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Definition: major blockchains

Besides Bitcoin and Ethereum, the two blockchains that launched the crypto universe, there are many popular blockchains, some of which are listed below in alphabetical order. New blockchains are coming online all the time.

Anyone can participate in a public blockchain, whereas private blockchains are used by companies and industry groups. Like any private network, usage requires authorization from a central authority (see private blockchain). See crypto glossary.

Smart Contract
Smart contracts are programs that reside on the blockchain and offer an endless variety of options (see smart contract). Ethereum spawned the smart contract industry, and it remains the largest by far as of 2022.

Consensus Mechanisms
The various consensus protocols determine how blocks of transactions are verified and added to the blockchain. The consensus mechanism, which can be extremely complex, is the very heart of the blockchain architecture. See consensus mechanism, crypto token and Ethereum token.

Public (permissionless) Smart Contracts

Ethereum is the blockchain that spawned the DeFi revolution through programmable smart contracts, and all programmable blockchains emulate Ethereum in some manner. Ethereum uses the proof-of-work consensus but is switching to proof-of-stake. Ether (ETH) is the native crypto.

Due to Ethereum's popularity, its transaction fees have steadily grown, enticing developers to create new blockchains with lower fees. See Ethereum and gas.

BNB Chain
Formerly Binance Chain and Binance Smart Chain, BNB Chain is part of the Binance ecosystem comprising both exchange and blockchain. Using the proof-of-stake consensus mechanism, BNB is the native crypto. See Binance.

General-purpose blockchain that uses a proof-of-stake consensus mechanism. Cardano competes with Ethereum but as of 2022 has nowhere near the number of smart contract programs. ADA is the native crypto. See Cardano.

Touted as the fastest blockchain, more than 64 billion transactions were added to Solana between 2018 and 2022. Solana uses the proof-of-stake consensus as well as its own proof-of-history method that time stamps events. SOL is the native crypto. See Solana.

A delegated proof-of-stake blockchain that has a unique self-amending system. Tez (or Tezzie) is the native crypto.

Private (permissioned) Smart Contracts

A blockchain from the R3 consortium that uses the Asynchronous Byzantine Fault Tolerant consensus mechanism. Intended initially for the financial industry, Corda has no associated crypto. Used in major firms such as Intel, Microsoft, Merrill Lynch and Bank of America.

A blockchain as a service (BaaS) platform originally developed by the Walt Disney Company, Dragonchain was made open source. Dragonchain is both private, public and hybrid and uses the Context-Based Verification consensus mechanism.

An open source blockchain from Block.one that launched in 2018. The year before, Block.one raised more than $4 billion in its initial coin offering (ICO). EOSIO uses the delegated proof-of-stake consensus mechanism that eliminates all fees and has a built-in governance system for EOSIO developers. EOS is the native crypto.

Hedera Hashgraph
A blockchain that uses the Asynchronous Byzantine Fault Tolerant consensus mechanism. Hedera Hashgraph enables smart contracts to include the addresses of arbitrators that enable patches and new features to be added to existing smart contracts.

Hyperledger Fabric
A modular open source blockchain from the Linux Foundation, IBM and Digital Asset that supports multiple consensus mechanisms and services. In 2017, IBM launched its cloud-based "blockchain as a service" using the Hyperledger Fabric architecture.

Hyperledger Iroha
A modular blockchain from the Linux Foundation that uses the Yet Another Consensus based on the Chain-based Byzantine Fault Tolerant algorithm.

Hyperledger Sawtooth
A modular blockchain that uses Sawtooth's proof-of-elapsed-time consensus mechanism. Sawtooth is designed to integrate with hardware security.

A blockchain designed for digital assets and identities from the Neo Foundation. Established by the creators of Shanghai-based OnChain, Neo uses the Delegated Byzantine Fault Tolerance consensus mechanism. Along with the Neo Foundation, the NEO crypto token is used for governance.

A permissioned blockchain from Coinprism for digital asset management. OpenChain uses the Partitioned Consensus mechanism and has only one validation authority.

A blockchain that uses its own Stellar Consensus Protocol (STP). Designed for the financial industry, Stellar enables the exchange of crypto and fiat currencies and is used for cross-border exchange. Stellar is both permissioned and permissionless.

XDC Network
A delegated proof-of-stake blockchain designed for institutional finance. Its hybrid architecture enables XDC to interact with financial messaging standards (see ISO 20022).

Private (permissioned) - No Contracts

A blockchain from J.P. Morgan based on Ethereum that uses the majority voting consensus mechanism. Designed for all industries, Quorum is noted for its high processing speed.

A blockchain used for financial settlements. Ripple uses a probabilistic voting consensus mechanism and XRP crypto tokens. See Ripple.