Cardano Logo.jpg
Original author(s)Charles Hoskinson & Jeremy Wood
White paperCardano whitepaper
Initial release27 September 2017 (5 years ago) (2017-09-27)[1]
Latest release1.35.5 / 27 January 2023 (6 days ago) (2023-01-27)[2]
Code repository
Development statusActive
Written inHaskell
Operating systemCross-platform
Developer(s)Cardano Foundation, IOHK, EMURGO
Source modelFree and open-source software
LicenseApache License
Timestamping schemeProof of stake
Block time20 seconds
Block explorerAdatools_explorer


Exchange rateFloating
Official user(s)~3215 stake pools globally (as of Jan. 2023)[3]

Cardano is a public blockchain platform. It is open-source and decentralized, with consensus achieved using proof of stake. It can facilitate peer-to-peer transactions with its internal cryptocurrency, ADA.[4]

Cardano's development began in 2015, led by Ethereum co-founder Charles Hoskinson. The project is overseen and supervized by the Cardano Foundation based in Zug, Switzerland.[5][6] When launched in 2017, it was the largest cryptocurrency to use a proof-of-stake blockchain, which is seen as a greener alternative to proof-of-work protocols.[7]

Cardano co-founder Charles Hoskinson. (2022, Web Summit)
Cardano co-founder Charles Hoskinson. (2022, Web Summit)


Charles Hoskinson and Jeremy Wood set out their plans for Cardano in 2015, with the platform launching in 2017.[8][9][10] Hoskinson had left Ethereum after a dispute with another co-founder, Vitalik Buterin. Hoskinson wanted to accept venture capital and create a company, while Buterin wanted to keep it as a nonprofit organization. After leaving, Hoskinson co-founded IOHK, a blockchain-engineering company, whose primary business is the development of Cardano, alongside the Cardano Foundation and Emurgo.[10] The platform is named after Italian mathematician Gerolamo Cardano, while the cryptocurrency itself is named after the English mathematician Ada Lovelace. The Ada sub-unit is the Lovelace; one Ada = 1,000,000 Lovelaces.[11]

Technical aspects

Cardano technical overview. (2019)
Cardano technical overview. (2019)

Atypically, Cardano does not have a white paper. Instead, it uses design principles intended to overcome issues faced by earlier cryptocurrencies such as scalability, interoperability, and regulatory compliance.[12] Cardano claims that it overcomes problems found in other cryptocurrencies: mainly that Bitcoin is too slow and inflexible, and that Ethereum is not safe or scalable.[13]

Cardano uses a proof-of-stake protocol named Ouroboros;[14] this is in contrast to Bitcoin and Ethereum, which use proof-of-work protocols (though the latter switched over in 2022).[15] Proof-of-stake blockchains use far less energy than proof-of-work chains.[15] This is achieved by eliminating the computing resources that a proof of work algorithm requires.[16] In February 2021, Hoskinson estimated the Cardano network used 6 GWh annually, less than 0.01% of the 110.53 TWh used by the Bitcoin network as calculated by the University of Cambridge.[17][18]

Within the Cardano platform, Ada exists on the settlement layer. This layer is similar to Bitcoin and keeps track of transactions. The second layer is the computation layer. This layer is designed to be similar to Ethereum, enabling smart contracts and applications to run on the platform.[13]

Like Bitcoin, Cardano uses a UTXO ledger model, though it is an extended version (EUTXO)[19][20] to facilitate smart contracts and scripting languages.[21]

"Voltaire" is the last of a series of development "eras" named after notable figures in poetry and computer science namely: Byron, Shelley, Goguen, Basho and Voltaire. The current era (Basho) focuses on scaling the blockchain. Voltaire, the final era, intends to bring voting and treasury management of the blockchain and network through previously introduced smart contract functionality. It is important to note that once Voltaire is complete IOHK intends to release the development of the network entirely to the community.[16]

Decentralized Finance

Cardano implemented decentralized finance (DeFi) services on September 12, 2021, including an upgrade to enable smart contracts and the ability to build decentralized applications (DApps).[22] Also included is Plutus, a Turing-complete smart contract language written in Haskell, and a specialized smart contract language, Marlowe, designed for non-programmers in the financial sector. Cardano's smart contract languages allow developers to run end-to-end tests on their program without leaving the integrated development environment or deploying their code.[23][24]


Cardano was funded through an initial coin offering (ICO).[25] Cardano reached a market cap of $77 billion in May 2021, which was the fourth highest for a cryptocurrency at that time.[26][27]

In 2017, IOHK partnered with the University of Edinburgh to launch the Blockchain Technology Laboratory.[28][29][30] The partnership with the School of Informatics in Edinburgh included six post-doctoral and professorial positions with up to 35 jobs created in total. The lab forms IOHK's international research headquarters with other partnerships including the Tokyo Institute of Technology.[31]

In March 2019, IOHK ran a free ten week Haskell blockchain development course for 30 female developers in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.[32]

Advertising agency MBLM ranked Cardano 26th for brand intimacy out of 600 brands in August 2022, in between Ford and Nestlé and the highest rank for a cryptocurrency. Citing an MBLM partner, advertising industry magazine Ad Age said Cardano's high ranking "can likely be chalked up to the gambling element of crypto".[33]


Applications of the Cardano blockchain include:


See also: 2020s commodities boom

In the United States, the proposed Digital Commodities Consumer Protection Act would treat Cardano and other cryptocurrencies as commodities, which could then be regulated by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).[48][49]


  1. ^ "Releases - input-output-hk/cardano-sl". Retrieved 28 October 2020 – via GitHub.
  2. ^ "Releases - input-output-hk/cardano-node". Retrieved 28 January 2023 – via GitHub.
  3. ^ "Cardano Blockchain Explorer".
  4. ^ "Die Grundlagen der Cardano-Kryptowährung". (in German). 26 June 2020. Archived from the original on 4 July 2020. Retrieved 2 July 2020.
  5. ^ "Bitcoin's Smaller Cousins". Bloomberg L.P. 20 December 2017. Archived from the original on 26 June 2018. Retrieved 25 December 2018. Cardano, backed by the Zug, Switzerland-based Cardano Foundation, is a decentralized public blockchain that aims to protect user privacy, while also allowing for regulation
  6. ^ "ZUG: Ex-Tezos-Mann geht zu Cardano". (in German). Luzerner Zeitung. 20 February 2018. Retrieved 7 July 2020.
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  23. ^ "Say Hello to IOHK's New Cardano Blockchain Tools, Plutus and Marlowe". Crowdfund Insider. 11 December 2018. Retrieved 18 February 2019. Where programming Ethereum requires coding in two languages, Solidity for the on-chain code and Javascript for the off-chain parts, and other systems suffer a similar split, Plutus is the only system that provides an integrated language for both, based on Haskell
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