Cardano is believed to be one of the most technically sound blockchain platforms in existence as it has evolved out of 'scientific philosophy.' What makes it stand out is the multi-layer protocol. Cardano aims to solve the ever-prevalent issue with cryptocurrencies. Scalability, Interoperability, and Sustainability. Below we go into more detail about these three elements.
When people say “scalability,” they invariably think of transactions processed per second or throughput. However, according to Charles Hoskinson, that’s just one part of the problem. Total scalability is a three-headed hydra, so to speak. One needs to take care of three separate elements:
It is well known that Bitcoin and Ethereum’s lack of throughput Is just not acceptable for a growing financial system. Bitcoin manages 7 transactions per second and Ethereum not much more at 15-20 transactions per second. Cardano’s throughput is currently 250 transactions per second and, can be scaled as more people come on the platform. Cardano has more network bandwidth and storage compared with other similar competing blockchains.
Cardano is solving this problem with their consensus mechanism, Ouroboros. It is a provably secure proof-of-stake algorithm. Ouroboros was actually peer-reviewed and approved during Crypto 2017.
Ouroboros, as stated earlier, is a proof-of-stake algorithm. Before we get deeper into the mechanism, we must know the proof of stake.
Bitcoin and Ethereum follow the proof-of-work protocol.
Proof-of-work as a process has the following steps to it:
That, in essence, is what the proof-of-work system is. Solving the puzzle is difficult but checking whether the solution is actually correct or not is easy. This is the system that Bitcoin and Ethereum have been using. However, there are some fundamental flaws in the system.
As it turns out, there are quite a few problems with proof of work.
Ethereum did look at Proof of Stake as a solution but decided to hold off on the transition till 2021.
Proof of stake will make the entire mining process virtual and replace miners with validators.
This is how the process will work:
Cardano uses a new proof of stake algorithm called Ouroboros, which determines how individual nodes reach a consensus about the network. The algorithm is a crucial part of the infrastructure that supports the Ada cryptocurrency and is a major innovation in blockchain technology.
Ouroboros eliminates the need for an energy-hungry proof of work protocol, which stands as a barrier to blockchain scaling up for much wider use. Ouroboros is the first proof of stake protocol that has mathematically been shown to be provably secure and the first to have gone through peer review through its acceptance to Crypto 2017, the leading cryptography conference. The level of security demonstrated by Ouroboros compares to that of Bitcoin’s blockchain, which has never been compromised.
Charles Hoskinson explains in this overview how it all works.
So how does Network factor into scalability? Simple… bandwidth.
The transactions carry data. So as the number of transactions increases, so does the requirement for network resources. The notion is pretty straightforward - If a system is to scale up to millions of users, the network will need 100s of terabytes or exabytes of resources to sustain itself.
To solve this issue, Cardano is integrating a type of technology called RINA, a Recursive Inter-Network Architecture created by John Day. It is a new type of structuring networks using policies and ingenious engineering principles.
RINA’s goal is to create a heterogeneous network that promises to give:
Finally, we have data scaling. Blockchains store things for eternity. Every little piece of data, relevant or not, gets stored in the blockchain for eternity. As the system scales up and more people come in, the blockchain gets more and bulkier with the sheer influx of data.
Now, remember that a blockchain runs because it is comprised of Nodes. Each node is a user who stores a copy of the blockchain in their system.
As the blockchain gets bulkier, it will demand more space, and that is unreasonable for a normal user with a normal computer. Cardano wants to solve this problem by implementing a simple philosophy, “Not everyone needs all the data.”
E.g., if Tom and Jerry engage in a transaction, it may not be relevant to anyone else in the network. The only thing they need to know is that the transaction happened and that it was legitimate.
The techniques that Cardano is looking into are:
If they are applied synergistically, then it may actually substantially reduce the amount of data that a user needs to have.
Cardano’s aim here is to use all this information to compress the data that the users need to consume without compromising on security or the assurances that their transactions have gone through properly.
Now that we have seen how Cardano's Scalability side works, we now come to the second pillar: Interoperability. As Charles Hoskinson puts it, the long and short of interoperability is that there won’t be one token to rule them all.
Looking at the current ecosystem in the crypto space, we have different crypto coins such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, etc. Similarly, in the legacy financial world, we have systems like the traditional Banks which use SWIFT, ACH, etc.
The problem lies in the fact that it is extremely difficult for these individual entities to communicate with one another. It is tough for bitcoin to know what is going on in Ethereum and vice-versa. This becomes doubly difficult when banks try to communicate with cryptos.
This is why the crypto exchanges, which provide a portal between cryptos and banks, have become so powerful and important. However, therein itself lies a problem. Exchanges are not decentralized entities and are extremely vulnerable.
Plus, there is another area where this miscommunication between the legacy world and the crypto world can lead to a disastrous result: ICOs.
In ICOs, an entity gets millions of dollars in exchange for their tokens, however, saving that money in their bank accounts can become difficult. The banks would obviously want to know where all that money came from and who were the ones who provided that money which is something that is near impossible to provide.
