Among all Blockchain projects, the main chain has the highest market value. This is much like the real estate industry where developers have the highest market value as they undertake other relevant constructions.
From Ethereum to EOS, the competition for the main chain has always been the focus of Blockchain. Recently Nasdaq-listed cloud firm Xunlei launched ThunderChain, a high-performance blockchain platform which concurrently conducts millions of transactions per second (TPS), making it a vigorous competitor for the main chain. Announced on May 16, the Company is now opening its APIs to bring developers and companies over to its blockchain ecosystem. Xunlei has launched a series of incentives, including investment, incubation and giveback of LinkToken which was reserved for internal operations, to support developers and expand the use of blockchain across IP, charity work, healthcare and city services.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of each potential main chain? Blockob, a leading blockchain industry publication in China, conducted a deep research into ThunderChain, EOS, Ethereum from four perspectives: fundamentals, consensus system, performance, current applications and future potentials.
I. Fundamentals and background
Although Blockchain is a decentralized technology, the industry generally believes it also needs a strong leader to oversee the construction. Founders’ different backgrounds directly lead to different concepts in the development of blockchain system and community. Vitalik Buterin, co-founder of Ethereum and Daniel Larimer, CTO of EOS are considered as “child prodigies” in blockchain field. Their ambition is to develop the world’s best infrastructure of blockchain.
Xunlei CEO Chen Lei is quite different from his Western counterparties. As a CEO of a listed company, he must be responsible for shareholders, customers, staff and the society. Therefore, his concept of blockchain seems more practical just as we heard from a panel on 2018 Boao Forum for Asia, where he said blockchain technology should be adopted in real-life scenarios rather than only being studied in laboratories, as the problems encountered during practical use can help improve blockchain technology and make new breakthroughs.
Ethereum was launched at the earliest. Currently, its development has entered into the third phase – Metropolis. (Note: The complete development of Ethereum consists of four stages, namely, “Frontier”, “Homestead”, “Metropolis” and “Serenity”). In 2017, EOS launched ICO (Initial Coin Offering) and its blockchain is planned to go live this June. Xunlei formally expanded into blockchain business late last year and ThunderChain was introduced as an improved blockchain infrastructure this April.
II. Consensus Mechanism
Consensus system is at the center of blockchain infrastructure. There are no good or bad consensus systems, as different systems can be applied in various applications. However, consistency, possibility of furcation and the time for reaching consensus are important indicators for main chains whether they can support a large scale of users and applications. These indicators are directly linked to the adoption of consensus systems.
Ethereum initially adopted a PoW system similar to that of Bitcoin. After an upgrade last year, it adopted a combined system of PoS+PoW. There is an alternation between the two systems of PoS and PoW. Some trading blocks (1%) are protected by PoS and the others by PoW. EOS adopts DPoS, while ThunderChain mainly adopts PBFT.
Different consensus algorithms have different possibilities of consistency. That’s why there are blockchain forks. There is a negative correlation between consistency and forks. The higher the consistency, the lower the possibility of forks is.
The PoW system is with the lowest consistency and it most easily causes forks. Ethereum has thus lowered the possibility of forks as it combines PoS, as compared to Bitcoin. However, its possibility of forks is still relatively high. Last year, Ethereum’s Metropolis upgrade was a new hard fork. Ethereum Classic is also a hard fork due to hacker attack.
ThunderChain adopts an optimized PBFT algorithm which is recognized with highest consistency among consensus algorithms and can avoid hard forks.
Consensus system also determines the time for reaching the consensus. Other impact factors include the network situation and node performance. Theoretically, Ethereum can generate a block in at least 14 seconds. EOS claims to do so within 3 seconds and ThunderChain is also reported to generate within seconds.
There have been very few applications built on Bitcoin’s underlying infrastructure due to its poor performance. Ethereum significantly improved this situation as lots of DApps can now be developed. However, it still faces issues resulted from insufficient performance. For example, the launch of a simple ETH-based game CryptoKitties clogged the Ethereum network, putting transactions in a long-time limbo.
According to the media reports, ThunderChain realizes confirmation and interaction among the chains through its patented homogeneous multichain framework. It thus provides processing capacity in the millions of transactions per seconds. EOS also claims in its white paper that it can reach millions of transactions per second (TPS). We will see whether this will come true after its official launch in June.
There have been many arguments around the definition of Blockchain 3.0. One of the widely accepted concept is that Blockchain 3.0 should be any blockchain technology or project that creates decentralized applications for large-scale adoption.
The performance is a critical factor whether any technology or project can be applied in daily life and work. For instance, if TPS is too low, it is not possible to handle a number of transactions and requests.
High performance is a requisite for Blockchain 3.0. In addition to performance, there are also many other factors which can impact the adoptions of any blockchain infrastructures.
First, let’s look at DApps. Ethereum now has the highest number of blockchain applications built upon its infrastructure. According to Blockob, more than 400 DApps running on ETH across a range of application scenarios.
Although EOS has not been launched, the interest in development of EOS-based DApps has grown vigorously. We should expect to see a boom in applications running on EOS once it is formally launched. ThunderChain runs approximately 30 applications and Xunlei has recently announced that it is in partnerships with other organizations, such as China’s One Foundation and IP Trade (a cross-border IP rights exchange platform), to build DApps covering copyrights, healthcare and charitable donations.
Second, brand influence. EOS has currently highest profile especially it is in process selecting EOS super nodes. Ethereum also continues to be one of the most influential blockchain organizations globally. ThunderChain seems a latecomer but does not mean that it lacks attraction to developers. ThunderChain has introduced a series of incentive policies, in addition to its own 400 million user base. The developers could use ThunderChain without any costs in the first year, while receive LinkToken grants to exchange for IaaS services. For any outstanding DApps, there will also be angle investment and incubation programs committed to the projects. All of these may position ThunderChain better for C-side application development than Ethereum or EOS.
Finally, developer-friendly system. According to the Blockob’s survey with developers, Ethereum is recognized with the friendliest development environment. EOS adopts C++ language which some developers have noted it is a much more difficult language compared to Solidity adopted by Ethereum. ThunderChain also adopts Solidity, which is consistent with ETH.
Blockob summarizes each of these indicators (see the chart) and came to the following conclusions:
EOS gets 70 points (Full score: 90) and its comprehensive capacity ranks the first (Note: EOS has not been launched yet, so the scoring is based on the description and numbers in its whitepaper, alongw ith other public information)
ThunderChain ranks the second with 63. Although ThunderChain is leading in consensus system and performance indicators, it is surpassed by EOS due to its lower brand awareness and number of applications.
Ethereum ranks the third largely due to its poor performance. However, if its processing capability can be improved, we believe the ETH might continue to dominate the blockchain development.