Understanding and selecting the right blockchain is one of the most important decisions for a web3 app developer to make when building their app. With so many options to choose from (both at the Layer 1 and 2 levels), choosing the chain to build an app on is a daunting enough task to intimidate developers from building on the blockchain altogether.
In this guide, we will help you understand the different factors that are to be considered while choosing a blockchain and give you an overview of the different blockchain options available.
Factors to consider when choosing a blockchain
The short answer is that the choice of blockchain is entirely dependent on the specific product or application that developers intend to build.
However, certain macro factors help in making this decision:
Blockchain’s performance is determined by how it handles user interactions and transactions at a desirable speed and affordability. Scalability refers to the blockchain’s ability to handle a growing amount of work at the same efficiency level.
Developers must select the blockchain considering its scalability features, like throughput and block size.
For instance, Ethereum might be less suitable for high-throughput needs like decentralized trading compared to alternatives like Solana.
Security is a key factor that developers should consider when choosing a blockchain.
Essentially, it makes or breaks their efforts as blockchain’s inherent security is of critical importance. The strength and reliability of the consensus mechanism, the quality of cryptographic algorithms, and the overall network architecture play a significant role in ensuring security.
Cost-effectiveness is a key factor, particularly for use cases that anticipate high volumes of transactions like trading platforms or predictive markets.
For users, the blockchain’s transaction fees are a major factor as high transaction fees can become a significant burden, especially when performing frequent or micro-transactions.
Similarly, even developers need to be vary of the costs a blockchain demands as high transaction fees can consume a significant portion of the project's funds, particularly during the development and testing phases when multiple iterations and interactions with the blockchain are necessary.
4. Developer ecosystem
The strength and activity of a blockchain's developer community are indicators of the platform's health and future prospects. The most desirable blockchains have a buzzing community, offering shared knowledge, toolkits, libraries, and tools, helping developers at each point of their dApp development
Additionally, strong community support can lead to more frequent updates, security patches, and innovative features.
Interoperability refers to the ability of blockchain to communicate and interact with other blockchains. This allows for the exchange of information, liquidity, and value between blockchains. Interoperable blockchains benefit from network effects, where the value of the network increases with the number of participants.
Developers can prioritize interoperability-friendly blockchains to reach a diverse and expansive audience.
Similarly, they also get to optimize resources by building their dApps on the most efficient network and then open access to users from other chains.
Which blockchain is best?
Let’s look at some of the top blockchain networks for web3 apps.
The benefits of building on Ethereum are:
- Leader in terms of liquidity, total value locked, and the range of
- compatible standards, tokens, and protocols.
- Supports scaling solutions like rollups for higher transaction throughput.
- Extensive suite of tools like Truffle, and Remix, for development and testing.
- Active network upgrades and improvements.
- Comprehensive documentation and tutorials for developers.
However, Ethereum has been suffering from scalability issues, leading to frequent network congestion and super-high gas fees.
To address these issues, a plethora of scaling solutions — such as layer-2, sidechains, rollups, and more — have emerged (we'll discuss later).
Before that, we need to understand an integral part of Ethereum which facilitates interoperability — the EVM.
Ethereum virtual machine (EVM)
EVM is a runtime environment for executing smart contracts on Ethereum. Simply put, EVM enables the deployment and execution of smart contracts on Ethereum. Every Ethereum node runs an EVM instance, which allows them to agree on executing the same instructions.
The blockchains supporting this run-time environment are described as EVM-compatible blockchains. They enable developers to deploy the same smart contracts and applications designed for EVM without significant overhead.
- Developers can leverage existing smart contracts and deploy them with minimal modifications, saving their time.
- Use existing tools and frameworks, like thirdweb's toolkit, for building across EVM-compatible chains, which can reduce the learning curve and speed up development.
- Interoperability with cross-chain bridges for seamless interaction across multiple chains enables a wider user base to engage with applications.
Avalanche is a layer 1 blockchain platform for building scalable use-case-specific decentralized applications. Developers can create custom blockchains (subnets) with their own rules, validators, and functionality within the Avalanche ecosystem.
The benefits of building on Avalanche are:
- Avalanche is designed for scalability, supporting a high number of transactions per second.
