What’s the difference between Ethereum and Solana?
An overview of both blockchains
The comparison between both blockchains is an exciting topic. Ethereum has Ethereum 2.0 just around the corner, Solana has swift and cheap transactions. Both are incredible blockchains that I believe are currently and will continue to revolutionize our world.
Ether (Ethereum’s main coin) currently has the 2nd largest market cap of all cryptocurrencies. Ethereum was also the first blockchain to support smart contracts, giving it a first-mover advantage. It’s now grown to be the world’s largest decentralized network. Even with all of this, Ethereum 2.0 is meant to launch in 2022 (soooon) and will be solving multiple issues with current Ethereum.
Largest smart contract network in existence
Ethereum has had the most smart contracts deployed on its network compared to any other blockchain. It’s had 1.7+ million contracts deployed with roughly 500k active.
This not only means it’s the most active blockchain but also one of the best blockchains to develop on since more people have gone through it. More people have developed in solidity, meaning more people can help you out when you get stuck.
Proof of Work
Proof of work is a consensus mechanism used to confirm the legitimacy of a transaction. When a transaction happens, it’s added to a mempool,
which is a waiting space. It waits there until it’s added to a block with a few other transactions. The process of confirming a block is called mining.
Each block is tagged with a difficult mathematical problem and broadcasted to the network. Miners, which are computers listening for these broadcasts, are in charge of solving this equation. (I built one of these on a raspberry pi, check it out!)
Miners solve the equation by guessing. Yep, you read that right. There is no strategy. It’s just guessing. The blocks are tagged with a number which is the sum of two large prime numbers. When I give you 4,386,377, you have no idea what 2 prime numbers multiplied into that. So the only way to find out is to start multiplying prime numbers until you find the answer.
The first computer to find the answer to the puzzle gets to add the block to the blockchain and confirms it’s legit. As a reward for helping the blockchain, the miner is rewarded with Eth.
So to confirm transactions, computers around the world guess until they find the right numbers to solve the equation. Once that’s done, the block is secured and added to the blockchain.
High gas prices
Gas fees are fees you need to pay when interacting with the blockchain. Either for a transaction or by interacting with a smart contract. The gas fees go directly to the miners who keep Ethereum running. So it’s a fee to maintain the network.
Current gas fees for Ethereum are insanely high. For example, today, as I am writing this article on January 4th, the average gas fees are 107$ per transaction.
Ethereum can process roughly 25–30 transactions per second. Meaning sometimes your transaction will just wait in the mempool for a few minutes. Transactions can take 10 to 15 seconds once they start being mined.
The reason transactions take this long is because of the consensus mechanism in use. Proof of work requires a lot of computational power, and if there are more transactions than the miners can keep up with, then transactions need to wait.
Ethereum 2.0 is meant to launch in early 2022. So soon enough 😅 It will be implementing 2 main changes, swapping to a proof of stake consensus mechanism as well as implementing shard chains.
Swapping to Proof of Stake
Proof of Stake (PoS) is another consensus algorithm that aims to solve a few issues with Proof of Work (PoW). In PoS, instead of dedicating a massive amount of computing power to the blockchain, you stake cryptocurrencies.
The algorithm then chooses who will forge (forging is the term in PoS instead of mining) the next block. This is usually selected by weighing a few factors. The primary 2 are the amount of currency staked and randomness. Then the 3rd is the amount of time that currency has been staked.
Once a validator is chosen, they forge the block, add it to the chain, and receive the transaction fees as a reward.
Sharding in computer science is the process of splitting the data to lighten the load across multiple processors. In Ethereum, sharding chains will allow more transactions and a higher transaction speed.
Coming with Ethereum 2.0, the main network will be spread across 64 sharded chains. This allows anyone to mine Ethereum and support the network because instead of validating the entire network, they only need to validate the shard they’re working on. (That means even my little raspberry pi would be able to help)
Because miners will only be focused on the specific sharded chains, this will allow a LOT more transactions to happen at a much higher speed, in milliseconds instead of seconds.
SOL is Solana’s main coin, and it currently has the 5th highest market cap. Solana transactions happen in milliseconds. Basically, the time it takes to refresh the page. They also cost fractions of pennies for gas prices. To achieve these numbers, they had to sacrifice a bit of their decentralization.
Fast and cheap transactions processing
Solana has INCREDIBLY fast transactions that are also very, very cheap in gas. A Solana transaction takes an average of 400 milliseconds to process and only costs fractions of a penny.
Solana works so fast because it works on PoS and Proof of History (PoH). Proof of history keeps track of when transactions happen, allowing tens of thousands of transactions per second instead of Ethereum’s 40.
Can be programmed in typical coding languages
Solana is built using the Rust programming language. So smart contracts deployed on the Solana blockchain can also be written in Rust, C++ & C. Even though the blockchain is newer and smaller, the available amount of help you can get is quite large.
The resources for smart contract-specific scripting might still be hard to find, but general help for the programming languages is prevalent.
Though this might not be super useful either, a lot of blockchains use the Solidity programming language. This means that if you make a smart contract on Solana, you can’t deploy it to any other blockchains without re-writing the entire thing in a different language. The same thing goes for the other way.
This turns Solana into a kind of specified blockchain.
Requires expensive specialized hardware to validate
Solana requires extremely BEAFFY computers to validate. Here are the listed CPU requirements:
- 12 cores / 24 threads, or more
- 2.8GHz, or faster
- AVX2 instruction support (to use official release binaries, self-compile otherwise)
- Support for AVX512f and/or SHA-NI instructions is helpful
- The AMD Zen3 series is popular with the validator community
Not the most accessible mining requirements. Solana only has 1340 validators compared to Ethereum’s 222,052. This means that only select people can mine on Solana, which kind of centralizes it.
Solana still heavily relies on the founders. It’s not quite yet self-sufficient. Another factor on top of the fact that there’s a very high bar to validate SOL is that insiders own 48% of the SOL on the market.
So a large portion of the market is owned by insiders & there’s a very high bar to start helping out. This usually leaves Solana being critiqued as being more centralized than decentralized.
👋Any More Questions?
Hope that these points of comparison made the difference between the 2 clear. If you have any questions, leave a comment on this article and I will answer them!
I’m eager to see how both blockchains evolve, and I’m even more excited to see how they both change the world in the coming years! 🌎
👋 Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed it :D If you want to stay updated with future projects, go subscribe to my youtube channel! I usually post videos on topics before I write articles on them. See you soon!