AURORA VS. NEON EVM: A COMPARISON
These days, people will often find Solana and NEAR mentioned in the same conversation. Both Layer-1 blockchains are coded in the Rust programming language, have witnessed explosive growth during the past year, and are set to solve the many current and future computational challenges that Ethereum faces. In essence, NEAR and Solana both aim to provide a solution for the issues that plague the Ethereum network by offering: low-gas fees for users; the ability to host significantly higher number of transactions per second (TPS); and the more eco-friendly option of being built on an already available Proof-of-Stake (POS) network. However, the two blockchains achieve these features in several distinct ways (namely, NightShade Sharding on NEAR and Proof-of-History on Solana.)
This article compares two Ethereum virtual machine (EVM) compatible Layer-2 scaling solutions: Aurora, built on NEAR; and Neon EVM, developed on Solana. Note, despite the fact that Neon exists live on the Solana devnet, the virtual machine is still undergoing development and has yet to launch on the Solana mainnet at the time of writing (according to Neon’s latest newsletter, the project is still waiting on the results of a few final security audits.) Regardless, this article paints a clear picture of the similarities and differences both sets of networks offer in terms of Web3 user experience (UX) — helping to further distinguish Solana from NEAR, so that users can find the right fit for them when both EVMs eventually come live.
Aurora redefines what is possible with the Ethereum network, while simultaneously expanding NEAR’s ecosystem to welcome EVM-based applications. In a recent presentation at Ethcc in July, 2022, Alex Shevchenko (CEO, Aurora Labs) outlines the many achievements Aurora has experienced since its launch last year — making it clear how the Aurora network is attracting users from various different Layer-1 blockchains and traditional Web2 ecosystems, creating ripples across the Web3 space.
During the same presentation, Shevchenko mainly attributes Aurora’s high-growth to the elevated UX offered by the Aurora+ dashboard combined with the seamless onboarding via the Rainbow Bridge. Evidence of this growth can be seen in the rankings, where the Rainbow Bridge ranks in the top 3 bridges by transaction volume (TVL), while having never been hacked before (in part due to its high security and bug bounty program), being the only fully trustless and permissionless bridge working with Ethereum at the moment. As Schevchenko mentions, the Aurora team recently released the Aurora+ dashboard — a new platform and membership program that gives users a next-generation experience when interacting with Web3, allowing them to reclaim the convenience and familiarity encountered in the more traditional Web2 UX. Aurora+ accomplishes this by giving users a simple layout to interact with and 50 free transactions per month to all Aurora users before reverting to the base gas fee (<$0.01).
This seamless UX is absolutely necessary for mass adoption. Web2 users are often unaccustomed to concepts such as ‘stuck transactions’ or ‘constantly checking the gas price.’ Aurora even gives the option to allow third parties to pay for user transactions — ideal onboarding Web2 infrastructure to Web3. In this way, Aurora features low (often completely free) gas fees, high-scalability, and best-in-class transaction finality.
To find out more, read our introduction Aurora+
The Neon EVM is a cross-chain solution that allows dApp developers to access the advantages of Solana and expand their services to new products like arbitrage or high-frequency trading, grow their user base, and decrease fees where possible. Neon EVM enables full compatibility with Ethereum on Solana. And in a similar way to Aurora, Neon will benefit from low gas fees (at a cost no less than 0.000015 SOL per transaction) and high throughput (up to 4,500 Ethereum-like transactions per second.)
As with Aurora on NEAR, Neon does not see Ethereum as a competitor to Solana. And instead, recognises that despite its problems, Ethereum is set to remain a dominant blockchain ecosystem. The number of active dApps on Ethereum is hovering above 300, and the number of active users of these dApps is close to 6 million, with the number of transactions on the rise. Ethereum’s popularity is not only down to its processing of smart contracts, but also its sophisticated infrastructure for application development.