- Cross-chain transfers are possible, enabling assets to move seamlessly between different subnets within the Avalanche network.
Solana is a popular layer 1 blockchain for building highly scalable decentralized applications. It is based on a novel Proof of History (PoH) consensus mechanism, which allows the network to generate a super high throughput while keeping transaction costs minimal.
The benefits of building on Solana are:
- Solana can handle thousands of transactions per second, ideal for high-frequency applications.
- Transactions on the Solana network cost a fraction of a cent, ideal for intense dApps.
- Comprehensive tools and resources, including Solana Labs.
Sidechains are separate blockchains that run independently from layer 1 with their unique parameters and consensus mechanism, enabling efficient transaction processing. They help scale the existing layer-1 by processing some workload separately from the mainnet.
For developers, sidechains are perfect to build and deploy niche applications without affecting the mainchain, targeting specific user bases or use cases.
Polygon Proof-of-Stake network is a sidechain designed to address Ethereum's scalability issues. The base layer of Polygon PoS is deployed on Ethereum using smart contracts to anchor the polygon chain to the mainnet and enable other functionalities.
The security of transactions is ensured by cryptographic proofs, which are submitted to the Ethereum blockchain. Its low cost and scalable infrastructure make it an ideal choice to build high-volume web3 applications. Developers can reuse existing tools and code in web3 apps thanks to EVM compatibility.
The benefits of building on Polygon PoS are:
- Polygon is fully compatible with Ethereum, allowing developers to deploy Ethereum-style dApps with minimal changes.
- Unlike traditional sidechains, Polygon supports multiple consensus mechanisms.
- The Polygon SDK allows for the creation of standalone chains that are compatible with Ethereum, offering flexibility in development.
Rollups are scaling solutions that execute transactions off the main chain, and post transaction data as proof on the main chain. The off-chain execution reduces congestion and fees on the main chain while allowing for more transactions per second.
1. Optimistic rollups
Optimistic rollups assume that all off-chain transactions are valid until a participant disputes against it. It has a fraud-proof mechanism called the "challenge period," during which participants can submit fraud proof to claim the invalidity of the transaction.
If successful, the transaction is nullified, and the malicious validator is penalized for the fault, ensuring the integrity of transactions in the system.
Arbitrum is a top Ethereum scaling solution that has a large user base (specifically in DeFi) with a TVL of $2.56 billion. Employing optimistic rollup technology, Arbitrum helps off-loads Ethereum computation and processing to improve its scalability.
For developers, Arbitrum offers a suite of tools like the AnyTrust Chain to create tailored applications for specific use cases. A key feature of Arbitrum is its EVM compatibility, aiding developers to seamlessly deploy and integrate their existing Ethereum applications.
Optimism or OP mainnet is an EVM-equivalent chain using optimistic rollup technology. It also provides enhanced transaction throughput and reduces gas fees while benefiting from Ethereum security.
A notable feature of Optimism is it’s OP Stack – an open-source and standardized software stack for developers to build their own production-ready layer 2 blockchain. These chains, when integrated as a singular unit, result in the concept of the "Super chain."
Superchain is a network of layer 2 blockchains that share a common OP Stack development foundation, ensuring seamless communication and security.
Building on and within the Superchain ecosystem offers not only smooth transactional experiences across multiple chains but also dynamic scalability.
Base is a layer 2 chain built by Coinbase using Optimism’s OP stack. Similar to other L2s, Base is pursuing Ethereum scalability. For this, Base provides a developer-friendly environment allowing developers to build multichain supporting applications via cross-chain bridges and offers fractional cost.
Besides this, Base being fully-EVM compatibile enhances the development process and deployment of existing code. This ensures a smooth and efficient transition for developers looking to enjoy the security and robustness of Ethereum but while bypassing its scalability bottlenecks.
2. Zero-knowledge rollups
Zero-knowledge rollups execute transactions off-chain and roll them into batches of multiple transactions. They generate zero-knowledge proofs (ZKPs) for every batch of transactions, which is then verified onchain to confirm their correctness and accuracy.
The nature of ZKPs is that it enhances transaction privacy by obscuring transaction details while still verifying their validity. This layer of privacy helps ZKPs attract developers building institutional-grade applications or in fields like financial services, voting systems, or identity management.
