Cardano Blockchain “Shelley” hard fork due for release

Cardano Blockchain “Shelley” hard fork due for release

The development of the Cardano (ADA) platform began in 2015. A token presale conducted in Asia raised US$62 million from September 2015 to January 2017. A total of 26 billion tokens were sold at US$0.0024 each. Public trading of ADA tokens began on October 1st, 2017.

The ADA token currently has a listed market capitalization of US$4.1 billion and ranks 6th on the Brave New Coin market cap table. Each individual token trades for ~US$0.15, with its price rising ~76% in the last month.

Cardano uses Ouroboros, a Proof of Stake model, for network consensus. Proof-of-Stake consensus algorithms use a pseudo-random selection process, where the allocation of blocks is weighted based on the size of a nodes stake.

The Cardano website suggests that the core innovations of Ouroboros are modularity and flexible design. The modularity allows for features such as delegation, sidechains, subscribable checkpoints, better data structures for light clients, different forms of random number generation, and different node synchronization assumptions.

The Cardano platform consists of two layers. The Cardano Settlement Layer (CSL) that is used to settle transactions that use ADA. The Control Layer, which is under development, will be used for smart contracts and Decentralized Applications. The system is designed to simplify privacy and network interactions as smart contract information is kept separate from transaction information. The blockchain will also support two scripting languages, Simon and Plutus, as well as sidechains.

Three primary organizations contribute to Cardano’s development including the Cardano Foundation, which aims to standardize, protect, and promote ADA; Emurgo, which aims to develop, support, and incubate commercial ventures; and Input-Output Hong Kong (IOHK), founded in 2015 by Charles Hoskinson and Jeremy Wood.

IOHK provides the core dev team behind the Shelley update. The company is a technical engineering company that also works with academic institutions, government entities, and corporations to develop blockchain solutions. It focuses on research and development in cryptography and distributed systems.

In August 2019 IOHK built a blockchain solution for the University of Tbilisi in Georgia to prove academic qualifications. The firm also built the “Atala” blockchain solution in collaboration with the Ethiopian Government in order to provide financial services to people living in African countries. IOHK also works on Ethereum Classic (ETC) development.

The ADA development roadmap has five phases; Byron, Shelley, Goguen, Basho, and Voltaire. The Shelly phase is designed to encompass “the critical early steps in Cardano’s journey to optimize decentralization.” The update will see Cardano switching from a federated network to a more decentralized one, with nodes distributed across members of the community. Pre-Shelley, all ADA nodes were controlled by IOHK, Emurgo, and the Cardano Foundation, in a centralized manner.

A Shelley Incentivized Testnet (ITN) was launched in December 2019 to trial Cardano’s new decentralized Proof-of-Stake protocol. The ITN allowed users to delegate ADA to various stake pools using the Daedalus or Yoroi wallet.

A stake pool is a network node with a public address that ADA holders can delegate token stake towards. ADA holders can delegate their network token stakes to one of these pools if they wish to participate in the protocol and receive rewards, but do not wish to operate a network node themselves. Stake pools are run by a reliable operator that is an individual or business with the knowledge and resources to run the node on a consistent basis. The more stake that has been delegated to a stake pool in Shelley, the greater chance it has of being selected by its Proof of Stake algorithm.

A recent blog post suggests nearly 300 community stake pools have already joined the most recent version of the Shelly testnet which will be deployed to the mainnet as part of the upcoming hard fork.

A number of node updates have been released for Shelly including hard fork-ready versions of Cardano GraphQL, Cardano REST, and Cardano DB-Sync. A new version of the Daedalus wallet, V1.6.0 STN5, has also been released in preparation for the hard fork.

In a recent community update, IOHK CEO Charles Hoskinson indicates that going forward he will be spending time laying down the development and release strategy for the Goguen roadmap phase of development. Goguen will add capabilities for Cardano developers to build decentralized applications on the platform using smart contracts. Hoskinson says one of the first jobs to be done for Goguen will be sorting through the platforms token locking process and streamlining the rules for native assets that will be issuable on the Cardano blockchain.