When Solana (SOL) launched a little more than two years ago, the blockchain network held a lot of promise. Now, it has become canon fodder for social media banter. Observers quipped that Solana has more power cuts than what is expected for the U.K this winter.
So, did one of the most promising networks in the cryptocurrency world flatter to deceive? It may be a question a lot of people are thinking about.
Solana, the self-proclaimed killer of Ethereum, spoke glowingly about its capabilities when it launched in March 2020.
At the time, it claimed to support more than 50,000 transactions per second (TPS), with over 200 nodes on its testnet. On paper, that made the network comparatively superior to both Ethereum and Bitcoin, which averaged around 13 and five TPS, respectively.
To this day, Solana is often referred to as the most scalable and first truly web-scale network in the world. It is among a few protocols achieving over 3,000 transactions per second, with a total theoretical peak capacity of 65,000 TPS.
Validator nodes, which help keep the blockchain secure, and process transactions, have reached over 2,000, according to the Solana website. Since its launch, Solana processed a total of more than 104 billion transactions.
The network also boasts some of the lowest transaction fees in crypto, costing an average of $0.00025. Ethereum, the most dominant platform in the industry for money markets, NFTs, and dApps, still processes just 20 TPS, at a cost of $0.52 per transaction.
Bitcoin comes in at seven transactions per second, at an average cost of $0.60, as of writing.
Despite the comparative advantages, Solana is struggling to reach a point of efficiency. It is plagued by issues of frequent network outages, inconveniencing millions of users.
Since its launch, Solana has gone down eight times owing to either memory overload, bugs or power outages.
Competitor Ethereum crashed in 2017 following the launch of the CryptoKitties non-fungible tokens (NFTs). More recently, it had some issues in April during the launch of Yuga Labs’ half a billion dollars-worth “Otherside” NFT launch. But that’s all about it.
Experts say Solana was poised for trouble since its inception. Justin Bons, the founder of crypto fund Cyber Capital, said that Solana`s response to a tech failure earlier this month was more scandalous than the outage itself.
“Solana was down for more than three hours on Oct. 1, 2022. All due to a single validator creating an invalid block, causing validators to become stuck on the wrong chain and unable to switch back,” Bons, a crypto researcher, explained on Twitter.
This halted the whole chain and about two million of its active users were left stranded. Bons said this would have never happened on either Bitcoin or Ethereum.
“Even more shocking is how Solana network recovered from the failure. A decision was made to restart the cluster. In other words, the chain was recently in a centralized manner using checkpointing,” he observed.
Solana was also accused of inflating figures. Bons claimed that the network double-counted its transactions.
“On Aug. 5, 2022. It was exposed that the majority of SOL total value locked (TVL) was fake,” he alleged. “This was later confirmed to be an open secret within SOL. Two devs pretended to be 10+ devs and counting the same TVL over and over.”
Besides power outages, Solana recently suffered a security breach that left 8,000 wallets compromised. Analysts are convinced that the network’s original design and development work is flawed and needs fixing.
An explainer by Wu Blockchain quotes Hu Zhiwei, president of Bianjie.ai, saying Solana`s recurring challenges can be traced to validator nodes. “Solana also transmits consensus messages between validator nodes as a special transaction message,” the explainer reads.
“A large number of messages are blocked, resulting in the failure of consensus messages to be delivered normally, and consensus cannot be carried out normally,” it added.
Some Solana features, originally meant to make the blockchain stand out, maybe playing against it.
Wu Blockchain explained:
“Some features of Solana were exploited to cause network downtime. For example, the write-lock for concurrent transactions is locked on many important addresses, which makes the transactions become sequential rather than concurrent, greatly affecting the processing ability of messages. To handle forks, nodes keep possible fork information, resulting in memory overflow.”
Solving Solana’s outage “curse”
Solana co-founder Anatoly Yakovenko admitted that outages have been a thorn in their hinds and promised a long-term solution.
Speaking to a crypto podcast recently, Yakovenko said: “That’s been, I guess, our curse, but it’s because the network is so cheap and fast that there are enough users and applications that are driving that.”
Solana is pinning its hopes on a new deal that’s been agreed upon with web3 firm Jump Crypto. The company is developing something called “Firedancer” with the Solana Foundation, which is expected to help the blockchain scale and improve transaction speeds.
Firedancer is described by the developers as a new validator client which will bring stability to the Solana network. In a whitepaper explaining how the Firedancer works, Jump Crypto said it faced problems similar to those that Solana is facing and beat them.
“Ideally the validator would position Solana for even more impact long term by utilizing the latest algorithms, software, hardware, and networking technologies to increase the transaction throughput and drop the cost per transaction as low as possible,” said Jump Crypto.
Firedancer will be developed by a separate team, meaning “the probability of them having the same bugs in their code as ours becomes virtually zero,” Yakovenko told the podcast
Solana (SOL) price action
Solana’s “outage curse” has inevitably impacted SOL, the network’s native token. After rising over 10,500% in 2021, the token has this year fallen like a brick. According to CoinGecko, the token peaked at $260 on Nov. 6, 2021, but has crashed 87% since. As of writing, SOL is trading at $31.21, down 4% on the day.
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