Solana needs Firedancer, ‘ChatGPT moment’ to rival ETH, proponents say

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A major upgrade on Solana aimed at increasing transaction processing this year, paired with a potential “breakthrough” consumer app, could be all that’s needed for Solana to finally live up to its moniker as an “Ethereum killer.”

That is, at least, what Solana’s proponents believe, amid a fresh wave of on-chain activity, increasing developer count, and a growing number of users, boosted partly by a memecoin-led resurgence in December.

Speaking to Cointelegraph, Austin Federa, the head of the strategy at Solana Foundation says a flippening could come from a flood of consumer-facing applications built on Solana.

Federa said he’s recently noticed an increase in the number of developers looking to make the jump from Ethereum over to Solana, lured by lower development costs and a more diverse array of coding languages.

“On Solana, anyone can write an interface in almost any programming language,” Federa said, noting that as of today, developers can code in Solana with Rust, C, and Python, with Move language support coming soon.

“This isn’t to say Ethereum won’t figure it out eventually, but today we’re seeing a huge number of projects on Ethereum that want to move over to Solana. That’s not something we were seeing a year and a half ago.”

Federa said this is something that’s made him “extremely confident” that the lion’s share of new, consumer-facing applications will be built on Solana in the coming years.

“Now, will these be the most valuable applications? I don’t know. But they will almost certainly be the most widely used applications,” he said.

Henrik Andersson, the chief investment officer at Melbourne-based venture capital firm Apollo Crypto had a similar prediction. While he wasn’t as confident of a “flippening,” he said tha take is for a Solana to have a “ChatGPT moment” and launch a hyper-successful app that draws in a significant amount of users and capital.

“If Solana were to have a breakthrough app in SocialFi, DePIN, or the gaming space, Solana could gain enough traction from that app alone to rival Ethereum.”

Firedancer and Solana’s Achilles heel

However, there’s one challenge that Solana, since launching in March 2020 has failed to stamp out.

On Feb. 9, the Solana network suffered another prolonged network outage, bringing the network to a grinding halt for nearly five hours.

Stemming from a bug in the code, the outage occurred in large part due to Solana only running on two major clients, something many analysts say is the network’s biggest weakness.

Speaking to Cointelegraph, Pranav Kanade, portfolio manager at VanEck’s Digital Assets Alpha Strategy, said Solana’s client diversity is the main hurdle the network has to overcome if it wants to position itself as a serious competitor to Ethereum.

At the time of publication, Solana runs on two clients: a Solana Labs client and a Jito Labs client, with Jito’s code being a fork of the Solana Labs’ client.

Any bug in the Solana Labs code can grind the network to a halt — which has happened at least ten times over the last few years.

Federa reiterated that reliability and uptime remain the “highest priority” for Solana engineers, but argued that this also wasn’t “the best” criticism of a blockchain network.

“Critical financial infrastructure goes down all the time, right? It has scheduled downtime that people literally set their alarms by,” he said.

Kanade and Federa see Solana’s upcoming Firedancer upgrade — an entirely new independent client scheduled for releaser later this year — as a reason to be hopeful for an eventual Solana flippening. Kanade added:

“I see Firedancer as a key catalyst. If it ships, that is a huge deal for the network and I’d expect the valuation gap between ETH and SOL to narrow — and perhaps for SOL to eventually flip ETH. If it doesn’t ship, I would expect Ethereum’s modular roadmap to catch up.”

Maybe “flippening” unlikely after all

However, the gap between Solana and Ethereum is still sizeable. 

While Solana has staged a massive rally over the last nine months, reaching a new yearly high of $133, Ethereum has rallied too amid hopes of being included in United States-listed spot Ether ETFs.

However, Ethereum’s value is currently still far above Solana’s, touting a total market capitalization of $404 billion, compared to Solana’s $60 billion, per TradingView data

Andersson said that the size and dominance of the Ethereum ecosystem, make it difficult to foresee Solana flipping it in terms of market cap any time soon.

“One of the benefits of a modular ecosystem is all the diverse players it attracts. For this reason, it’s hard to see Solana overtake Ethereum,” he said.

Meanwhile, Kanade noted that Ethereum’s “longer track record and huge development community” meant that new developers were still likely to choose Ethereum and its ecosystem of Layer2s to build apps, saying that Solana still has a “way to go” before catching up.

Ethereum attracted 16,700 new coders in 2023, nearly four times that of Solana. Source: Electric Capital

Mark Smargon, the Founder & CEO of Layer1 blockchain Fuse Network also says it is unlikely that Solana could ever surpass Ethereum.

“If we look at the long-term objective of Ethereum and the way the decentralized economy is built bottom-up, we can see that many ideas make their way to Solana after first being tested on Ethereum,” said Smargon.

“Ethereum is more of a ‘network of networks’ play, whereas Solana is more consumer-focused. Both are big plays but they are not mutually exclusive. Some of the products and services on Solana can still originate or be powered by Ethereum,” he added.

Ultimately, Andersson said that viewing the two networks as direct competitors may not be the best approach.

“Solana and Ethereum have different visions and ethos. One has the overriding goal of being the fastest possible, while Ethereum is building a censorship-resistant network. They can both be winners.”

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