Cardano is a third-generation blockchain network with significant improvements over most competing blockchains in operation today. Most of these enhancements are the direct result of Cardano's scientific philosophy towards platform development.
Users on Cardano can build and publish dApps, invest in exciting projects via innovative crowdfunding models such as the initial stake pool offerings (ISPOs), or propose (via Cardano Improvement Proposals) new features addressing scaling hindrances and turbocharging performance. The versatility of the protocol makes it an appealing option for developers who want to work with an accessible and, without a doubt, one of the fastest-growing blockchain ecosystems.
With so many smart contracting platforms to choose from, developers can be split on where to concentrate their efforts. Nonetheless, the network stands out and more people are asking themselves what is Cardano, eager to know the numerous benefits of building on Cardano. The lead development team, Input-Output Global (IOG), continuously strives to make the network more scalable, robust, decentralized, and secure. Following the launch of smart contracting during the Alonzo Upgrade in September 2021 (as part of the Goguen development theme), developers are now free to use self-executing but robust smart contracts built using the Plutus functional programming language to launch dApps of varying complexities.
The latest hard fork combinator (HFC) event, Vasil, was successfully implemented in mid-September 2022. As a result, Cardano (as predicted by Charles Hoskinson) expects more projects to launch on its platform, enjoying predictably lower fees and access to secure smart contracts.
Benefits Of Building On Cardano
More code developers are opting to build because there are several advantages of building on Cardano. This article explores on the two main advantages of why the smart contracting platform is drawing developers across the world:
Decentralization and Network Activity
In early 2020, during the CV Summit in Davos, Switzerland, Charles Hoskinson said the implementation of the Ouroboros Byzantine Fault-Tolerant Consensus protocol and, later, the transition from Byron to Shelley would make Cardano the world's most decentralized blockchain network. Charles was confident that the network would be between 50 and 100 times more decentralized than Bitcoin.
The Shelley upgrade has since been implemented, and Cardano is now the most decentralized proof-of-stake network with node operators from six continents. This is possible because Cardano, unlike Bitcoin, is a proof-of-stake network relying on a community of ADA holders to delegate their holdings to Stake Pool Operators (SPOs). There is no minimum stake in the number of ADA delegated. Even after delegation, the delegator retains control of their coins since the process is completely non-custodial.
SPOs are tasked with securing the network and processing transactions. In exchange, they are rewarded with ADA, distributed automatically from Cardano. SPO distribution across different geographies guarantees the decentralization of Cardano.
As of early Q4 2022, Cardano had over 3,200 SPOs through which 12 million ADA holders have been delegating roughly 25 billion ADA, or 70 percent of ADA's total supply. It is estimated that 200 new ADA delegators connect to active SPOs daily. These ADA delegators opt to stake on certain SPOs and not others based on a "desirability index" that factors critical variables, including costs and the stake pool's general performance.
Cardano's developers, IOG, researched sufficiently to eventually release a competitive and fair marketplace where SPOs are awarded depending on their investment of "time, energy, and resources". Based on the number of delegators, the Cardano protocol actively distributes over $493k of ADA daily to users to keep the network secure, translating to an issuance rate of 1.25 percent per day.
The Cardano network is designed to promote decentralization. ADA rewards distributed to a staking pool operator diminishes on over-saturation. What this means is that a stake pool operator has to create another stake pool, or ADA delegators have to delegate to another stake pool if they are to receive maximum ADA rewards.
Saturation is a parameter ensuring both the delegator’s and SPO's interests are met. Therefore, in Cardano, the blockchain’s decentralization cannot be threatened by an SPO that grows too big; a concern in proof of work networks powered by specialized, energy-demanding gear.
Predictability, Code Security, and Continuity
Plutus is the native smart contracting language in Cardano. It is Turing complete and written in Haskell, a functional programming language. Through Plutus, Cardano developers can build smart contracts and launch secure protocols seamlessly interacting with the Cardano blockchain, using on-chain or off-chain code.
The primary distinction between smart contract development in Cardano and other networks is the platform's use of functional programming. Like Cardano, functional programming languages advocate immutability; therefore, data cannot be impacted by undesirable "side effects'' caused by mutability or subsequential code changes. This means the developer is shielded against unwanted code tweaks that may cause deviations from the programmer's original intentions.
With formal verification, there is stability and security with high confidence that the code will execute as designed. When in doubt, Plutus provides an avenue for developers to robustly troubleshoot and determine that their smart contracts are functioning as designed. As a result, this eliminates a whole class of problems that may lead to security vulnerabilities once the protocol is launched on the mainnet.
Plutus, and functional programming languages, encourage developers to write code that is easier to understand and debug. Developers can also build on Cardano and release tokens quickly. Unlike in Ethereum, Plutus allows the minting of custom native tokens without needing an accompanying smart contract. This is advantageous on several fronts, but most importantly, because Cardano handles all token-related functionality, there is no room for error.
Developers desirous of blockchain stability and continuity also find a place in Cardano. Unlike Ethereum or Bitcoin, top-tier blockchains that may require a hard fork or split due to community disagreement on proposed protocol rules, IOG prioritized platform continuity to avoid unnecessary fractures. While protocol upgrades are inevitable, all transitions are through hard fork combinator (HFC) events.
Cardano defines an HFC as a "combination of processes or things". In Cardano's case, an HFC is a combination of protocols incorporating code changes on the mainnet, all without system disruption or restart. In every HFC event, Cardano upgrades its platform by adding new code while maintaining chain stability.
This smooth transition translates to high platform reliability since validators will continue adding new blocks using the previously hard-coded ledger rules without leading to system disruptions. There is no divergence; stability prevails, a huge relief for cautious developers.
Even after the upgrade, there is no deadline on when SPOs should update their nodes. This is deliberate and part of Cardano's opt-out system because, in Cardano, nodes can run various protocol versions in parallel and stay on the same chain. With this allowance, developers have the leeway to thoroughly test the new suggested update and, whenever they see fit, launch it on the mainnet. As they try the latest update, platforms don't have to worry about losing users. This is because the primary chain remains unchanged, and all upgrades or code changes are on chain.
Cardano offers distinct advantages over competing blockchain networks. Their decision to use peer-reviewed code and adopt a scientific philosophy guarantees code quality and a well-thought-out architecture set out to solve the blockchain trilemma of security, scalability, and decentralization. Its well-distributed network guarantees security, while smart contracts are safer due to the Plutus language eliminating preventable errors. This, coupled with ADA liquidity, a vibrant community of users, and free resources, makes Cardano a top choice for developers.