On the other hand, Solana is currently considered one of the most technically advanced and innovative blockchains, offering low gas fees and high throughput of transactions. Among these innovations is its Proof-of-Stake (PoS) consensus system, which is reinforced via a Proof-of-History protocol, a transaction parallelisation technology that optimises resources and ensures that Solana can scale horizontally across GPUs and SSDs, along with an optimised mempool system that speeds up throughput. The combination of Ethereum Dapps using Solana infrastructure would therefore be an ideal solution, especially as Neon enables the transfer of Ethereum dApps and tools onto Solana without any significant reconfiguration, which is currently not possible due to the different programming languages used by the two blockchains (Rust on Solana vs. Solidity on Ethereum.)
For more information, watch NEON’s recent presentation at ETH Devconnect.
NEON runs as a smart contract emulation on the Solana blockchain, while Aurora is similarly implemented as a smart contract on the NEAR blockchain. This means that both Aurora/Neon can benefit from all current and future advantages of their underlying respective blockchain. Moreover, it simplifies the early-stage maintenance, upgrade, and governance of both networks, enabling rapid response times in case of emergency such as the discovery of security vulnerabilities.
In Neon’s instance, the EVM is able to comply with both Ethereum and Solana rules. To accomplish this, EVM contracts are built using Vyper/Solidity compilers — allowing signatures to be checked on Solana according to Ethereum’s rules. And this means that the contract can interact with and call other smart contracts on Solana, like SPL tokens. Furthermore, as is also the case with Aurora, both Neon and Aurora support metamask integration.
Aurora’s smart contract sets it apart by allowing operations in its EVM runtime to be moved to the NEAR Protocol level, becoming precompiles. Moreover, the permissionless Rainbow Bridge mentioned earlier allows for an excellent point of connection for Ethereum and NEAR economies.
Step-by-step guide to integrating MetaMask with Aurora +
Step-by-step guide to integrating MetaMask with Solana (testnet)
Gas Fee & Token
Lastly, one of the most important features that hallmarks the UX for Web3 users is the gas fee and token of the network. Both Aurora and NEON have their own native governance token that is used to vote in the DAO and implement proposals to the network. However, both EVM Layer-2s also have glaring differences:
Aurora Network — Known for its polarising design decision to use ETH as its base currency for the payment of transaction fees; this unique approach aims to make Aurora stand out among its peers, and goes against the standard set by most other Ethereum Layer-2s that require users and developers to acquire the network’s own native token (i.e., $AURORA in this case)
Neon EVM — Opting for a more traditional approach, Neon features a utility token that is needed to pay for the execution of transactions ($NEON); and eventually, the Neon docs mention that payments will be accepted in ETH/ERC-20 tokens at the discretion of the Neon EVM operator
Clearly, many different factors play a role in which EVM users on Solana and NEAR may end up preferring (the two are also not mutually exclusive.) At the time of writing, it cannot be understated that Aurora has an impressive headstart with its built out ecosystem and high TVL on Aurora+ and the Rainbow Bridge. Moreover, Neon seems to have experienced several notable delays during the course of its development, and at the moment the roadmap on Neon’s website states that the virtual machine was scheduled for a full release by the end of Q2 2022 [June]. Nonetheless, for a large part the philosophy and architecture behind Neon and Aurora appear very similar in nature. And so, it’s probably best to keep a close eye on the development of both projects heading into the upcoming months.
As the EVM section of Web3 grows, an interesting phenomenon to look out for is the potential arrival of a large new user base on Aurora and Neon that enjoy using the Ethereum ecosystem, but exclusively operate on the EVM layer of NEAR / Solana due to their personal preferences and benefits provided by the third-generation blockchain. And perhaps, these users will never even find it necessary to settle directly on the Layer-1 Ethereum network during their Web3 journey — now, this definitely makes for an interesting ‘ETH bull’.
Written by Johan (@achildhoohero)
Disclaimer: NEARWEEK has attempted to remain unbiased during this comparison. However, readers should note that NW is a publication guild directly funded by the NEAR Foundation. If there is anything you feel we missed during our comparison, please let us know in the comment section and we will include it in the article.