Cardano’s development has been organized into five phases: Byron, Shelley, Goguen, Basho, and Voltaire. Each phase is centered around a set of functionalities delivered during its duration.
The Byron era, named after poet and politician George Gordon Byron (Lord Byron), saw the laying of the foundations for Cardano with respect to its technology as well as its community. The ideation of Cardano was in 2015 and the mainnet launch which came in September 2017 occurred during this era. Daedalus and Yoroi wallets are notable deliveries from this period. During this period the wallets could be used to send and receive Cardano blockchain’s native token ADA.
Next came the Shelley era, named after author Mary Shelley, in which the network transformed from being federated during the Byron era towards true decentralization with more and more nodes being run by the Cardano community. With the Shelley rollout the mainnet was systematically upgraded to enable staking, delegation and metadata. A major upgrade during this phase came in the Mary hard fork which rolled out multi asset support which allowed minting of native tokens on the Cardano blockchain. It enabled minting of both fungible and non-fungible tokens (NFT's) as native assets, and thus marked the beginning of NFT's on Cardano. Another watershed moment was the D=0 on March 31, 2021 from which the community of stake pool operators (SPOs) has been producing 100% of blocks on Cardano.
The Goguen era, named after computer scientist Joseph Goguen, saw the launch of smart contracts in the Cardano ecosystem through the Alonzo hard fork in September 2021. This opened up opportunities for dApps developers to leverage Cardano for their innovations. Plutus, a purpose-built smart contract development language and execution platform using the functional programming language Haskell and Marlowe a domain-specific language (DSL) for financial contracts built on Plutus were highlights of this era. Further Goguen introduced a mechanism whereby tokenization is handled natively based on the Cardano ledger, rather than smart contracts. This approach provided an efficient tokenization strategy superior to standards supported by other blockchains like Ethereum.
The Basho era, named after famous Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō, is about optimization, scalability and interoperability. With the foundations in place, smart contact support deployed and a growing community the focus shifts to support for dApp use cases, high transaction volumes by scaling both Layer 1 and sidechain solutions. IOG has already been gradually increasing block sizes and Plutus memory units based on ongoing system monitoring and overall network health. The 'Vasil' hard fork will see a number of key optimizations being introduced. Plutus script enhancements, node enhancements, memory/CPU parameters for Plutus and features like pipelining, input endorsers will make the network scale up to support the activity for many years to come.
In the final phase Voltaire named after the pen name of French writer and philosopher François-Marie Arouet, the emphasis is on making the Cardano ecosystem self sustainable. Governance is key for long term sustainability of Cardano as a fully decentralized ecosystem. This era will focus on community led growth through voting and treasury systems as well as community led improvement proposals and decision making among others.