Inspired by Bitcoin’s decentralized design, yet frustrated with its lack of programmability, Vitalik Buterin designed Ethereum as a general-purpose smart contract platform that could support complex software applications. Later generations of blockchain have largely followed Ethereum’s model. In theory, each of these Turing-complete platforms can execute any computation a user requires, as long as they have sufficient gas money. Nevertheless, the universe of blockchains that exist today can be differentiated by their strengths.
Of course, Ethereum remains a powerful force in Web3. But a countercurrent to its generalist logic can also be observed in the distinct specialization of various crypto tribes: communities of Solana, Tron, BNB and Polygon users who have each carved out a niche for their favored blockchain.
Although Ethereum’s Uniswap protocol is usually credited with ushering in the revolution in Decentralized Finance, these days, most DeFi trading activity has migrated away from the Layer 1 Ethereum network to more efficient platforms with lower gas fees.
For example, since Uniswap V3 branched out to sidechains and Layer 2s, the protocol’s Arbitrum and Polygon deployments have typically generated 3 to 5 times higher trading volumes than its Layer 1 instance. Meanwhile, alternative ecosystems now host an array of new DeFi platforms that have forged ahead on their own.
While BNB was the first independent blockchain to challenge Ethereum’s status as the most popular DeFi venue, the breakout success of 2023 was Solana. In the last 30 days, the platform’s top 3 DeFi services – Jupiter, Raydium and marginfin – attracted a combined total of 1.5 million users, surpassing the most popular BNB and Ethereum DeXs.
Mirroring the trend set by DeFi users, stablecoin activity has also relocated in recent times, with Tron being the most notable beneficiary of the flight from Ethereum.
In the last 3 years, Ethereum’s stablecoin transaction count has fallen by around 20%, while Tron’s surged by 600% in the same period.
Moreover, where a strong lead in trading volume balances Ethereum’s dwindling DeFi user base, the same can’t be said for stablecoin activity. Not only does Tron beat Ethereum’s transfer count, but it also comes close to matching its overall transaction volume.
The majority of Tron’s stablecoin volumes stem from USDT transactions, which accounted for over 98% of the $366 billion sent over the network in the last year. On January 15, USDT circulating on Tron exceeded $50 billion for the first time, representing over half of the stablecoin’s total supply.
When judged by purely financial metrics, Ethereum is by far the most dominant NFT chain, accounting for over 80% of the total market. But just as Ethereum’s high gas fees have driven DeFi and stablecoin users elsewhere, they have also limited its viability for many NFT use cases.
Launched in 2017, WAX was specifically designed to make NFTs more affordable. Unlike many blockchains, minting new tokens on WAX costs just a few cents, and transferring NFTs between wallets doesn’t incur transaction fees.
Thanks to its fee-free transactions, when ranked by total cumulative sales, WAX hosts 8 of the 20 most popular NFT collections, more than any other blockchain.
The platform is especially prominent in the blockchain gaming space. After Axie Infinity, which runs on the Ethereum sidechain Ronin, WAX-based Alien Worlds is the most popular NFT game. Since its launch in 2020, around 920,000 Alien Worlds users have generated over 7 million sales.
As the first blockchain built for decentralized applications (DApps), Ethereum’s enduring popularity is maintained by a sizable network effect. According to DAppRadar , there are now more than 4,000 Ethereum-based DApps, but the platform has been knocked from the top spot by BNB chain, which hosts over 5,000
Because it was created to provide an Ethereum-like development experience, BNB’s DApp ecosystem can draw from a well-established pool of Solidity developers and is home to an array of applications.
Originally created by Binance to facilitate cryptocurrency trading, the first generation of BNB DApps skewed toward DeFi, but the ecosystem has since evolved into one of the most diverse.
Often incubated by Binance Launchpad, BNB DApps are a hotbed of Web3 innovation. For example, in recent weeks the AI-powered relationship simulator SleeplessAI has emerged as the most popular BNB-based application, amassing over 3 million users since its launch earlier this month.
Joining SleeplessAI at the intersection of blockchain and Artificial Intelligence (AI), the crypto-focused knowledge-sharing platform QnA3 has also gained significant traction since its launch in December 2023.