“All you need is the plan, the road map, and the courage to press on to your destination”.
What is Cardano? Cardano is a revolutionary, proof of stake blockchain network, with a vision of solving real-world problems, especially for those people who, for whatever reason are not supported by traditional finance and/or their environment is lacking in the infrastructure the people need to thrive and survive in the modern world.
It is developing into a smart contract platform, capable of supporting a huge array of groundbreaking dApps that will be utilised by millions of people the world over.
Cardano is very quickly becoming the go-to platform that will underpin the economy of the future.
But such lofty aspirations require a solid plan.
The Cardano road map is exactly that, it is a plan constructed, not only from innovative ideas but has the foundations built on peer-reviewed academic research (something that most other blockchains lack.
The future looks very bright indeed!
The Cardano road map is split logically into five separate eras, each centred around a specific functionality of the network. Subsequent eras will be released in sequence but behind the scenes, the work is being done concurrently.
Goguen (Smart Contracts)
Let’s now dive into a detailed exploration of each era.
Two years of research and planning lead to the first incarnation of Cardano. The Byron era followed hundreds of hours of (peer-reviewed) study and the solid foundation of the blockchain was born.
With the Byron era came the ability to buy and sell ADA (the Cardano native token) on a unique Proof of Stake consensus mechanism called Ouroboros.
Establishing ADA and Ouroboros this early on in Cardano’s development is a testament to the team’s vision. Both of these features would become the foundations of later eras as we will see later in this article.
Both the Daedelus and Yoroi wallets we first introduced in the Byron era (as well as paper wallets), and are all built around the ideas of security, ease of use and scalability.
As Byron progressed, the community grew, from just a few enthusiasts to a global community that is exponentially increasing still. Cardano has one of the biggest and most loyal communities of any cryptocurrency today. This is a result of the work that was done during Byron.
The stage was set, the lights had come on and what follows is nothing short of incredible.
Let’s go and talk to Shelley.
As the Shelly era dawned, Cardano started to spread its wings and show the world just what it could do.
With true decentralisation being the ultimate goal of the project, Shelley was about taking those early steps and building the scaffolding from which all further building could be hung. More and more nodes were introduced, the majority of which are run by independent participants.
As the number of nodes grew so did the scalability and security of the entire blockchain.
Perhaps the most attractive element of the Cardano blockchain is the staking and rewards incentive scheme.
Whilst many cryptocurrencies have the ability for users to stake their coins, Cardano does it much better. Holders can delegate their ADA to stake pools, this allows everyone to participate in the blockchain and help verify transactions. (remember when we said “true decentralisation”?).
As a reward for doing this holders are paid a reward of around 5% APY every 5 days, and the best bit (the bit that sets Cardano apart from other blockchains) is that your ADA is not locked up for a predetermined amount of time and never leaves your wallet.
Secure, Safe and Easy.
This, in turn, builds community and loyalty, resulting in further security, scalability and ultimately, decentralisation.
As we have seen so far, with the sequential nature of the Cardano eras, each era builds on the adaptations of the previous one. Goguen is no different.
If Shelley was the building of the playground, Goguen opens its doors!
With Goguen, comes smart contracts. Put simply, smart contracts open up the blockchain for all developers to build upon but, as we have come to expect from Cardano, it’s done properly, with no corners cut or shoddy programming.
If you’re gonna do it, do it right!
(This should be an official Cardano tagline!)
Using the purpose-built smart contract development language, Plutus and PAB (Plutus application backend), the smart contract execution platform, developers are able to build and deploy a huge array of different dApps; DEXs (like Cardax), DeFi and NFT and gaming platforms are all being built.
At the time of writing, many of these dApps are within days of being launched. As we have seen with Ethereum when dApps deploy on a blockchain, usage skyrockets! The difference is Cardano is quicker, cheaper, more environmentally friendly, more secure and wildly more scalable.
But that’s not all that Goguen brings!
