A comparison of 20 open source blockchain platforms

As blockchain technologies have emerged, there have been several attempts at classifying them. While there are a lot of blurry lines and little unanimity on how to precisely categorize blockchains, here is another attempt at classification – using 20 popular open source blockchain platforms available in the market.

Basis of comparison

Public or Private

Public and Private blockchains differ on whether or not anyone can freely access the data on the blockchain.

Public blockchains are usually available for everyone to use and explore, and transactions are transparent and anonymous / pseudo anonymous. These blockchains are potentially disruptive due to their ability to cut down on intermediaries and zero infrastructure costs.

Private blockchains impose restrictions on who can view their data – usually the write permissions are central to one organization or consortium while the read permissions may be restricted to a certain (or large) extent. Private blockchains are in general more scalable and provide better compliance of regulatory or privacy rules than public blockchains.

Permissionless Vs Permissioned

Permissionless blockchain networks are open networks which anyone can participate in the process of creating new blocks in the blockchain or executing smart contracts on the network. Permissionless blockchains offer users the freedom from developers, government or other institutional interference and thus can be more popular and widely adopted.

Permissioned blockchains, on the other hand put restrictions on who can execute smart contracts or participate in the process of creating and verifying new blocks on the blockchain. Permissioned blockchains execute such restrictions via an inbuilt access control layer. 

Permissioned blockchains offer better transaction performance than public blockchains, can be more secure and scalable, and offer fine grained access control – just some features that appear particularly beneficial to businesses and enterprises.  

A close analogy to permissionless and permissioned blockchains is the relationship between the Internet and the Intranet. Permissionless blockchains, like the internet are need to be open and neutral to truly benefit from innovation. Permissioned blockchains on the other hand are like the intranet – they cater to smaller, closed communities but still perform some crucial functions nonetheless.

Consensus Mechanisms

Blockchains involve the use of distributed ledgers to record information. One key aspect critical to the functioning of any blockchain is that its network should collectively agree on the contents of the ledger. How the network maintains consensus also impacts the speed, security and scalability of the blockchain.

Blockchain networks have and continue to come up with ingenious ways to achieve a consensus amongst the network. The very initial blockchain networks such as Bitcoin and Ethereum relied on Proof of Work (PoW) consensus algorithms which required participants to ‘mine’ new blocks by investing a lot of computational resources into the network. Several other consensus algorithms have since emerged, such as Proof of Stake (PoS), Byzantine Fault Tolerance (BFT), Proof of Activity, Proof of Importance, Federated Byzantine Agreement (FBA), Proof of Elapsed Time (PoET), Practical Byzantine Fault-Tolerance (PBFT), Derived PBFT, Redundant Byzantine Fault Tolerance (RBFT), Simplified Byzantine Fault Tolerance (SBFT), Federated consensus, Round Robin and Delegated Proof of Stake (DPoS), Proof of Capacity, Proof of Burn, Proof of Identity and Proof of DDoS.

Platform Permissionless / Permissioned Consensus Mechanism Public / Private
Bitcoin Permissionless Proof of Work Public
Ethereum Permissioned Proof of Work Public
Hyperledger Fabric Permissioned Pluggable Consensus Private
Ripple Permissionless Federated Byzantine Agreement (Ripple protocol consensus algorithm – RPCA) Public
BigchainDB Both Federated Consensus Both
Quorum Permissioned QuorumChain (a time-based, majority-voting algorithm), Raft Private
Chain Permissioned Federated Consensus Private
Corda Permissioned Pluggable Consensus Private
BitShares Permissioned Delegated Proof of Stake Public
Hyperledger Sawtooth Lake Both Proof of Elapsed Time, Byzantine Fault Tolerance Both
Hyperledger Iroha Permissioned Byzantine Fault Tolerance (Sumeragi) Private
Waves Permissionless Waves-NG Public
Multichain Permissioned Distributed Consensus (Round Robin) Private
Openchain Both Partioned Consensus Both
Hydrachain Permissioned Byzantine Fault Tolerance (HC Consensus) Private
Monax (Eris) Both Proof of Stake (Tendermint) Both
Stellar Permissionless Federated Byzantine Agreement (Stellar consensus protocol – SCP) Public
Symbiont Assembly Permissioned Byzantine Fault Tolerance (BFT-SMaRt) Private
Nxt Permissioned Proof of Stake Public
Credits Permissioned Proof of Stake Public


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