The Cardano platform can handle all kinds of transactions, but the real goal is to become the “Internet of Blockchains,” creating an ecosystem that allows seamless interchangeability between different blockchains.
Let’s look at how Cardano (ADA) stacks up against the other major cryptocurrency players.
What Is Cardano?
Cardano is a blockchain and ADA is the coin that powers the Cardano network. This is similar in some ways to ether and the Ethereum blockchain.
Think of Bitcoin as Crypto 1.0. It’s essentially digital gold, but the system is beset with scalability issues. Then there’s Ethereum, often referred to as Crypto 2.0.
Cardano, launched in 2017, is Crypto 3.0, with the goal of improving upon the functionality that Ethereum was initially missing.
Charles Hoskinson founded Cardano, and he’s also a co-founder of Ethereum. Hoskinson had a falling out with the Ethereum team due to a dispute with co-founder Vitalik Buterin in 2014 regarding whether the Ethereum project should be commercial or not.
Hoskinson moved on to launch Cardano as a more scalable, interoperable and sustainable blockchain, intending to improve upon Bitcoin and Ethereum.
“Referred to by supporters as an ‘Ethereum killer,’ Cardano’s ongoing development is supported by the Cardano Foundation and the IOHK research institute, which engage in [resources and development] and peer review via a formal development model,” said Henrik Gebbing, co-CEO and co-founder of Finoa, a digital asset custodian.
One of the major criticisms of Bitcoin and other popular cryptocurrencies is that their blockchain networks, based on proof of work consensus mechanisms, waste huge amounts of energy. Cardano uses a proof of stake consensus mechanism, offering a more sustainable and scalable blockchain.
What Is ADA?
ADA is the cryptocurrency for the Cardano platform. Cardano’s coin is named after Ada Lovelace, a 19th-century mathematician known as the first computer programmer.
People use ADA tokens to pay transaction fees for using the platform. It’s also given out to the validators as a reward for running the proof of stake system.
How Does Cardano Work?
With a blockchain network, there needs to be a way to verify transactions to ensure people don’t spend the same tokens twice. Given the decentralization, there’s no central authority like a bank working to handle the job.
Based on proof of work consensus mechanisms, Bitcoin and Ethereum 1.0 miners run computers to solve complex mathematical equations and add new blocks of data to the blockchain, receiving crypto in exchange for their work. This is time-consuming and uses up large amounts of electricity.
Cardano uses staking, a process where network participants deposit set amounts of crypto to earn the right to participate in the operation of the blockchain.
“The [Cardano] protocol is designed to keep energy expenditure during the block production process to a minimum,” said Daniel Hill, president of Hill Wealth Strategies.
How to Buy Cardano
You do not buy Cardano itself but rather its altcoin, ADA. To buy ADA, you can sign up for an account with one of the major cryptocurrency exchanges. You can then store ADA either on the platform itself or in a crypto wallet.
Where to Buy Cardano
As one of the most popular cryptocurrencies, you can buy ADA for the Cardano network from most top cryptocurrency exchanges. Binance, Coinbase, Gemini and Kraken are a few of the major players that sell ADA. In Australia, you can choose from big names such as Coinbase and eToro Australia, as well as local exchanges, such as Swyftx Exchange.
How to Use Cardano
You can use ADA like any cryptocurrency. You could hold onto it as an investment, use it for purchases and exchange it. You can also use your ADA to cover transactions fees on the Cardano network and for staking to earn more tokens. If you want to hold Cardano long-term, pay attention to which wallet you use.
“The two official Cardano wallets are the Daedalus wallet [full node] and the Yoroi wallet [light node]. Both wallets allow users to earn new Cardano by staking their assets and also allow them to vote in Project Catalyst, a fund awarding ADA to Cardano projects,” Gebbing said.
Gebbing also said that developers and institutions can use the Cardano network for projects, even if they don’t use the ADA token directly. “Perhaps most notable is the Atala Prism project, which seeks to issue digital identities to students across Ethiopia, including verifiable information about academic performance,” he added.
There are plenty of DeFi and non-fungible token (NFT) initiatives within the Cardano ecosystem, too. A few of these projects include decentralized exchange Sundaeswap (SUNDAE) and decentralized and trustless lending protocol Meld (MELD), to name a couple.
Advantages of Cardano
- More environmentally friendly. Cardano is one of the most environmentally friendly blockchain systems. In a 2021 interview with Forbes, Hoskinson claimed that Cardano is 1.6 million times more energy-efficient than bitcoin.
- Faster transactions. Cardano is also much faster at processing transactions than Bitcoin or Ethereum 1.0, which is sometimes referred to as Classic Ethereum. Cardano can process more than 250 transactions per second (TPS), compared with around 4.6 TPS for bitcoin and between 15 and 45 TPS for Ethereum 1.0. This makes the Cardano network very scalable. That said, Ethereum 2.0 is the Ethereum network’s upgrade to address prior security and scalability issues.
- Peer-reviewed network. The Cardano team works closely with academics to generate peer-reviewed research to guide blockchain development. “Its nature as an open-source and peer-reviewed blockchain helps ensure its survival and evolution beyond that of its parent organization,” Gebbing said.
Disadvantages of Cardano
- Catching up to more established competitors. Cardano is trying to create a better version of blockchain, but competitors like Ethereum have the advantage of longer histories of use and more uptake by developers. In fact, one of Ethereum 2.0’s upgrades included a proof of stake approach that could negate a key Cardano advantage.
- Could have trouble standing out. The cryptocurrency market is ever more crowded, and it’s not easy getting attention. “It’s not memeable and there are a lot of competitors in the same space,” said Hill. For example, Dogecoin showed how much a crypto could boom just based on a popular meme, which the more subdued Cardano brand does not have.
Should You Buy Cardano?
Cardano’s backers believe it could become one of the leading cryptocurrencies thanks to its innovative and environmentally friendly system. Cardano is backed by a lot of research and resources, but it remains a high-risk investment.
“If you’re considering ADA, treat it like any other cryptocurrency. At this point, only invest what you’re comfortable losing and don’t expect huge gains overnight,” Hill said.
Gebbing recommends that if you like the ideas behind Cardano, you should start with small investments.
“Before investing in any blockchain’s token, it’s advisable to gain experience as a user, experimenting with a small amount by transacting between wallets, staking on the network, and using it to participate in governance,” said Gebbing.
Do your research. If you believe in the Cardano approach to blockchain technology, then it could be a solid addition to your cryptocurrency portfolio.
This article is not an endorsement of any particular cryptocurrency, broker or exchange nor does it constitute a recommendation of cryptocurrency as an investment class.
*Crypto assets are unregulated & highly speculative. No consumer protection. Capital at risk. T&Cs apply.
What makes Cardano unique?
Cardano is one of the biggest blockchains to use the less energy-intensive proof-of-stake mechanism. (Post-merge, the Ethereum 2.0 also uses proof of stake as a consensus mechanism). Fans of the coin also point to its scrupulous peer-review process by researchers, that are subsequently published in academic papers, as proof of its point of difference from other coins.