To make it even more accessible, the Goguen era brings the Marlowe Playground. This application simplifies building smart contract-based dApps, so developers with no programming knowledge to easily construct their offerings.
Goguen also brings updates to the core blockchain, namely, the implementation of a multi-currency ledger that allows users to create their own Cardano native tokens and NFTs.
As the Goguen era matures, Cardano will have proven itself as a direct competitor for another layer 1 blockchains.
In the first three eras, Cardano has grown from a concept, mapped out on many peer-reviewed research papers, to a fully operational fast and secure proof of stake, smart contract blockchain that is much cheaper to use than older proof of work blockchains (both in terms of transaction fees and environmental damage).
Next up is scalability.
Banking the unbanked and supporting millions (or even billions) of users is no mean feat but as we have seen throughout this article, the Cardano team has got it covered!
What we don’t want to see is what is happening on Ethereum; as transaction volume has grown, congestion and transaction fees have skyrocketed. This has led to the whole Ethereum blockchain having to be completely redesigned and changed from proof of work to proof of stake.
A MASSIVE undertaking!
(Perhaps they should have done the research first!)
As Cardano is already a proof of stake blockchain, we already have the jump on Ethereum!
(We DID do the research first!)
Cardano will avoid all of these hurdles by implementing side chains and Hydra (a layer 2 scaling solution).
We will use an analogy to explain what side chains are and what they do.
Imagine you own a business making cars.
In the beginning, it was just you and you did everything. In time though, your business takes off and you can’t keep up with demand (congestion).
The next logical step is to hire more people, and being the clever person you are, you hire people with specialist skills (side chains). Having these specialists does two things; the amount of cars you can make increases and you (the main chain) are left to do what you do best...run the business!
Hey presto, you’ve just reduced transaction congestion and efficiently scaled up!
Cardano’s side chains will do exactly this; allow scaling of the blockchain without being impeded by high congestion.
Hydra, the ancient Greek mythical monster, had nine identical heads, all attached to one body. This is an important analogy because it makes it much easier to understand how Cardano’s Hydra will make scalability infinite!
If we think of Hydra’s body as the layer 1 “base” blockchain, the heads would be layer 2. Hydra keeps the base layer as the secure settlement layer but uses the heads for processing transactions, thus keeping the base layer free from congestion.
The mythical hydra had nine heads but Cardano’s beast can have infinite heads, setting up scalability that can cope with any amount of users we can throw at it; mass adoption...easy, nation states...no problem!
What else will come with Basho?
Basho will also introduce parallel accounting styles to improve interoperability. The main blockchain will keep using the UTXO model but, using sidechains, Cardano will also be able to support account-based models.
This will allow much greater interoperability between Cardano and other blockchains.
In short, Basho will see Cardano become the most highly performing, resilient and flexible blockchain.
With the blockchain running like this, it’s time for the handover...full decentralisation!
Voltaire adds the final puzzle piece, the icing on the cake and the cherry on the top.
Voltaire allows Cardano to become a fully self-sustaining system. Both voting and a treasury system will allow ADA holders to shape the future of the blockchain and applications built on it.
When the voting and treasury systems are fully operational, Cardano will be legitimately decentralised and not under the management of the development team at IOHK.
Users who have staked their ADA can vote on prospective projects on the network; winning projects will be then provided funds from the treasury. The treasury is funded from a portion of the transaction fees collected on the blockchain.
In short, Cardano will be completely self-funded and run by the very people who hold the ADA tokens.
The result, a 100% decentralised proof of stake blockchain ecosystem.
We started this article with a quote. Now, having read this, you can see that Cardano doesn’t just have a loose plan. There is a step by step road map with each stage supported by a huge amount of research.
One last analogy.
You wouldn’t try and build a large Lego set just by looking at the picture on the box, would you? You’d build in stages, following the instruction booklet, wouldn’t you?
The Cardano road map is just that, a perfectly laid out plan!