Shiba Inu (CRYPTO:SHIB) was relatively unknown until Elon Musk tweeted a photo of his dog Floki on October 4, 2021. Floki happens to be a Shiba Inu, and in the following days the number of tweets mentioning the meme token was multiplied by more than 20.
When the dust settled later that month, Shiba Inu had hit an all-time high of $0.00008616, a gain of 153,000,000% in less than a year. In other words, if you had invested $1 in Shiba Inu in November 2020, you would have made over $1 million by the time it peaked in October 2021.
However, the price of the meme token has since fallen 65%, and unless a significant new use is introduced, its price is unlikely to rebound. On the bright side, there are plenty of other blockchain projects with huge potential.
And while investors should never expect the kind of returns generated by Shiba Inu, Solana (CRYPTO:SOL) and Chainlink (CRYPTO:LINK) could generate monster returns in the long term.
Solana is a smart contract platform built on blockchain technology, a system of record used to track transactions and prevent fraud. In the context of cryptocurrencies, blockchains store data on hundreds or thousands of nodes (computers), and this decentralized architecture helps secure the network. Unfortunately, it also makes it difficult to extend these networks.
When verifying transactions, nodes must agree on the order in which these events occurred. To do this, nodes timestamp transactions using the local system clock. See the article: Opinion on the crypto Cosmos (ATOM): what future and prediction for this token?. But as the network decentralizes (i.e. new nodes are added), slight discrepancies between local clocks become more frequent, and reconciling them takes time.
Solana solves this problem with its unique consensus protocol, which combines proof-of-stake and proof-of-history. Rather than relying on each system’s local clock, timestamps are built into the blockchain itself, creating a verifiable order of events, which speeds up throughput. In fact, Solana can theoretically process 50,000 transactions per second (TPS), and it achieves finality (i.e. it irreversibly adds transactions to the blockchain) in about 13 seconds.
As a result, Solana has become popular with decentralized application (dApp) developers and decentralized finance (DeFi) investors. The platform supports over 1,300 projects, including a collection of video games, NFT marketplaces, and DeFi protocols. In fact, Solana ranks sixth among the blockchain industry’s DeFi ecosystems, holding a 3.9% market share in terms of total dollars invested on the platform.
Even better, the developer team recently announced Solana Pay, a potentially disruptive payment solution. It bypasses banks and credit card networks, allowing consumers to pay merchants directly using stablecoins like USD Coin, a cryptocurrency pegged to the price of the US dollar. And because Solana’s blockchain powers the service, payments are settled in seconds and transactions cost just a fraction of a penny.
As Solana’s decentralized ecosystem of applications and services grows in popularity, demand for SOL tokens (the currency used to pay transaction fees) is expected to increase, driving up its price. This is why this cryptocurrency seems like a smart investment.
Blockchain-powered smart contracts are computer programs that automatically execute when predefined conditions are met. For example, a smart contract could be used to facilitate sports betting. The protocol would first collect participants’ wagers, then, once the sporting event is over, it would credit the winner’s account. Most importantly, smart contracts are tamper-proof and unchangeable once deployed, which means they are a very secure and efficient way to enforce agreements.
Unfortunately, blockchains cannot interact with external systems. This would compromise the very problem they are trying to solve (i.e. centralized control). Relying on a single external system would negate the decentralized nature of the network by creating a single point of failure. See also: JPMorgan: Bitcoin Reveals ‘Biggest Challenge’ in History and Surprising ‘Fair Value’ of BTC Price. Of course, this security feature severely limits the usefulness of smart contracts in the real world. For example, in my example game, how could the protocol know who won the bet? The answer is Chainlink, a decentralized network of oracles – entities capable of bringing real-world data to any blockchain.
Here’s how it works: Chainlink node operators (i.e. the people who run the oracle infrastructure) must stake Link tokens in order to participate. This guarantees their honesty. Then, when a smart contract requests external data, such as the result of a sporting event, the node operators bid for this task and the Chainlink protocol selects multiple oracles to retrieve the data. The key word is “multiple”. By aggregating and reconciling data from multiple sources, Chainlink can provide accurate data, without compromising the decentralized nature of the network. Once the process is complete, node operators are paid in Link tokens.
Of course, Chainlink is not the only oracle network, but it is by far the most popular. It has over 1,100 partnerships, including 90 blockchains and over 550 DeFi products, while its closest competitor, the Band protocol, has less than 60 partnerships in total. In other words, Chainlink is virtually unmatched.
And in the future, assuming dApps and DeFi products continue to grow in popularity, more smart contracts will likely rely on Chainlink oracles to obtain data. In turn, this will create demand for the Link token, which will drive up its price.
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