We’ve created this list to help you make an informed decision in choosing a blockchain for building Web3 apps. Our picks are based on developer activity—a meaningful indicator of what smart contract platforms are gaining traction.
The smart contract platforms profiled here have at least 100 developers, according to Electric Capital’s 2021 Web3 developer report, and we’ve selected a variety of blockchains that bring unique strengths to the table. In this list, we’ll break down each platform’s unique selling points so you know exactly what to expect from each blockchain.
Why build Web3 apps on Stacks?
Stacks is a programming layer for Bitcoin, enabling developers to access Bitcoin’s security, latent capital, and user base.
Launched in 2021, Stacks enables smart contracts for Bitcoin, letting you build a wide variety of dApps for Bitcoin. Through Stacks, developers can build applications that can read and react to Bitcoin transactions. The Bitcoin ecosystem is the largest blockchain network by market cap, user base, and network effects, and you can tap into those resources through Stacks, offering a clear path to user adoption.
Stacks helps developers keep their dApps secure through the Clarity programming language, which avoids vulnerabilities common in other Web3 languages like Solidity. dApps built on Stacks also benefit from Bitcoin’s security, as all Stacks’ transactions are hashed and stored on the Bitcoin network. Learn more about how Stacks enables Bitcoin smart contracts here.
Why build Web3 apps on Ethereum?
Ethereum benefits from the network effects of being the first smart contract platform.
Launched in 2015, Ethereum is the world’s first smart contract platform. Ethereum boasts a robust smart contracts ecosystem—developers have created more than 50 million smart contracts on the network, it records about 1M transactions per day, and $11.6 trillion worth of value moved through the network in 2021. Simply put, the majority of Web3 users today are on Ethereum.
Web3 apps on Ethereum are built with Solidity. The language enjoys the support of an established developer ecosystem with a large repository of developer tooling and resources due to its pioneer position among Web3 programming languages. To learn more about Ethereum as a smart contract platform, check out our thoughts on how Ethereum compares to Bitcoin and Stacks.
Why build Web3 apps on Solana?
Solana is optimized for the development of fast, cheap, and scalable decentralized applications.
Launched in 2020, Solana is a fast, stable, and highly efficient blockchain offering low transaction fees for Web3 apps. Its theoretical processing limit is a startling 65,000 transactions per second (though practically it’s much lower than that). That speed offers app users a similar experience to Web2, and Solana offers some of the lowest transaction fees in the space as well, further reducing friction.
Solana enables you to write smart contacts using Rust, a popular programming language in both Web2 and Web3, so if Rust is your language preference, Solana is a good blockchain to research more in depth. Learn more about how Solana compares to Stacks and Polygon here.
Why build Web3 apps on Polygon?
Polygon helps you build Web3 apps for Ethereum without being limited by Ethereum’s slow transaction speeds and high transaction costs.
Launched in 2017, Polygon is a Layer-2 scaling solution for the Ethereum blockchain. It was developed to address Ethereum’s scalability challenges by providing off-chain processing for transactions. By using Polygon, developers save their users about $140 million in average daily gas fees. Therefore, it’s not surprising that more than 37,000 dApps have chosen scalability with Polygon instead of building on the Ethereum blockchain itself.
Polygon has also secured some high profile partnerships, including with Instagram, Stripe, and Prada, who are launching their forays into Web3 on Polygon. For developers who want to stay in the Ethereum ecosystem, but want to prioritize scalability and lower transaction fees, Polygon and other Ethereum L2s not mentioned here (such as Arbitrum and Optimism) may be the right fit for you. Learn more about how Polygon compares to other blockchains here.
Why build Web3 apps on Cosmos?
Cosmos empowers you to create application-specific blockchains if you are building a Web3 service that needs pseudo-independent chains.
Launched in 2019, Cosmos is an ecosystem of interconnected blockchains optimized for interoperability. It serves as a blockchain framework with tools for developers to spin up their own blockchains. The ability to create app-specific blockchains provides Web3 developers with more freedom than what’s obtainable if they build their apps on general-purpose blockchains.
Launching your own chain on Cosmos lets you adjust throughput, transaction speeds, and governance as necessary to create a tailored experience for your app or service. And when you are done building your customized chain, it will be interoperable with other chains in the Cosmos ecosystem. Learn more about how Cosmos SDK works here.
