Curious about launching an NFT project but unsure what blockchain technology will best fit your business’ use case? You may find yourself endlessly scouring cramped internet forums and articles trying to discern one blockchain from another. Fortunately, we have compiled a list of the most popular chains used to mint NFTs and have simplified each to help you understand which one is right for your project.
All the data contained inside a block is contingent upon the type of blockchain. There are a myriad of blockchains to choose from—Ethereum, Polygon, and Flow just to name a few.
When choosing the right blockchain, focus on the following:
Tradability (is it easily tradable on secondary markets)
Scalability (can it be scaled to millions of transactions)
Sustainability (does it harm the environment)
Security and Longevity (will it be around in the future and is it secure)
Let’s discuss each in more detail:
Ethereum is by far the most popular blockchain and rightfully so with its millions of users and billions in transaction volume each day. The Ethereum Blockchain is immutable and censorship-resistant due to its distributed, global network of computers that are constantly updating and verifying all transactions. This means your NFT will be highly secured inside ETH’s network. The Proof-of-Work (PoW) consensus algorithm (a fancy way of making sure all transactions are verified by the network) running on its blockchain, makes the network more reliable, trustworthy, and tradeable. Due to its wide support with secondary markets and decentralized app ecosystems, Ethereum makes your NFT portable across different platforms and markets. Additionally, Ethereum’s longevity will ensure that your assets are protected for years to come.
Unfortunately, this security comes at a cost–PoW miners exert a lot of energy to validate transactions. Every time a transaction is recorded, a select amount of ETH is burned; this is called a “gas fee.” In more simple terms, gas fees can be described as oil, and they are consumed every time information is shared and distributed. These gas fees result in expensive transaction costs and energy expenditure. This makes Ethereum far less sustainable and scalable than other blockchains as its ecosystem uses a lot of energy and has a high carbon footprint.
Layer1 is the foundation, or “its own railroad,” on which the Ethereum Blockchain completes its transactions. This one-way track is susceptible to more and more congestion, which causes bottlenecks. Ethereum’s current network processing rate operates at 10-15 TPS (transactions per second), so the network trades off scalability and performance for a more secure, centralized network.
Polygon (aka MATIC), is a blockchain built horizontally to Ethereum that is the marriage between low gas fees and security. Its ecosystem was manufactured to address the scalability and congestion issues that arose with Ethereum. Polygon is less computation-intensive and runs much more optimally than Ethereum. This new technology has been slowly gaining in popularity, so much so that many large projects are now choosing to launch on the platform over its bigger brother. Energy-efficient Polygon has cheaper gas fees and a faster time frame for transactions. More than 7,000 decentralized apps are available on Polygon including marketplace juggernaut, OpenSea. The network’s high performance and low costs make the platform attractive to anyone who wants the tradability of ETH without the carbon footprint and high fees. Polygon also retains the longevity of Ethereum as it is tethered to the Ethereum Blockchain. So hypothetically, as long as ETH exists, so too will Polygon.
An entirely different chain built on top of the Ethereum settlement. Flow separates itself from the likes of Ethereum and Polygon through its unique method of splitting transactions into four separate nodes: collection, consensus, verification, and execution. These nodes work together to reduce the number of transaction steps, lowering costs and increasing efficiency. Due to its strengths in scalability, some of the most reputable companies in the industry such as Ballerz, CryptoKittens, and NBA Top Shot, licensed their NFTs on top of the Flow Blockchain. One issue with Flow is that the secondary market is very small and tradability is limited. If your goal is to make your NFTs easily tradable on secondary markets, then this platform may not be a great choice until additional support is added.
Solana and others
Solana is another unique blockchain recognized for its incredibly fast processing speed and low gas fees. Its Proof-of-History (PoH) mechanism provides a granular source of time for each transaction with fewer computer computations, resulting in rapid transaction speeds. Solana’s newer technology and efficiencies support its case for being a long-term solution and competitor to the other technologies above. Solana is capable of completing up to 50,000 TPS and can additionally accommodate even more growth—far more sustainable than other layer-one blockchains.
Cardano, Tezos, and Immutable X are among a variety of other blockchains that have become popular with NFTs. Each has a unique story as to why it will succeed, but only time will tell which ones will emerge long term. There are many more chains emerging each day, and it’s important to do your research before choosing a new blockchain as it may fade into obscurity in a few years and your NFTs will be useless.
Let’s take a look back at the different blockchains based on our initial criteria:
Sustainability: Flow, Polygon, Solana, and Cardano are all very sustainable and have reduced energy consumption considerably.
Tradability: Ethereum wins by a long shot here with Polygon coming in second. Solana is steadily climbing and Flow still has a ways to go.
Scalability: Solana and Flow are near the top with Polygon and Cardano close behind. Ethereum struggles greatly here.
Security and Longevity: Ethereum and Polygon are both at the top here due to their reliance on one of the largest and most secure networks in the world. Ethereum will be around for the distant future so any NFTs built on this chain will be safe and secured. Only time will tell which of the other chains will be included in this list as well.
Based on our criteria, Ethereum is still the best platform to launch an NFT followed closely by Polygon and Flow. Of course, every project is unique, and will require a different weighting of importance for each aspect listed above. The key is to make sure you understand the risks of each before jumping in and minting your first NFT.