ShapeShift report cites Cosmos, Polkadot, and NEAR as key emerging smart contracts tech

Cryptocurrency exchange platform ShapeShift has released a new in-depth report on new smart contracts protocols – and has cited Cosmos, Polkadot, and NEAR with particular potential for decentralised applications (dApps).

The report, authored by Kent Barton, head of research and development at ShapeShift, is the first in a series of three reports to be published this year aimed at providing an in-depth review of the opportunity and state of evolution within the blockchain, cryptocurrency and Web 3.0 spheres.

ShapeShift’s report provides readers with a detailed assessment of each protocol in terms of its:

  • architecture
  • interoperability
  • governance
  • ecosystem
  • token distribution

Cosmos’ network is designed to be an interoperable, scalable connector of blockchains built with developers in mind. It differs from both Polkadot and NEAR as it has opted to trade security for greater scalability, which means developers have to create their own security through validators.

Barton sees 2021 as a big year for Cosmos. Having been operating in a simplified form for two years and processing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of transactions, it now hopes to implement its inter-blockchain communication (IBC) systems and realise the benefits of cross-chain liquidity.

Polkadot is a decentralised interoperability platform created by Ethereum co-founder Gavin Wood that enables customisable blockchains to connect to public ones. Similarly to Ethereum, it opts for a sharding approach to tackle scalability issues. Notable projects being developed for Polkadot include Kusama and Moonbeam.

Kusama is a Polkadot fork incentivised testnet, where protocol and parachain developers can experiment in an environment with economic consequences via Kusama’s native token. Meanwhile, Moonbeam is converting Ethereum’s Virtual Machine (EVM) onto Polkadot. Solidity support and built-in ERC-20 compatibility could make this a compelling choice for existing Ethereum dApps.

NEAR is another decentralised and open source blockchain platform, with its main goal being to facilitate and accelerate dApp development. It does this through a similar sharding approach to Ethereum and Polkadot, as well as some key design decisions aimed at being developer friendly.

Its nodes run WebAssembly (WASM), a standard that runs in most browsers and smart contracts can be built in Rust or a variant of JavaScript. The NEAR team has also created a development environment to provide one-click deploys, unit testing, and other essential tools.

Having only launched its public mainnet in October 2020, NEAR is a relative newcomer in the blockchain sphere. However, it has attracted considerable funding due to the experience of its founders, Illia Polosukhin and Alexander Skidanov, who previously developed non-blockchain sharded databases at both Google and Microsoft.

“The world of smart contract platforms is buzzing with new entrants—all of which strive to offer the properties of being trust-minimized, censorship-resistant, immutable, permissionless and transparent. These are the qualities that have propelled Ethereum to success,” said Barton.

“Enthusiasts may want to get involved with these newer blockchains early; but it’s difficult to know which new projects have a strong foundation before they have earned a critical mass of developers, users and projects. This series of reports, while not investment advice, will offer analysis and one view of their potential,” he added.

You can read the full report, ‘New Frontiers: A Deep-Dive Analysis of the Cosmos, Polkadot and NEAR Protocols’, here (pdf, no email required).

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