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Cardano, also known as ADA, is a digital asset that fashions itself as a next-generation competitor to Ethereum. Since its launch in 2017, it has become a highly valued cryptocurrency; Cardano has the eighth highest market capitalization — about $10 billion — as of November 21. Like many cryptocurrencies during crypto winter, its price has fallen significantly since 2021 and is down nearly 90% from its all-time high.
Ethereum co-founder Charles Hoskinson launched Cardano in 2017.
Cardano uses proof-of-stake technology. In general, this means Cardano owners verify blocks of transactions using their Cardano as a kind of collateral — a process called “staking.” In addition to being less energy intensive than proof-of-work, this technology pays additional Cardano to owners who stake.
Cardano brands itself as a “third-generation” cryptocurrency (Bitcoin and Ethereum being the first and second generation, respectively) that emphasizes scalability, interoperability and sustainability.
The network has the functionality to make some upgrades without hard forks, a disruptive event that severs the existing blocks of transactions from the ones that follow This does not mean Cardano never uses hard forks; there was a hard fork in 2021.
IOHK —which stands for Input Output Hong Kong — is a company founded by Hoskinson. It’s “contracted to design, build and maintain the Cardano platform,” according to the Cardano Foundation.
» Learn more: What to know about investing in Cardano
Cardano: Key facts
High. Cardano’s market cap of about $10.6 billion puts it in the top 10 of all cryptocurrencies.
Low. With a November low of 30 cents following an all-time-high of nearly $3 in 2021, Cardano’s price has been hit hard by the broader market decline.
45 billion. Currently, 35 billion coins are in circulation.
Medium. Cardano’s network adds a new block about every 20 seconds.
Low. Cardano’s dynamic fees depend on factors like the amount of computer memory needed and transaction volume on Cardano’s network. Fees tend to be lower relative to popular cryptocurrencies, including Ethereum.
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Cardano price today
The chart below shows Cardano's current price and historic Cardano price data. Cardano, like cryptocurrencies in general, is a volatile asset. That means Cardano’s past and present prices may not be a good indication of what it will be tomorrow.
» The basics: What is cryptocurrency, anyway?
Pros and cons of Cardano
Cardano's developers hope to make it one of the leading networks used by decentralized applications designed to cut out intermediaries, and their associated costs, in fields such as finance and computing.
Here are the pros and cons of ADA.
Smart contract are more accessible
Smart contracts are financial agreements that are recorded and run on a blockchain. In general, creating a smart contract requires technical expertise. But Cardano says its recently-launched Marlowe language, which is used to write smart contracts, allows “financial and business experts with no previous technical knowledge to create smart contracts.” Lower technical barriers compared to competitors could result in an increase in traffic on the network.
Ability to earn through staking
Cardano is among a new generation of crypto projects underpinned by a concept called "proof of stake." Generally, proof-of-stake cryptocurrencies encourage owners to "stake" their holdings to help verify transactions on the underlying blockchain network. This gives owners an option to earn cryptocurrency without buying more. Crypto staking can also be a more environmentally friendly alternative to the energy-intensive "proof-of-work" process pioneered by Bitcoin.
Some features are relatively new or not yet released
The creators of Cardano are taking a deliberate approach toward rolling out features on the network, and some key features that will define its potential are just in their infancy. For instance, the network introduced smart contracts in August 2021. As a result, it will have to play catch-up to more established smart contract protocols like Ethereum and Solana.
Development process is less transparent than other cryptocurrencies
Cardano’s governance is more opaque than others, as decisions are made “off-chain” by IOHK and the Cardano Foundation. In contrast, potential upgrades to Bitcoin or Ethereum are discussed and debated more fully by the larger user community.
» Ready to invest? Here are our picks for best cryptocurrency exchanges.