The Cardano roadmap explained


Often referred to as a next generation Ethereum, Cardano is a smart contract platform looking to be faster and more scalable than its rivals. One of the key ways it has set about doing this is by taking a research-driven approach to its development, with each phase reinforced by peer-reviewed insights and evidence to help the platform succeed as a fast, scalable and compatible blockchain.

As part of this mission, Cardano developers split the development plan into five distinct phases, also referred to as ‘eras’. The five eras are known as Byron, Shelley, Goguen, Basho and Voltaire, after influential scientists and creative historic figures, and they are designed to enhance the functionality of the Cardano platform.

But what do each of these eras represent and where are we in the development cycle?

Byron (Technology)

Following the launch of the Cardano blockchain in September 2017, this phase began with establishing the infrastructure that would allow users of the blockchain to buy and sell its native cryptocurrency ADA – powered by a brand new proof-of-stake consensus protocol known as Ouroboros.

To help in achieving this aim, IOHK, the blockchain infrastructure research and engineering company launched by Cardano founders Charles Hoskinson and Jeremy Wood, also released the Daedalus wallet, its first official desktop wallet for Cardano’s cryptocurrency.

Shelley (Rewards)

Designed as a safe and stable transition towards a more decentralised Cardano, this phase helped to build a robust community of validators working on a network far less energy-intensive than other blockchains.

During this phase, an update referred to as the ‘Mary’ upgrade was introduced to allow users to create their own tokens on top of the Cardano network.

Goguen (dApps and smart contracts)

Building on the overall user experience, this phase of the development plan focused on allowing technical and non-technical users to try their hand at creating smart contracts and decentralised applications (dApps) on Cardano.

Named after American computer scientist Joseph Goguen, the era was worked on in parallel with Shelley. Both eras was to ensure that anyone, regardless of technical background, could effectively create and run smart contracts on the Cardano network.

To help achieve this goal, a supplementary programming language, called Marlowe, was created to enable non-programmers to create and test smart contracts.

Bashō (sidechains)

The Bashō era of Cardano is focused on optimising the scalability and interoperability of the blockchain, two key areas for the success of the network.

It achieves this through the introduction of sidechains, separate blockchain networks that connect to the main Cardano chain. Sidechains help extend the capabilities of the network, including its capacity, and introduce new experimental features without affecting the day-to-day running of the main blockchain.

Voltaire (improved consensus)

The fifth and final era will allow people on the Cardano network to suggest improvement proposals similar to Bitcoin’s BIPs (Bitcoin Improvement Proposals) that can be voted on by stakeholders in the community.

Referred to as the final piece of the self-sustaining puzzle, the Voltaire era’s addition of voting will ensure that the future development of the network is in the hands of its participants, with validators able to use their own stakes of ADA and voting rights to influence the direction of future development.

To ensure Cardano has the funds to continue improving its platform, the Voltaire era will also introduce a treasury that takes a fraction of all transaction fees to fund future development.

Where are we now?

On 22 September, the Cardano development team triggered its latest upgrade, Vasil, named after Vasil St. Davov, a Bulgarian mathematician and Cardano ambassador. 

This upgrade introduced a range of improvements aimed at expanding Cardano’s capabilities, enabling dApp developers to create exciting new experiences and allowing for an increased network capacity.

If you’re interested in keeping up-to-date with the latest changes to the network, the development details of each update can be found here.

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