VeChain (VEN) began as a Blockchain-as-a-Service company primarily focused on supply chain tracking. Initially launched in China in August 2017, the VeChain platform attempts to combine blockchain technology with an in-house smart chip (which can be implemented in NFC chips, RFID trackers, or QR codes) to track items through the entire supply chain lifecycle. VeChain is working on implementing several industry specific tracking platforms including solutions for tracking luxury goods as well as liquor and wine. In late 2017, VeChain announced plans to rebrand as “VeChain Thor.” VeChain Thor is a DApp platform (like Ethereum, Cardano, and NEO) focused on producing enterprise level DApps. VeChain Thor will incorporate two new tokens: VeChainToken (VET) and VeThor (VTHO). VET will be used to secure VeChain’s new public blockchain, and VTHO tokens will be generated by holding VET, like NEO’s GAS tokens. Despite the rebranding, VeChain Thor is still a work in progress, and does not currently have a public alpha or beta. Its new mainnet is scheduled to launch in June 2018. As of March 2018, VEN’s trade volume is relatively concentrated: about 65% of VEN trading takes place on Lbank, which is a Chinese based exchange, and another 25% takes place on Binance.
NANO, formerly known as RaiBlocks, is a project initially conceived in 2014 by Colin LeMahieu, a Software Engineer based in Texas. The project is currently experimenting with Directed Acyclic Graphs (DAGs); an alternative data structure to the way blockchains are generally developed today. It attempts to provide a solution to one of the biggest risks currently faced by blockchain-based networks, which is the rise of immensely powerful quantum computers. Although still very theoretical, these supercomputers could enable hackers to attack blockchain based networks in the future. The NANO network offers quantum-resisting features by structuring its transactions using Directed Acyclic Graphs (DAGs), which are supposedly more resistant to quantum attacks. Transactions are posted on-chain as they occur by nodes of the network and linked with a signature system, thereby eliminating the need for mining and enabling free transactions. NANO also uses a Proof-of-Stake consensus mechanism to validate the blocks in its blockchain. In February 2018, 17 million units of NANO were stolen from BitGrail, an Italian cryptocurrency exchange. At the time, one unit of NANO was worth around $10, putting the total BitGrail loss at $170 million.
ICON is a South Korean blockchain interoperability project. Its founder Min Kim has a background in finance. While working for a South Korean VC fund, he was involved with the launch of Coinone, a large South Korean cryptocurrency exchange. This experience led Kim to start a project for private and consortium blockchains called LoopChain. According to Kim, ICON was first envisioned as a stable coin and received support from Woori, a South Korean bank. This idea was later dropped. Given the already-existing network of private blockchains using LoopChain infrastructure, Kim decided to instead create a protocol for the connection and interoperability of all of these private blockchains. ICON can be seen as an evolution of LoopChain, and is very much based on the same technology; a fairly simple blockchain with a BFT consensus algorithm written in Python. Despite its technological simplicity, ICON uses confusing methodology to define its governance structure. It defines Communities as both public blockchains (i.e. Ethereum) and private blockchains (i.e. LoopChain), which relate to the ICON ecosystem as full nodes, called Community Nodes. There are also Community Representatives, which engage in the governance of both the ICON network, as well as the community they are representing. ICON-compatible blockchains interact through Nexus, a software that connects all Community Representatives and verifies the validity of the transactions across chains. Currently, ICON seems to be focused on exchange compatibility of potential sub-tokens within its network rather than on developing interoperability mechanisms that use Merkle proofs.
Bitcoin Gold was forked from Bitcoin in October 2017 by developer Martin Kuvandzhiev. The only thing that the project changed from the original Bitcoin source code was the consensus algorithm; from SHA-256 to Equihash, the consensus algorithm used to mine Zcash. This was seen as an unnecessary change by the general community, and only a small number of mining pools supported it. Kuvandzhiev used the rise of ASIC mining to justify the change, but the fork was still very much scrutinized. In November 2017, a report revealed that a hidden hard-coded algorithm was sending a 0.5% fee directly to Kuvandzhiev’s wallet along with the coinbase (block reward) transaction. Bitcoin Gold’s network value decreased significantly following the release of this report. That same month, bitcoin users looking to get a free bitcoin gold balance were targeted by mybtgwallet.com, an elaborate scam disguised as a wallet that stole its users’ private keys. Despite these issues, Bitcoin Gold continues to be a highly traded cryptocurrency due to its extensive exchange support.