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Which Cryptocurrency Networks Process Transactions Fastest?
If cryptocurrencies are to compete with fiat currencies, transaction speed is one of the most important considerations.
By Gavin Phillips Posted in Commentary on December 6, 2018 5 min read
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The interest in cryptocurrency has a strong focus on one area: price. How much does it cost? Will the price rise? Should you go long? Is a cryptocurrency worth investment? But that ignores another important facet of a cryptocurrency.

How fast are transactions? Moreover, how many transactions can the network handle? Oh, and is it scalable?

The questions on the lips of cryptocurrency users—rather than pure speculative investors—relate to the underlying technology, not just the price.

What Is the Fastest Cryptocurrency Network?

Cryptocurrency capacity and transaction speed is really important. Why? Well, if cryptocurrencies are to compete directly with fiat payment services, transaction speed and capacity must at least begin to match their fiat competitors.

The fastest fiat networks are rapid and scalable. The Visa network handles a couple of thousand transactions every second of every day with remaining capacity to scale up to 24,000 transactions per second (tps).

How about Bitcoin? Bitcoin idles along, processing about six transactions per second. Given the technological irritation of purchasing and storing Bitcoin, then waiting around an hour for the transaction confirmation, you can see why Bitcoin is nowhere near the level required for a transactional currency.

That’s not to say it can’t be used that way. There are just some faster options available.

However, the flipside is that some of the alleged fastest cryptocurrency networks have never experienced the necessary capacity to put their claims of transaction speed superiority to the test. Judging transaction speed using a private blockchain testnet is all good and well, but how does the network withstand real-world use?

1. EOS

1.5s per transaction | Theoretical network capacity of 50,000 tps | Very low transaction fee

EOS is a blockchain protocol that emulates an operating system. The protocol aims to support industrial-scale decentralized applications and solve the scalability issues facing other blockchains such as Ethereum and Bitcoin.

EOS biggest draw is the monumentally fast transaction times and the currently very low transaction fees. Better still, a core EOS aim is to eliminate transaction fees from its blockchain, providing a super-fast free smart contract platform for large industrial organizations.

2. Steem

3s per transaction | Theoretical network capacity of 10,000 tps | No transaction fee

Steem is the cryptocurrency powering the social media platform, Steemit. Users post original content to the platform and receive Steem tokens in exchange for their contributions. Users also receive Steem rewards for commenting on the content, creating a crypto ecosystem based around original user-created content.

Steemit itself is an actual blockchain built using a technology known as Graphene. Graphene is an open source modular blockchain that allows the development of very applications with very specific functions. Graphene’s theoretical transaction network capacity is 100,000 tps.

3. XRP

4s per transaction | Theoretical network capacity of 50,000 tps | Very low transaction fee

XRP is the cryptocurrency of the Ripple payment network. Ripple aims to reduce cross-border international payments, banking, and remittance issues using a distributed ledger. Ripple uses an “interledger protocol” that allows parties to settle their accounts across different systems using the Ripple token, XRP.

Ripple and XRP aren’t without controversy though. Depending on who you ask, you will hear that XRP isn’t a real cryptocurrency. That’s because XRP is pre-mined by Ripple Labs. Ripple Labs then distribute the token as they see fit. In that, XRP isn’t truly decentralized. Furthermore, it uses very few nodes for transaction consensus, furthering distancing the network and protocol from other cryptocurrencies.

Nonetheless, it remains a popular choice due to its fast transaction times, potential for scale, and the demonstratable use of the network capacity increasing while maintaining transaction costs and processing time.

4. Stellar

5s per transaction | Theoretical network capacity of 1,000 tps | Extremely low transaction fee

Stellar is a decentralized “platform that connects banks, payment systems, and people.” Stellar, then, is a blockchain protocol that allows people to move money from one place to another quickly, and at extremely low cost.

For a while, Stellar offered an extremely similar range of features to XRP. That’s because Stellar is a hard-fork of the XRP protocol. The Stellar developers took a different direction to Ripple Labs, predominantly focusing on closing security holes in the XRP platform. At the time same, the Stellar developers took the platform open source, as opposed to Ripple.

The switch to open source certainly increased the popularity of Stellar and its currency, Lumens, along with its altering approach to consistently releasing more Lumens into the ecosystem (whereas Ripple Labs tightly control how much and when more XRP releases to users).

5. Nano

5s per transaction | Theoretical network capacity of 7,000 tps | No transaction fee

Nano, formerly known as RaiBlocks, has a very strong focus on solving the scaling issue facing the Bitcoin and Ethereum blockchains.

Rather than using a single massive blockchain with numerous inputs, Nano uses something called block-lattice architecture. In blockchain terms, a block-lattice architecture essentially means each account uses its own blockchain of sorts, speeding the transaction process up immensely. The individual account blockchains can update at any time before reconciling with the main Nano blockchain.

Nano’s block lattice architecture allows the cryptocurrency to scale up. Furthermore, improvements to the underlying technology should boost Nano’s theoretical network transaction capacity past 7,000 tps—and all without a transaction fee.

Are Bitcoin and Ethereum Fast Cryptocurrencies?

The cryptocurrencies listed here represent some of the fastest cryptocurrency transaction processing networks. It isn’t comprehensive; I’m sure readers will quickly recommend ICON, NEM, Ardor, Spectrecoin, NEO, and other crypto platforms with rapid transactions and scalable transaction processing.

(Why are there so many cryptocurrencies, anyway?)

You probably note that the major players, Bitcoin and Ethereum, are nowhere in sight. Bitcoin and Ethereum cannot compete with the alternative cryptocurrencies on this list.

Indeed, in many cases, the ultra-fast cryptocurrencies and blockchains are specifically designed to challenge the dominance of the established platforms, be that through transaction speed, network transaction volume, or transaction cost.

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