Cart before the Horse

Cardano's Vision is way ahead of its Technology

I am a big fan of the Cardano Vision and believe that Charles Hoskinson is an adept orator and strong visionary.  Unfortunately, after watching the latest Cardano 360 mid-month development update, it is very clear that the Cardano Hype is not matching the reality.

Specifically, you cannot make robust Dapps yet even though the Cardano Summit in September 2021 touted that the Age of Dapps was here! Yay!  Unfortunately, that was not true then and is still not true 3 months later.  Supposedly entering the Goguen era would unlock a wave of smart contracts on the Cardano main net.  While there are many projects in the works - hardly any major ones are live.  The one most people are waiting for is "Sundae Swap" a large DEX and there is still no launch date for that one (per Pi Lanningham, CIO and Lead Engineer at SundaeSwap).   

Sadly, at this mid-month development update on Youtube, there was no mention of when the Plutus Application Backend (PAB) would be finished and when it will be released to the main-net.  What does this mean?  You cannot create a fully functioning Dapp without wrapping the Cardano Command Line Interface (CLI) to create your transactions.  This means there is NO programmatic way to finish your Dapp.  You create your "off-chain" logic and then have to invoke a separate program to create a transaction.  This is horribly inefficient and really smacks of the unfinished state of the development environment.  To put it bluntly, you can really only create half of a Dapp ... the other half (the PAB) is not available yet.

Secondly, there are three new Cardano Improvement Proposals (CIPs) that allude to the fact that Dapps on Cardano will have serious scalability problems until these proposals are built and rolled out in the next hard fork (Babbage hard fork).  The three CIPS are Reference Scripts, Reference Inputs, and Inline Datums.  All three of these proposals are related and afford a smart contract to store and access more items on-chain to improve performance.  Such significant change to the EUTXO model makes me question its efficacy.  The jury is still out on the Transaction-versus-Account-based model debate; however, the need to add more state to transactions brings it closer to an Account-based model.

What does all this mean for the near-term and long-term future of Cardano? For the near term, it is a black eye for IOHK and for Hoskinson because they promised things at the Cardano summit that were just not true.  The harsh reality is that Cardano is not ready for building and deploying smart contracts.  As a good point of comparison, look at the numerous Dapp University videos on youtube that walk you through building and deploying a complete End-to-End Dapp on Ethereum.  Where are the corresponding videos for that about Cardano Dapps?  Doesn't exist - just videos on the basics of Plutus and it's "playground"... well, "playground" is a suitable name for where Cardano is at -- it is not yet serious about Dapp Development.  So, go there to play but not to build real end-to-end working products.

In the long-term, I still think the future looks bright for Cardano.  The vision for Cardano is a robust vision.  The roadmap is solid.  Unfortunately, it will take at least another year for the technology implementation to catch up to Charles's vision.  I applaud IOHK for all their hard work but they really should not have trumpeted the arrival of smart contracts before they were close to being ready.

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Michael Daconta is a well-known technology author of 13 technical books, 1 non-fiction book, and thousands of articles and blog posts. He has authored and co-authored books on Java, XML, C, C++, info management, and cloud computing.

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