Ethereum and Cardano Road Ahead

A Tale of Two Blockchains and Their Roadmaps to the Future

Introduction

Ethereum and Cardano are two prominent blockchain platforms - each with a different vision and roadmap. Ethereum, with its recent shift from proof-of-work to proof-of-stake, and Cardano, steadily progressing through its meticulously planned developmental phases, both aim to revolutionize how we perceive blockchain technology. This article compares the roadmaps of Ethereum and Cardano as a way to understand their differing approaches and ambitions.

Ethereum's Roadmap: A Journey Towards Scalability and Sustainability

Ethereum, the second-largest blockchain platform, is renowned for its smart contract capabilities and vibrant ecosystem. Its roadmap is an ambitious set of categories of upgrades focusing on scalability, security, and sustainability. The idea of proof-of-state and other improvements were part of Ethereum's long term plan for achieving planet scale. Just one year after the network came online, core developers and other teams were already discussing paths to proof of stake. It was not until November of 2022 that Vitalik Buterin, Justin Ðrake and crew proposed a comprehensive detailed roadmap with fun names for each milestone category to boot. With the exception of The Merge, a prerequisite for the rest of these milestones, categories are not in linear order. Work can be done in parallel.

The Categories:

The Merge: A significant leap from proof-of-work to proof-of-stake, this phase aims to reduce Ethereum's energy consumption drastically, marking a new era of eco-friendly blockchain technology. Ethereum had a successful merge on September 15, 2022 reducing their energy consumption by ~99.95%. No user funds were affected and all of the history from the proof-of-work era was brought over to the new proof-of-stake chain.

The Surge: Focused on scalability, this stage involves the implementation of rollups and data sharding, significantly increasing the network's capacity to process transactions.

The Scourge: This phase concentrates on enhancing censorship resistance and decentralization, addressing the protocol risks associated with Miner Extractable Value (MEV).

The Verge: Aimed at simplifying block verification, this upgrade will make it easier for individuals to participate in network validation.

The Purge: Here, the focus is on reducing computational costs for running nodes and simplifying the Ethereum protocol, making it more accessible and efficient.

The Splurge: This final phase encompasses various other upgrades that do not fit into the previous categories, ensuring continuous improvement and innovation.

Cardano's Roadmap: A Structured Approach to Blockchain Evolution

Cardano's roadmap in contrast to ethereum was laid out from the beginning. The first two, Byron and Shelley were linear. The initial work for Byron had to be scrapped with an unplanned “Byron reboot” phase after some early lessons learned after starting implementation work. The latter eras, Basho, Goguen, and Voltaire were worked on in parallel by different teams within IOG. Most of the Shelley and Goguen eras have been realized with small cleanups and performance improvements coming in 2024. Capabilities from Shelley and Goguen are powering billions of USD dollars worth of commercial and other products.

The Eras:

Byron - Foundation: This initial phase laid the groundwork for the Cardano network, focusing on the development of a stable and robust accounting layer. The Byron work went live in September 2017 after 2 years of work, then scrapped and rebooted again in March 2020 after additional 18 months of work.

Shelley - Decentralization: Marking a shift towards a more decentralized network, Shelley introduced staking, permissionless block production, and incentivized participation from a broader community. This era also brought NFTs and Native Assets to Cardano. The first Shelly features launched in July 2020 just months after the Bryon . That same year the lido pool was minted in November to help produce blocks and secure Cardano. The ability to create Native Assets and NFTs came with a March 2021 upgrade. That allowed us to create our very own phuffycoin that same year!

Goguen - Smart Contracts: This era brought Cardano's capability to handle smart contracts, opening doors to a wide range of decentralized applications and services. With Goguen we could finally swap from one token to another without having to go through a centralized exchange. The initial Goguen upgrade wrapped up the very busy 2021 going live on December 17 2021 just in time for a much-earned holiday break.

Basho - Scaling: Focused on scalability, Basho aims to enhance the network's performance to accommodate a growing number of transactions and applications. Efforts like Hydra, Input Endorsers, Sidechain and problem specific partner chains acting as service layers is how Cardano aims to service a billion people. While many Basho features already live on the production network, few items still remain to be considered completed. The first deliverable for Basho snuck in April 2022 making the size of smart contracts smaller. Hydra, a major Basho deliverable, became production ready in March 2023. The final major deliverable is slated for the end of 2024, early 2025.

Voltaire - Governance: The final stage in Cardano's roadmap, Voltaire, introduces a governance model that allows the community to steer the future development of the platform and the Cardano treasury. An incentivized test environment for Voltaire (Project Catalyst) went live in September 2020. Project Catalyst has since gone through 10 iterations. It played a role in the official specificatio (CIP 1694) for bringing governance to the production network. The production upgrade is currently on schedule for the end of 2024. To explore Project Catalyst and projects that have been funded through the program to date see lidonation.com/catalyst

Comparison and Conclusion

Both Ethereum and Cardano share common goals of scalability, sustainability, and decentralization. However, their approaches differ significantly. Ethereum's roadmap is a testament to its adaptive and innovative nature, constantly evolving to meet the changing demands of its ecosystem. The Merge, for instance, is a response to the growing concern over energy consumption in blockchain technology.

Cardano, on the other hand, takes a more methodical and research-driven approach. Each era in its roadmap builds upon the previous, ensuring a stable and well-thought-out progression. The emphasis on community governance in the Voltaire era highlights Cardano's commitment to a truly decentralized and democratic blockchain network.

While Ethereum focuses on evolving through a series of iterative upgrades addressing current challenges and future-proofing the network, Cardano's structured roadmap reflects its aim to create a robust and comprehensive blockchain ecosystem from the ground up. Both platforms, with their distinct visions and developmental paths, are pushing the boundaries of what blockchain technology can achieve.

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