Ethereum (ETH) was the first cryptocurrency to introduce smart contracts. These are tiny pieces of code that live on the blockchain and mean developers can build applications and other projects on the network. For years, Ethereum was the unquestionable leader in this space and it still hosts the lion’s share of projects.
But sadly, Ethereum has been the victim of its own success. Until it can complete its upgrade to a more scalable, more environmentally-friendly model, it struggles with high network fees and network congestion. As a result, a host of so-called Ethereum killers have come to the fore. These boast faster, lower-cost transactions. Here are five to watch in 2022.
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- Solana (SOL)
Solana was one of the top performing cryptos of 2021. It says it is “the fastest growing ecosystem in crypto,” which is supported by the ever-increasing list of applications on its network. At last count, there were over 1,350 projects running on Solana. One big reason for Solana’s dramatic growth is its speed. In theory, Solana says the network is capable of processing 65,000 transactions per second, which is magnitudes more than Ethereum’s 15-45 transactions per second.
On the negative side, there’s a growing concern Solana wasn’t quite ready for the exponential growth it’s seen. In September, it blamed a load spike for a 17-hour outage, and there have been a number of problems since. According to Fortune, Solana experienced six outages of more than eight hours in January. Investors are willing to put some technical troubles down to teething troubles, but their patience might be wearing thin.
- Avalanche (AVAX)
Like Solana, Avalanche saw dramatic growth last year. It may not have grabbed quite as many headlines, but its price increased by over 3,000% and it now sits at ninth place in terms of market cap. Two metrics stand out for Avalanche:
Its total value locked (TVL) is almost $11 billion. According to DeFi Llama, this puts AVAX in fourth place in terms of the amount of money people have deposited with projects running on its ecosystem. Ethereum still dominates here with over $120 billion in TVL.
It boasts the fastest time to finality. Without getting too technical, finality is the point at which a transaction can’t be altered. One way to think about it is that there’s a difference between the point where you swipe your credit card to pay for an item, and the point where that payment is actually processed. The transaction itself seems almost instant, but time to finality is more akin to the processing time and can take longer.
- Cardano (ADA)
Cardano has been a steady fixture in the top 20 cryptos by market cap for several years. It takes a research-heavy approach to development, which means it’s been much slower to roll out technical developments than other blockchains. For example, it only launched smart contracts in September.
One of the things that sets Cardano apart from other cryptocurrencies is its broad vision. It wants to use blockchain technology to redistribute power and become a positive force for change. It already has partnerships with governments and other organizations in various African countries. For example, it has partnered with the Ministry of Education in Ethiopia to put the academic records of 5 million students onto the blockchain.
Price wise, Cardano was struggling even before the wider market slump. One reason for this is that very few projects are actually running on its network, even after the smart contract launch. This has raised questions about whether its slow development will actually deliver superior results.
- Elrond (EGLD)
Elrond is smaller than the cryptos we’ve covered so far and isn’t yet listed on several top cryptocurrency exchanges in the U.S. It’s a scalable, fast blockchain that is also focused on interoperability. Interoperability is the ability for these networks to talk to each other and is a crucial part of blockchain’s evolution.
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Cryptocurrency may or may not ultimately prove to be a viable global currency, but there’s no denying that it carries immense value. Bitcoin alone has a market cap of over $730 billion, and anytime there’s that much money floating around, sharks are sure to be attracted.
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Coupled with the “Wild West” atmosphere surrounding decentralized finance, in some ways it can be even easier for scammers to steal crypto than U.S. dollars. Here are some of the most common types of crypto scams you should be aware of if you have any money at all invested.
Elrond launched a decentralized exchange called Maiar last summer, which currently only lists a couple of tokens. Most recently, Elrond said it would introduce a new metaverse-focused decentralized finance function called metastaking. This is a good coin to have on your radar in the year ahead.
- Tezos (XTZ)
Tezos didn’t grow as fast as other smart contract cryptos last year. It gained about 115%, which is a decent gain, but is vastly overshadowed by Solana and Avalanche. This ecofriendly blockchain had some leadership issues after its ICO in 2017, resulting in a $25 million legal settlement.
I’ve included it as a coin to watch in 2022 because it has taken big strides to capture market share in the booming NFT market, and also recently announced a partnership with Manchester United soccer club. It’s weathered the recent crypto price slump relatively well. Ethereum’s price has decreased by over 20% since the start of the year while Tezos has only dipped by 15%.
There are many smart contract cryptos on the market, and it’s likely that several will have their moment in the spotlight at different points in 2022. As to whether any of them can truly be Ethereum killers, Elrond cofounder Beniamin Mincu summed it up when he tweeted, “To be clear, Elrond is not a Bitcoin or Ethereum killer. This is a zero-sum, loser’s game.”
For sure, the longer Ethereum takes to solve its scalability problems, the more likely it is that other cryptos will take more of its market share. But ultimately, this is unlikely to be a winner-takes-all game. If the cryptocurrency market continues to grow, all of these blockchains could grow alongside it. We’ll probably see four or five emerging ahead of the pack, but it is extremely hard to predict which ones.
As an investor, it’s important to remember this is a new technology with a lot of unknowns. Each project has taken slightly different approaches in terms of speed, security, and decentralization. And none of the newer players have been road tested to the same degree as Ethereum. Some may falter due to technical, security, or management difficulties. And a new crypto might emerge that is faster and even more secure than all the existing players.
What’s important is to understand the risks, research each individual investment carefully, and only invest money you can afford to lose.