High speed and low costs are characteristics this blockchain network is known for.
As the first blockchain with smart-contract functionality, Ethereum (ETH 7.50%) brought promise of real-world utility to the cryptocurrency market. The price of Ether, its native token, has skyrocketed 78,000% (as of May 11) since its launch in 2015. That means a $100 investment at that time would be worth a jaw-dropping $78,100 today.
But there's a younger crypto, called Solana (SOL 21.15%), that has also generated remarkable returns. It has soared 6,870% since it was launched in early 2020. And even after these massive gains, I think it still has a promising future.
If you missed out on Ethereum in recent years, you'll definitely want to consider Solana right now.
Solana is fast and cheap
Solana is dubbed an "Ethereum killer" because it tries to innovate and improve upon some of the shortcomings of its larger rival, particularly as it relates to speed and scalability. Ethereum's network is known for being awfully sluggish, processing just 14 transactions per second (TPS). And at times of peak demand, network fees can be over $50. This capacity won't cut it if crypto wants to go mainstream and attract more users.
Using a proof-of-stake consensus mechanism, owners of SOL, Solana's native token, can lock up their coins to validate transactions and post them to the blockchain. It's faster and more environmentally friendly than Ethereum's proof-of-work algorithm, requiring warehouses of computers to solve complex math problems to veridate transactions and add them to the blockchain.
Additionally, Solana incorporates something called proof of history, which records timestamps on each block to speed up verification. As a result, the Solana network can process 65,000 TPS at fractions of a penny per transaction.
As of May 11, Solana's entire market value totaled $15 billion, making it the ninth-most-valuable cryptocurrency in the world. There are currently 337 million SOL tokens in circulation.
Solana was founded in 2015 by two ex-Qualcomm engineers, Anatoly Yakovenko and Greg Fitzgerald. It's no surprise that their expertise in software and distributed operating systems directly carried over to the work they've done with Solana.
Solana can support DeFi
Unsurprisingly, having the ability to process a high number of transactions at incredibly low costs makes Solana attractive as a foundation for crypto's most promising use case -- financial services. Called decentralized finance (DeFi), these applications are able to provide basic banking and brokerage products without a central intermediary. While security might be lacking in this wild-West space, consumers can expect very favorable rates compared to what they're accustomed to from traditional financial institutions.
Currently, DeFi projects like Serum, a decentralized exchange, and Solend, a banking platform, are operating on the Solana network. And total value locked, a measure of the amount of money stored in various DeFi protocols on Solana's blockchain, was $4.4 billion as of this writing.
While these are definitely exciting developments to keep an eye on, what's probably the most promising project is something called Solana Pay. Solana Labs, a company working to advance the ecosystem, launched Solana Pay as a peer-to-peer payments network that can facilitate direct commerce between consumers and merchants, with instant settlement and essentially zero fees.
It's innovative because it does away with all the intermediaries, and all the complexity, of the traditional payments system. Merchants can develop valuable relationships with their customers in ways that haven't been possible, while driving better engagement, loyalty, and repeat purchases. It's Solana's most promising development.
It's no wonder that Alkesh Shah, an analyst at Bank of America, said Solana could be the "Visa of the digital-asset ecosystem."
Cryptocurrencies are risky
Solana certainly shows a ton of promise, especially in DeFi and payments, but like all cryptocurrencies, it is risky. Because blockchain technology and crypto is so new and still evolving quickly, there are a lot of unknowns today. Therefore, investors should invest only money they are comfortable losing in cryptocurrencies. Having a well-diversified portfolio to make the ride smoother along the way will help.
Despite falling more than 70% from its all-time high, Solana is a top cryptocurrency to consider.
Should you invest $1,000 in Solana right now?
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