent node operators to deliver data instead of a central source.
- Secure – Cryptographic proofs prevent tampering of data by node operators or data sources.
- Flexible – Chainlink is blockchain agnostic, offering oracle services to any blockchain network.
- Wide adoption – Used extensively in DeFi across networks like Ethereum, BSC, Solana for price feeds or randomness.
- Evolving services – Expanding beyond price feeds to provide more services like verifiable randomness and connecting off-chain computation.
The security and reliability enabled by Chainlink oracles are crucial for the advancement of DeFi, smart contracts, and enterprise blockchains. As more valuable transactions occur on chains, secure access to external data gets even more important.
Filecoin is a decentralized storage network launched in 2020. The network allows users to rent out their spare storage space to receive Filecoin tokens in return. Key aspects of Filecoin’s blockchain-based cloud storage system:
- Decentralized storage – Filecoin nodes sell storage and retrieval services in a decentralized marketplace. This removes monopolies and censorship risks.
- Efficient markets – The network uses a shared economy model with built-in incentives for reliable storage via crypto tokens.
- Interplanetary File System (IPFS) – Filecoin nodes use IPFS for storing and sharing data. IPFS enables faster and more resilient file storage.
- Smart storage – Filecoin storage providers must regularly prove they are storing files correctly to earn rewards and avoid slashing penalties.
- Valuable tokens – The FIL token incentivizes participation in the Filecoin network as storage providers stake FIL as collateral and earn mining rewards.
Filecoin presents a more robust internet data storage layer independent of large corporations. Its value surged in 2021 as demand rose for decentralized cloud storage solutions.
Theta is a decentralized video streaming network powered by users and innovating video delivery. Launched in 2019, Theta uses an incentive model to improve video streams.
Here are some notable aspects of Theta’s blockchain infrastructure:
- Decentralized streaming – Users can relay video streams through peer-to-peer mesh networks instead of content delivery networks (CDNs).
- Rewards – Users earn TFUEL tokens for sharing bandwidth and caching streams, incentivizing participation.
- Staking – Validators stake THETA tokens to secure the network, earn block rewards, and participate in governance.
- Caching – Caching popular streams at edge networks results in lower delivery costs and faster, higher quality streaming.
- Dapps – Theta supports decentralized apps for live streaming, video on demand, esports, and other video-based use cases.
As video streaming grows exponentially, Theta offers a solution to rising CDN costs through decentralized delivery models. Leading companies like Samsung, Sony, and Google are partnering with Theta.
Aave is a leading decentralized finance (DeFi) lending protocol founded in 2017. Running on Ethereum, Aave enables crypto holders to lend and borrow assets through liquidity pools without an intermediary.
Here are some key aspects of Aave:
- Overcollateralized loans – Borrowers must deposit collateral worth more than their loan’s value to get approved. This minimizes default risks.
- Variable interest rates – Interest rates for borrowing assets fluctuate based on the supply and demand for that asset.
- Open markets – Anyone can join Aave as a liquidity provider or borrower based on transparent lending rules coded into smart contracts.
- Governance – Lenders and borrowers who stake the AAVE token can vote on Aave Improvement Proposals to shape protocol changes.
- Flash loans – Aave’s exclusive flash loans allow borrowing without collateral for arbitrage trades, as long as the funds are paid back in the same transaction.
Aave offers an accessible and secure way to earn interest on crypto holdings by becoming a liquidity provider. Its safety and transparency have made Aave the third-largest DeFi protocol with billions in total value locked.
Launched in 2014, Monero is the largest privacy-focused cryptocurrency in the market today. It prevents tracking of transactions through obfuscation and ring signatures.
Here’s what makes Monero unique:
- Untraceable transactions – Sender, recipient, and amount are all concealed on the blockchain. Transactions cannot be linked to a user.
- Ring signatures – This mixes the spender’s input with a random group of others to hide the actual source.
- Stealth addresses – Single-use addresses are generated to receive Monero funds and prevent discovery of actual recipient addresses.
- Inherent privacy – Monero is private by default due to its protocol-level privacy mechanisms, not just due to operational security.
- Tail emission – This eliminates Monero’s cap and ensures mining incentives remain forever to maintain security.
Monero allows true anonymous digital cash transactions. While critics argue this aids illegal activity, it preserves financial privacy in an age of increasing surveillance and regulation.
Blockchain technology has come a long way since Bitcoin’s launch over a decade ago. Ethereum ushered in the era of smart contracts and decentralized applications. Now, an array of ambitious “Ethereum killers” like Solana and Cardano are racing to solve blockchain’s scaling limitations.
Polygon is quickly gaining traction as a Layer 2 network that leverages Ethereum’s security while improving scalability. On the enterprise side, Polkadot’s interoperability vision aims to deliver commercial applicability. Meanwhile, Chainlink is quietly cementing itself as a critical blockchain infrastructure for key data inputs.
Other projects like Filecoin and Theta are building decentralized networks to take on traditional giants in cloud storage and video streaming. And Aave is enabling access to decentralized financial services for lending, borrowing, and earning yield.
Of course, Bitcoin itself continues its dominance as the gateway to the crypto universe and a vital store of value. For those who desire true anonymity, Monero keeps gaining market share as the top privacy coin option.
This list highlights just some of the diversity in blockchain innovation today. As the technology proliferates into more industries, these projects and many more will jockey for position as leaders in the next generation of the internet economy. One thing is clear – we’ve only just begun to glimpse the disruptive potential of blockchain.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Here are 5 frequently asked questions about the 10 most important blockchain projects to watch:
Which blockchain project is considered the first and most well-known?
Bitcoin is the original blockchain project launched in 2009 that brought the technology into the mainstream public eye. As the first cryptocurrency, Bitcoin pioneered decentralized, peer-to-peer digital money.
What is Ethereum and how is it different from Bitcoin?
Ethereum is a programmable blockchain platform launched in 2015 that allows developers to build and deploy decentralized applications beyond just cryptocurrency. Ethereum introduced smart contracts and enables things like NFTs, DeFi protocols, DAOs, and more.
What is Solana and why has it gained so much attention recently?
Solana is a new blockchain network focused on scalability that uses innovative solutions like proof-of-history and parallel processing to achieve speeds of over 2,500 transactions per second. This makes it one of the fastest blockchains in the world.
What problem does Polygon aim to solve?
Polygon, formerly Matic Network, is a Layer 2 scaling solution designed to provide faster and cheaper transactions for Ethereum. It aims to help scale Ethereum to support more dApps and DeFi projects by using sidechains anchored to the main Ethereum chain.
Why is Cardano considered a third-generation blockchain?
Cardano brands itself as a third-generation blockchain network because it was built using extensive academic research and peer review. It uses a proof-of-stake consensus model that is less energy intensive than proof-of-work, making it more sustainable.