Why build Web3 apps on Avalanche?
Avalanche is an EVM-compatible blockchain that delivers fast and high transaction throughput through its use of subnets.
Launched in 2020, Avalanche is a smart contract platform for building fast and low-cost Web3 apps. Avalanche positions itself as the blockchain of choice for enterprises, institutions, and governments.
Avalanche offers a lot of flexibility for your app. Not only can you also create project-specific blockchains as you can in Cosmos, but Avalanche is also EVM-compatible and uses Solidity, making it easy to port your app to Ethereum (and other EVM-compatible ecosystems) and vice versa. Learn more about how to get started with Avalanche here.
Why build Web3 apps on NEAR?
Web3 developers on NEAR also earn 30% of all transaction fees generated by their smart contracts When transactions are sent on blockchains, they incur a transaction fee (gas cost) which is used to pay miners that maintain the network infrastructure. On NEAR, developers receive 30% of the gas fee as a developer incentive whenever users perform a fee-paying transaction on their smart contracts. Learn more about how NEAR makes it easy to build Web3 apps here.
Why build Web3 apps on Polkadot?
Polkadot is optimized for the development of a multi-chain universe in which tokens, assets, and data can be transferred across blockchains and be subject to cross-chain computations.
Launched in 2020, Polkadot is a blockchain ecosystem of specialized blockchains called parachains. Similar to Cosmos, Polkadot’s parachains are optimized for interoperability to enable complex data flows, such as having a credential verification app that can call smart contracts on a school’s private blockchain to create proof on a public chain.
Polkadot parachains are secured by a common set of validators, which helps bootstrap the security of new parachains in the network. Parachains also come with baked-in functionality, such as crowdloans, which can speed up your development process. Learn more about how Polkadot uses parachains to drive interoperability in this resource.
9. Binance BNB Chain
Why build Web3 apps on BNB Chain?
BNB Chain gives you access to the largest number of daily active crypto users through the Binance exchange.
BNB Chain Overview
Launched in 2020, BNB Chain is a multi-chain network consisting of BNB Beacon Chain (previously Binance Chain) and BNB Smart Chain (BSC), which enables smart contracts and the creation of EVM-compatible Web3 apps. The BNB Chain supports a large number of tokens across various ecosystems through its Binance Bridge—so you have less work to do when integrating the use of other tokens into your app.
The chain also simplifies the product development process by providing a robust library of wallets, explorers, data indices, and more. And if you want to migrate your dApp from another blockchain to the BNB Chain, there are dedicated resources, tooling, and support to help you move your dApp into the BNB ecosystem. Learn more about how you can build dApps on the BNB Chain here.
Why build Web3 apps on Algorand?
Algorand’s Reach is an innovative blockchain development platform that allows you to build dApps with shorter lines of code.
Launched in 2019, Algorand provides a developer-friendly and scalable ecosystem for Web3 apps. Its Reach framework helps you focus on the business logic of your dApp while it does all the heavy lifting of managing protocol diagrams, contract storage, and state validation, among other things.
Its developer-friendly nature also enables you to write smart contracts using languages like Python and Reach. Learn more about how to use Python with Algorand in Algorand docs.
Which Smart Contract Platform Should You Choose?
The smart contract platform you choose for your Web3 apps depends on what type of Web3 app you want to build. For instance, if network security is important to you, Stacks benefits from Bitcoin’s battle-tested security. If you want cheap and fast transactions, Solana, Polygon, and Polkadot are great options to consider.
The blockchain you choose is also a function of where you are in your Web3 developer journey. If you want to stick to traditional programming languages, you’ll be comfortable on chains such as Solana and Polkadot, while chains such as Stacks and Ethereum will require you to learn new programming languages.
And in terms of adoption, the blockchain you choose will also be determined by what sort of traction you desire for your dApps. If you want to build Web3 apps for a large community of crypto enthusiasts, it would be hard for any blockchain to give you a larger community than what’s accessible to you in Bitcoin through Stacks.
Ready to start your Web3 developer journey? Check out our guide to developing smart contracts for Web3 apps.