Robert has reported for a variety of international publications including the Associated Press, The Guardian, Vice, and Decrypt. Current areas of interest include the political economy of technology, cryptocurrencies, and privacy. Robert has a Bachelor of Science from UCL, and a Master's degree from the University of Oxford's Internet Institute.
Although bitcoin is the largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, it's not without flaws. Bitcoin’s technology is ancient, and it’s cracking under the pressure. It’s slow, expensive, uses the same amount of energy as a small country, and doesn’t support the financial applications its rivals do.
Cardano, also known as ADA, is one of several currencies that promises to solve these problems; in doing so, it hopes to knock bitcoin off of its top spot and claim the pole position for itself. It’s produced by the Cardano Foundation, a non-profit, as well as IOHK, an organization that works with university researchers to build the Cardano network blockchain technology.
Like Ethereum, Cardano also has smart contracts that became operational on September 12, 2021, as part of the Alonzo update. These are self-enforcing bits of computer code that power decentralized systems like DeFi apps.Buy and Sell Bitcoin, Ethereum, and dozens more cryptocurrencies with Wealthsimple. Sign up and Trade here.
What is Cardano?
Cardano was founded in 2015 by one of the co-founders of Ethereum, Charles Hoskinson, as well as another Ethereum developer named Jeremy Wood. It launched to the public in 2017 in a limited release.
Cardano has a lot in common with Ethereum — a “second-generation“ blockchain network that expands on the limitations of Bitcoin. On Bitcoin, you can’t do anything but buy, sell, and store the cryptocurrency. And Bitcoin relies on cryptocurrency mining, an energy-intensive process that mints new Bitcoin and maintains the network.
Where Bitcoin could be considered a single app, Ethereum is comparable to an app store. It allows for the minting of new tokens, each of which can power independent protocols. In May 2021, it rolled out a testnet — a test version of the blockchain that uses pretend cryptocurrencies. It implemented this feature in August 2021.
Cardano’s creators consider Cardano to be a “third-generation” blockchain network that takes Ethereum even further. They consider Ethereum to be limited in its design and unsuitable for widespread adoption. Some evidence of this is in rising “gas” prices — fees paid to process transactions on the Ethereum network.
The Cardano platform calls its consensus mechanism Ouroboros. It groups transactions by time slots then selects a miner to add each batch of transactions to the blockchain platform. Cardano, therefore, isn’t “mined” like with Bitcoin, but instead paid out to “validators” who perform the aforementioned proof-of-stake task.
Cardano promotes itself as a blockchain project built on academic research. Any change that is made to the network must first be approved by academic researchers. This is supposed to ensure that the changes to the network are backed by the research of qualified academics, rather than a forum full of random users.
Cardano uses a token named ADA, after Ada Lovelace, a revolutionary pioneer of early computing and the daughter of the poet Lord Byron. Miners who successfully verify all the transactions in a block are rewarded by the network with ADA cryptocurrency. Ada is located on the Cardano settlement layer which keeps track of all transactions.
ADA, like most other cryptocurrencies, had spiked in price in the last year’s bull market. In May 2021, a single ADA coin was worth just over $1.7 and the entire network had a market cap of about $50 billion, making it the seventh-largest cryptocurrency by market cap on CoinGecko. A year before, it was worth just five cents.
Cardano’s lengthy development
Although Cardano launched in 2017, it’s still very much a work in progress. Cardano named its first development updates after English poets. The first version was called Byron, then another, Shelley, launched in mid-2020. Then it moved to famous computer scientists.
In May 2021, Cardano was in the Goguen era. Named after American computer scientist Joseph Goguen, this phase added smart contracts. (The specific update that added smart contracts was called Alonzo, after Alonzo Church, an American mathematician who made huge contributions to theoretical computer science.)
And with smart contract platforms came a whole network of decentralized systems, such as non-custodial exchanges or lending protocols. These are written in Plutus, a smart contract language and platform based on Haskell. There’s also Marlowe, a high-level computer language specifically built for financial contracts. Goguen also allowed Cardano-based tokens to be minted, much like the panoply of Ethereum-based tokens that thrived on that network.
(Many believe that Cardano delivered on its smart contract commitments after it launched its most popular DEX on SundaeSwap, enabling ADA token holders to trade and exchange ADA against an expanding number of tokens. SundaeSwap holds more than 90% of Cardano’s total value locked or TVL.)
Next up comes the “Basho” era, which “scales” the blockchain technology. This means that the blockchain platform will become a lot quicker and will be able to support more transactions. The final era in the blockchain’s development is called Voltaire, after the French satirist and philosopher of the same name. Voltaire will add governance mechanisms to the network, meaning that anyone, including you, can stake ADA tokens to vote on the future development of the network.
This is what is known as a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO); such governance structures are already popular over blockchain projects like Ethereum. This takes power away from the current overseers of the network, IOHK, and its leader, Charles Hoskinson. Anyone will be able to use their tokens to vote on the future of the network, including on how to spend treasury funds and on which updates to implement.
When the Basho era is over, then the Voltaire era will start.
How to buy Cardano
You can buy Cardano (ADA) just like you can any other cryptocurrency. Let’s quickly run through two popular options: on an online exchange and a crypto trading platform.
Buying Cardano on a cryptocurrency exchange is the most common route. Cryptocurrency exchanges are run by companies that develop complicated matching engines to process trades. You buy and sell directly from other users.
