Cardano is a unique cryptocurrency project that is based on sound principles rooted in science and engineering. Its application goes beyond financial systems, but implements a blockchain that covers a wider variety of applications. While it is available as a coin on digital exchanges, it does not yet have an actual use case (as of this posting). It is a development in progress that aims to nail the foundations for a well designed blockchain.
We can consider Cardano a Third Generation Blockchain. The First Generation uses Bitcoin’s Proof-of-Work (PoW) consensus mechanism and the UTXO model. Ethereum forms the basis for the Second Generation, which implements Turing complete Smart Contracts or EDCC (Executable Distributed Code Contracts). The Third Generation, which include other cryptocurrency like EOS and Tron, were based on Ethereum but innovate on consensus mechanisms. Like other Third Gen blockchains, it was also issued using an ICO that raised $62 Million.
Cardano, like Ethereum, uses a smart contract based system. The token or digital asset used on the network is called Ada. Ada provides balances to users with the Daedalus digital wallet. Cardano is also a platform for technological innovation and development. It will provide an operating system layer for DApp (Decentralized Applications) that run on the Cardano network. These DApp provide an interface to smart contracts that execute code to transfer value (e.g. payments, transfers, change of ownership, etc.). Cardano will facilitate these transactions and record it on its own blockchain for immutability and transparency purposes.
Cardano has 3 main features in its blockchain.
- Scalability – The network must be able to scale to meet the demands for high volume transaction processing. The developers address the issue of scaling by adopting a different consensus protocol mechanism that is based on Proof-of-Stake (PoS). Scalable systems are faster and more efficient, which is what a blockchain needs in order to handle production level processing of transactions. The network architecture for Cardano proposes using RINA (Recursive Internetwork Architecture).
- Interoperability – Many blockchains cannot directly interoperate with one another. There are solutions now that allow for “atomic swaps”, which essentially provides a way for two blockchains to transfer value between each other. Prior to that, digital exchanges were the only way to go. That creates an intermediary which is something a blockchain using direct P2P transfers can remove. With a third party, the cost of transactions increases and it can be tampered, censored or rejected.
- Sustainability – Many critics have called Bitcoin inefficient and unsustainable in the long run due to the way it consumes resources. A sustainable system is always more ideal in terms of efficiency and reliability. Sustainable systems have a way to last thus ensuring some degree of surviving into the future. Many blockchain projects lack this feature and have to end for a variety of reasons.
The following are Cardano’s philosophical principles taken from their website.
- Separation of accounting and computation into different layers
- Implementation of core components in highly modular functional code
- Small groups of academics and developers competing with peer-reviewed research
- Heavy use of interdisciplinary teams including early use of InfoSec experts
- Fast iteration between white papers, implementation and new research required to correct issues discovered during review
- Building in the ability to upgrade post-deployed systems without destroying the network
- Development of a decentralized funding mechanism for future work
- A long-term view on improving the design of cryptocurrencies so they can work on mobile devices with a reasonable and secure user experience
- Bringing stakeholders closer to the operations and maintenance of their cryptocurrency
- Acknowledging the need to account for multiple assets in the same ledger
- Abstracting transactions to include optional metadata in order to better conform to the needs of legacy systems
- Learning from the nearly 1,000 altcoins by embracing features that make sense
- Adopt a standards-driven process inspired by the Internet Engineering Task Force using a dedicated foundation to lock down the final protocol design
- Explore the social elements of commerce
- Find a healthy middle ground for regulators to interact with commerce without compromising some core principles inherited from Bitcoin
Cardano’s consensus algorithm uses PoS and is called Ouroboros. This determines how participating computers called nodes come to a consensus on the network. Instead of miners like in PoW consensus algorithms (used by Bitcoin), PoS requires staking funds to qualify or participate as a validator node. These “stakeholders” must contribute to secure and process blocks of transactions on the network and in return they will be incentivized in Ada. If a “stakeholder” is dishonest or attempts to attack the network, they can lose the funds they staked so there is a consequence. This aims to make “stakeholders” good faith actors rather than become bad actors. Once “stakeholders” validate a block it is added to the main network’s blockchain.
What makes Cardano different from other PoS-based networks is according to their own website:
“For a blockchain to be secure, the means of selecting a stakeholder to make a block must be truly random. An innovation of Ouroboros to produce the randomness for the leader election process is to do this by way of a secure, multiparty implementation of a coin-flipping protocol.”
Cardano also fosters a development community since it is an open source project. There are no barriers to entry for those who want to contribute, but is mostly on a voluntary basis. Developers are rewarded in Ada for their efforts. Cardano’s code is available for others to use in order to develop applications for the platform.
At the moment, Cardano is being managed by the IOHK (Input Output Hong Kong). They will be a part of the project until 2020 according to their contract.
The main programming language used in Cardano is Haskell which is functional, strong and static typed. One of the reasons it was used is due to its reliability in mission critical systems. They provide a solid and secure foundation for back end systems that handle massive workloads. This means the code and logic is stable enough to be able to scale and provide reliability with little room for failures.
In functional programming if there is a function f(x) that we want to use to calculate a function g(x) to get the results of yet another function h(x). Rather than solving in sequence, it can be simplified to a single function:
This provides a mathematically simpler way of computing. These form the foundations for Cardano Smart Contracts. It aids in Formal Verification to prove how a program acts and what its results will be. This gives Cardano a “High Assurance Code” property.
THE PROJECT ROAD MAP
Cardano follows a road map for its development. It is divided into 5 phases called eras: Byron, Shelley, Goguen, Basho and Voltaire. It is now in the Voltaire era in 2020, which will decide the digital governance used on the network.
For more on the road map, click here.
Like any cryptocurrency project, I don’t suggest buying their token just because the project looks good on paper. This is how Cardano is like. While it is based on a sound foundation, it has not yet been applied to solving real world problems. It offers a theoretical solution that is yet to be proven. If it does deliver on its goals, Cardano’s prices may not really go up either, since it depends on the asset’s liquidity and volume. The project looks promising and that can spur certain expectations.
Note: This is not financial advice. DYOR always to verify facts.