one difference is the approaches that the various platforms are using to achieve consensus. Some use proof of work (PoW), others use variants of byzantine fault-tolerant strategies (PBFT, SBFT, etc). Some use PAXOS derivative strategies. Hyperledger Sawtooth Lake has developed an innovative strategy named Proof of Elapsed Time (PoET). Some, such as Hyperledger Fabric allow pluggable consensus implementations to allow for experimentation and additional diversity.
Other platforms differ in the means by which they implement confidentiality of data and transaction execution.
Some such as Hyperledger Fabric, Hyperledger Sawtooth Lake, Corda, Ethereum, and many others permit more comprehensive smart contract capabilities, while other platforms are very restrictive of the types of contract operations – such as the various platforms that only support the limited set of operations in the unspent transaction output (UTXO) protocol.
Some are more targeted to a specific use case, while others are more intended to be more general purpose. All are seeking to find ways to improve the various aspects of performance and scale.
Finally, some are intended to support permission-less public blockchain networks, while others are more oriented towards support for private, permissioned networks (consortia networks) where participation and membership are tightly controlled.
Hyperledger is focused on developing blockchain technologies suitable for use in the enterprise. The organization has been established to bring together related and even competing technologies in the expectation that the proximity and common governance will lead to interoperability and gradual consolidation.
Choosing a platform will demand significant research and a clear understanding of your use case and requirements and a good deal of experimentation. At the end of the day, there will be no easy answers.
Bitcoin technology stack — especially when enhanced with sidechains and payment channels (such as from Blockstream and Lightning Network).
Ethereum platform — currently the second most proven platform, behind the Bitcoin stack.
Hyperledger Fabric — a result of significant strategic investment from IBM and many others that are reaching into an installed base of large corporate customers.
R3 Corda — vertical-oriented blockchain technology (the company prefers “blockchain-inspired” because it emphasizes significant differences between this private/ permissioned ledger offering compared to the public/permissionless ledgers such as Bitcoin blockchain).
Digital Asset — another vertically focused blockchain technology that has high visibility in the financial services sector
While it is very difficult to predict the eventual winner given that it may not even be on the market, but it is possible to state what that winner will look like. Here are the 9 characteristics of a winning blockchain platform
Open-source — this is necessary to cultivate a rich and diverse ecosystem and accelerate adoption through the network effect.
Modular architecture with layers of programmability and customizability — as above, this cultivates an ecosystem and enables market adoption.
Global-scale — scalability, performance, and efficiency are essential if blockchain is to become the foundation for the “Internet of Money.”
Multiple implementations of the core protocol — multiple, independently developed implementations ensure that the protocol is understood, well-defined, and adds resistance to possible attacks (as occurred with the Ethereum platform in September 2016). This requires there to be an accurate and precise specification of the core protocol, as opposed to relying on one codebase that is not documented.
Hardened through public blockchain deployment — this is the only way to ensure that the system is secure and “bulletproof,” by exposing it to the worst threats on the open internet, as has occurred with both the Bitcoin stack and the Ethereum platform.
Configurable for private blockchain deployment and support for the confidentiality of transactions — because most businesses do not want their transactions to be visible by their competitors or by the rest of the world.
Functioning governance — there needs to be a cohesive decision-making structure that can respond in an agile and coherent manner to threats to the system.
Advanced smart contract capability — because the current generation of smart-contract technology relies on traditional languages (similar to Java or C#), which are inadequate for the rigorous requirements of large-value contracts (and are best supported by metadata-driven or mathematically verifiable programming systems).
Adequate tooling for developing, debugging, deploying, monitoring, and managing smart-contract-based systems (the importance of which was underscored by the recent denial-of-service attacks on the Ethereum network).