These exchanges can seem slightly unwieldy, but they all do the same thing and are fairly easy to get to grips with. If all you want to do is buy Cardano at the market price, you’re looking for something called a “spot” trade. This matches you with another user who’s selling at the current market price. Spot trades let you trade ADA cryptocurrency as close to the market value of the coin as possible. Each exchange is different and prices can differ between them (profiting from these differences is a type of trading strategy known as exchange arbitrage), but with a coin as large as ADA, these differences will rarely be significant.
You can also place different types of trades on exchanges. Another popular type of trade is called a limit order. These let you set a price at which you’d like to buy or sell ADA. The exchange then processes your trade as soon as it’s found a match. To trade on crypto exchanges, you’ll have to first set up an account, which usually requires you to submit a form of identification. Then you’ll have to choose a currency in which you plan to buy your ADA.
Crypto exchanges come with a few risks; they offer no insurance on holdings and you could lose all your money if they go bust.
For new crypto investors, the easiest and most affordable way to buy Cardano and other cryptocurrencies is to use a brokerage. Brokerages are like cryptocurrency exchanges, but instead of trading directly with other users, you’re buying crypto directly from a company (who has likely bought a whole load of the cryptocurrency from an exchange or an over-the-counter, or OTC, desk). Some brokerages tend to offer a more limited selection, often just Bitcoin, Ethereum, and a handful of other coins, while others offer many options. Brokerages usually let you buy crypto, including Cardano, for fiat money.
These platforms are highly user-friendly and allow you to trade cryptocurrencies in a secure and straightforward manner. You just have to set up your crypto account, deposit your funds, and you can instantly start adding Cardano coins to your portfolio.
Unlike most crypto exchanges, brokerages are regulated and insured. If you’re using a well-known and trusted platform, the chance of losing your crypto to an online hack is minimal.
How to store your Cardano
ADA is a cryptocurrency, meaning you can store it in an exchange or in a wallet. If you’re using a popular and reliable crypto buying platform, you can simply use their built-in crypto wallets. But, if you’re using a new platform, it’s better to move your Cardano tokens to a software/hardware wallet as they are more secure and you control the keys.
Frequently Asked Questions
Cardano is a proof-of-stake blockchain platform. As of March 7, 2022, Cardano’s token, named ADA, has a market cap of $29 billion and a price value of $0.81. It was created as an alternative to proof-of-work networks. It’s considered to be a “third generation” blockchain that surpasses Ethereum’s second generation features. Cardano uses Ouroboros, a protocol that employs a proof-of-stake algorithm for mining and is more energy-efficient than, say, Bitcoin because there’s no need for power-hungry “mining machines.”
Instead of using proof-of-work for confirming transactions and adding new coins into circulation like Bitcoin and Ethereum, Cardano employs a proof-of-stake mechanism, where the currency's owners are rewarded for authenticating transactions. Cardano doesn’t need expensive and power-hungry “mining machines” for security and adding new blocks. ADA holders can stake their coins and earn income while securing the network and speeding up the transaction process.
As Cardano uses an energy-efficient proof-of-stake mechanism, currency owners can stake their ADA tokens and get rewarded for validating new blocks. The more secure method is to download a Web 3.0 wallet like Daedalus (developed by the Cardano team but needs large space) or Yoroi (lightweight and user-friendly) and delegate your ADA tokens directly in a well-known staking pool. The other (but not so safe) method is to stake your coins in an online exchange like Binance or Kraken and receive fixed interest.
Cardano coin (ADA) can be used to transfer value globally without the help of any middleman such as banks and financial institutions. Like Ethereum, users can also develop smart contracts on the Cardano blockchain and create dApps (decentralized applications). Programmers can create DEXs (decentralized exchanges), non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and lend/borrow platforms on Cardano while paying much lower fees than Ethereum. You can also stake your ADA in a Web 3.0 wallet (like Daedalus and Yoroi) to earn rewards for validating new blocks and securing the network.
As of March 7, 2022, there are around 33 billion ADA coins in circulation, according to CoinMarketCap. Similar to Bitcoin, Cardano has a fixed supply. The total supply is capped at 45 billion ADA tokens.
Cardano, being one of the most famous cryptocurrencies due to huge market cap, is available on nearly all crypto buying platforms. To avoid getting scammed, we recommend that you only buy Cardano (ADA) from well-known and trusted crypto trading platforms like Wealthsimple. Apart from buying and selling ADA, you can also hold your tokens on these platforms as they are regulated and secured.
Cardano is considered a “third generation” crypto. It takes the first- and second-generation cryptos, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, even further. Due to the high usage of the Cardano network, low transaction fees, and a lot of upcoming decentralized applications (dApps), Cardano can have a good future, according to several crypto analysts. However, cryptocurrencies are super risky as they are highly volatile and a lot less regulated than stocks. You should always do your research before investing, and never invest money that you can’t afford to lose.
While both Cardano and Ethereum make use of blockchains, Ethereum's proof-of-work (PoW) blockchain is currently less flexible than Cardano's proof-of-stake (PoS) Ouroboros consensus mechanism. In order to add blocks to the Ethereum blockchain, you need expensive and high-power “mining machines.” Whereas, for the Cardano network, you only have to stake ADA tokens in a pool to create blocks and validate transactions.
According to Charles Hoskinson, founder of Cardano and co-founder of the Ethereum blockchain, Cardano’s proof-of-stake (PoS) blockchain is much more decentralized and secure than Bitcoin’s proof-of-work (PoW). It’s also more scalable and energy-efficient. In the context of preventing a 51% attack, Cardano is safer than Bitcoin because the attacker has to accumulate more than 51% ADA tokens to take over the blockchain.
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