Polygon zkEVM is the integration of zero-knowledge technology with Ethereum Virtual Machine on Polygon. It enables the processing of a vast number of transactions off-chain, while maintaining Ethereum’s security and transactional integrity.
By utilizing zk-proofs, Polygon zkEVM not only significantly boosts transaction throughput but also dramatically reduces gas fees.
For developers, Polygon zkEVM makes it easier to build dApps that are more affordable and accessible to a wider audience. Additionally, the EVM equivalence lets developers seamlessly transition into Polygon zkEVM without needing to learn new tools and rewrite existing code.
Linea enables efficient and cost-effective creation of smart contracts and dApps on Ethereum using zk-rollups. Linea is also known as “developer-first zk-rollup solution” as it makes it extremely simple for developers to build dApps using zk-rollups.
More importantly, Linea is an EVM-equivalent network, meaning it mirrors the EVM's architecture. Smart contracts written for Ethereum can be deployed on Linea without any major modifications.
Developers can use the same tools and infrastructure they are accustomed to on Ethereum, such as Truffle, Hardhat, and MetaMask. This compatibility extends to other aspects of the Ethereum ecosystem, like wallets and block explorers, making the transition smoother for both developers and users.
zkSync Era is another ZK rollup that bundles multiple transactions into a single transaction on the Ethereum mainnet. zkSync offers a near-instantaneous finality on transactions, allowing for more transactions per second while maintaining the security guarantees of Ethereum.
Also, zkSync Era is EVM-compliant, which means developers can deploy existing Ethereum dApps and smart contracts on zkSync Era easily. It supports Vyper and Solidity programming languages, lowering the learning barrier for developers to transition into the zkSync Era and build projects.
Layer 3 Chains
Layer 3 chains are at the forefront of the appchain — application-specific chains — thesis. These are specifically designed to provide customized solutions to suit developer needs, such as high transaction throughput or enhanced privacy. Similarly, appchains can also be tailored to specific industries like gaming, trading, etc.
Arbitrum Orbit Chains
Arbitrum Orbit Chains are customizable forks of the Arbitrum Nitro stack. These chains settle their transactions to one of Arbitrum's public Layer 2 chains. This arrangement allows them to leverage the security and efficiency of the Ethereum base layer.
Orbit chains can be adapted to any specific use case and dedicated throughput, improving both developer and user experience.
For example, XAI is a blockchain network dedicated to web3 gaming built using the Orbit tech stack. It uses several technologies, including parallel processing, sharding, and rollups, to improve scalability for an optimized gaming experience.
Subnets are independent virtual machines with their own execution logic and functionalities to provide tailored solutions to developer needs. These can run multiple virtual machines by themselves and have security rules and tokenomics.
Developers have the freedom to create their own custom virtual machines on top of existing or public Subnets in the Avalanche ecosystem in any language of their choice.
Beam is a notable Avalanche subnet, created by the Merit Circle DAO to cater to the specific needs of blockchain games.
Zones are app-specific blockchains on top of the Cosmos network, which are interoperable with each other. These zones, collectively with hubs, create an internet of networks – Cosmos network.
Cosmos implements IBC's Replicated Security protocol that allows chains to lease their security to each other. This ensures a highly secured environment with trustless decentralization.
Osmosis is a prominent Cosmos Zone. It is an advanced decentralized exchange (DEX) protocol that allows for the creation of liquidity pools and trading pairs for various tokens.
Start web3 application development with thirdweb
Currently, web3 development is not as straightforward as its web2 counterparts. The architecture is fragmented and developers need to orchestrate their dApps, jumbling with multiple components. However, choosing the right blockchain at the start can reduce a lot of headache for developers.
The right blockchain is much more than the products and dApps built on it. A well-supported blockchain comes with a strong developer community, meaning better resources, tooling, documentation, and forums for troubleshooting — essentially making developers’ lives easier.
We hope this guide helped you understand better what specific things you should look at while choosing blockchain and provided an overview of different blockchains you can build on.
And if you have decided and want to start building web3 apps on Ethereum & EVM-chains, check out thirdweb's web3 tools and SDKs - they're free!