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A Closer Look at Ethereum Killers: Does Developer Experience Matter?

What are Ethereum Killers? Are they going to replace Ethereum? It now depends on the "developer experience".

Posted March 1, 2023
Last updated September 5, 2023

Ethereum (ETH) logo on dark purple background.
Ethereum (ETH) logo on dark purple background.

Ethereum is currently the second-most popular crypto network, both in terms of market capitalisation and the number of applications that interact with it. 

It gets its popularity for being the first most widely-known programmable blockchain. Being programmable means that you can do so much more with Ethereum than just sending and receiving cryptocurrencies. 

Since its creation, developers have created applications such as crypto lending platforms, exchanges, games, stablecoin and token issuers, and Decentralised Autonomous Organisations (DAOs) β€” a leaderless community-driven entity that is powered by crypto tokens.

New to Ethereum? Learn the basics of Ethereum.

The rise of “Ethereum Killers”

In the past five years, contesting blockchains sprung as a response for Ethereum’s apparent weaknesses. For example, one common complaint is that Ethereum’s transaction fees can get ridiculously high at times.

This happens during periods of high network activity, with users competing for priority, as they want to settle transactions quickly. 

So-called “Ethereum Killers” claim to offer higher transaction speeds, security, and the flexibility of connecting with other blockchains.

They were also among the first to adapt the eco-friendly Proof of Stake consensus mechanism that Ethereum didn’t have before.

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Is Ethereum doomed to fail?

Around 2017 and 2019, with the emergence of blockchains such as Solana, Cardano, BNB Chain, Avalanche, and more, all appearing at once in the face of a struggling Ethereum, it seemed as though Ethereum would become deprecated at some point.

However in 2021, Ethereum developers worked relentlessly at upgrading Ethereum. They started by reducing Ethereum’s energy consumption by more than 99%.

This was when Ethereum switched from Bitcoin-style Proof of Work mining to Proof of Stake β€” a process known as “The Merge“.

Ethereum logo
Ethereum has become more eco-friendly since 2022. Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash.

Ethereum’s low transaction throughput has also long been supported by networks such as Polygon, Arbitrum, and Optimistic β€” so-called “Ethereum Helpers” as they form an additional layer to support a growing number of transactions on the network.

Additionally, in a few years after The Merge, Ethereum will be able to increase its throughput, through a process called sharding, which will significantly reduce transaction fees. 

Upgrading Ethereum at this point is like trying to replace and renew parts of a perpetually moving train β€” the train cannot and will never stop. The engineers now have to do many tests before implementing anything as to not derail the whole system off its track. 

While Ethereum alternatives were already optimised from the ground-up, they are still new. It would take a huge momentum to get them up to speed with Ethereum.

To make matters worse, Ethereum Killers may be fighting among themselves to attract new developers, who may already be set for Ethereum in the first place.

So, is this a call for check against Ethereum Killers on the blockchain chessboard?

Related: What is Proof-of-Stake (PoS)?

Impact of developer experience

End-user experience used to matter when speculating on which blockchain could dominate the world. However, as the crypto sector matures, the rules are changing.

Nowadays, a good application will feel great to use by end-users, regardless of which blockchain(s) the app is using.

Many applications can use a combination of technologies to ensure smooth end-user experience. A fast trading platform can use Blockchain A to store data, and get liquidity from Blockchain B, and then using another blockchain to roll-up the final balance sheet onto Ethereum for security. 

AWS, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure stacked on top.
Developer experience matters as much as user experience. Source: Shutterstock.

In the future, end-users won’t care about which blockchain their app is using. Think about this Easy Crypto website. Do you care if it is hosted on AWS or Google Cloud?

Now, if you are an investor of Amazon or Google shares, will you care about how AWS or Google Cloud are treating software developers? Probably for sure! 

Logically, if these companies provide more resources, free training, developer support, and have an extensive library or frameworks to use out of the box, more developers would be interested in using their services. It’s no different in the blockchain world!

Analysing “Ethereum Killers” by developer experience

Let’s define seven blockchains that were dubbed “Ethereum Killers” at some point in their lifetime. These are the top 20 layer-1 smart contract-enabled crypto networks in order of their market capitalisation as of February 2023:

What does having a “good developer experience” mean?

Broadly speaking, we can define a good developer experience as one where it’s easy to learn the technology of the blockchain in question.

We can take a look at how well the documentation is written, what programming languages are used for building the smart contracts, and other learning resources that have been provided by the core network developers.

This can be very opinionated, as developers have varying degrees of experience and expectations. The author who analysed each network’s documentation has dabbled into Javascript for web development, but doesn’t have much experience with the software development culture. 

On the flip side, this could be a good thing, as we are analysing from a “layman” developer’s perspective. So, if a tech stack is well understood by a beginner, there’s a high chance that it could gain traction for developers for all levels of knowledge.

Further reading: Explore more topics on all things crypto.

More parts to come!

We’ll have a look at BNB Chain, Cardano and Solana in an upcoming part 2 of this series, so stay tuned!

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Disclaimer: Information is current as at the date of publication. This is general information only and is not intended to be advice. Crypto is volatile, carries risk and the value can go up and down. Past performance is not an indicator of future returns. Please do your own research.

Last updated September 5, 2023

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