A more elegant and risk-free solution to interoperability was needed.
A third-generation crypto coin must provide an ecosystem where each individual blockchain can communicate with another blockchain and with external legacy financial systems.
So, let’s look at how Cardano plans to increase interoperability in both the crypto and legacy worlds.
Cardano’s vision is to create an “internet of blockchains.” Imagine an ecosystem where Bitcoin can flow into Ethereum and Ripple can seamlessly flow into Litecoin without the need to go through centralized exchanges. This is why cross-chain transfers are something that Cardano wants to implement without any middlemen.
One way that Cardano wants to do this is by implementing sidechains. The idea is very straightforward; you have a parallel chain that runs along with the main chain. A two-way peg will attach the side chain to the main chain. Cardano will support sidechains based on the research by Kiayias, Miller, and Zindros (KMZ) involving “non-interactive proofs of proofs of work.”
According to Hoskinson, the idea of sidechains comes from two things:
When it comes to increasing the interoperability with the legacy world, Cardano wants to focus on the three obstacles that make the crypto world incompatible with the legacy world:
Metadata means the story behind the transaction. If Jerry were to spend 50 USD, the metadata of that could be as follows:
While that is not that well planned out in cryptocurrency, it is essential in the legacy banking world. In fact, this is one of the main reasons why most entities struggle post-ICOs. They simply don’t have the metadata required to provide the banks.
In the legacy world, metadata is extremely important. Here are the purposes that it serves:
Similar to metadata, via attribution, the names of the people involved in the transactions get known. Basically, who is a particular transaction attributed to? If the blockchain permanently fixes attribution to itself, it will greatly compromise on the privacy of the individuals involved.
Hence, Cardano plans to empower their users to hand out attribution as and when it is required.
The third obstacle is “Compliance.” Compliance includes factors like KYC (Know Your Customer), AML (Anti Money Laundering), ATF (Anti Terrorist Financing), etc.
Compliance is used to check the legitimacy of a transaction. If Jerry pays Tom $50, compliance is used to ensure that the transaction is not done for any nefarious purposes.
While the crypto world hasn’t really done much on this front, it is extremely critical in the banking world, where the history and legitimacy of each transaction must be known.
Cardano is researching how to use Metadata and Attribution in conjunction with Compliance to help their users whenever they need to interact with the banks.
Finally, we come to the third pillar, sustainability. According to Hoskinson, this is hands down the toughest one to solve. It basically means how is Cardano planning to pay for its future development and growth?
Usually, when some development needs to be done in the system and grants are required, there are a couple of things that can happen:
However, both of them have an issue.
With patronage, you have the problem of possible centralization. If a big company gives a huge grant to a blockchain company, it may direct how the developments turn out in the system.
With ICOs, it’s like a sudden jolt of money without any sustainable model, and it adds a completely unnecessary token to the ecosystem.
Something different and more sustainable needs to be done. In this sense, Cardano is implementing a treasury.
Every time a block is added to the chain, a part of that block reward will be added to the treasury. So, if someone wants to develop and bring some changes to the ecosystem, they submit a ballot to the Treasury to ask for grants.
The stakeholders of the Cardano ecosystem then vote and decide if the ballot should be granted or not. If they do, the ballot submitter gets the grant for development. This system has a couple of major advantages:
One of the key differences that make Cardano unique from other market competitors is how it uses Haskell and a newly developed ‘Plutus’ language instead of more commonly used programming languages because the team believes this particular type of functional programming language produces a more secure, robust and resilient code base. While Haskell is used to code Cardano, the team went on to create Plutus - a ‘fairly Haskell-like’ language - to write interoperable smart contracts.
Cardano has also created a new domain-specific language called ‘Marlowe’ which is based on algebraic Haskell principles with ‘executable small-step semantics." This language will be used for financial institution smart contract creation and is a much more simplistic and easier transitioning language for non-programmers to use.
The ultimate reality of cryptocurrencies is not that they will disrupt the existing legacy financial systems. Legacy financial systems are always capable of absorbing change and maintaining their form and function.
Rather one ought to look to places where it is simply too expensive to deploy the existing banking system, where many live on less than a few dollars a day, have no stable identity, and credit is impossible to find. In these places, the power to bundle a payment system, property rights, identity, credit, and risk protection into a single application running on a cell phone is not just useful, it is life-changing. This is Cardano’s vision for the developing world.
If Cardano can change the way cryptocurrencies are designed, evolved, and funded, then great accomplishment exists. Cardano is not going after the affluent or advanced mainstream countries. Alternatively, it’s concentrating on the countries where cryptocurrency and its technology will have the most use, like South Korea, Ethiopia, etc. Upon integration, Cardano’s ADA coin will be in use in 33,000 offline franchise stores, which could be really good news for the price of the coin and for Cardano on the whole.
Sources: https://blockgeeks.com, Cardano.org