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Art by Clark Miller
Art by Clark Miller

Can Peace Last Between Crypto’s Visionary Rivals?

Solana’s Anatoly Yakovenko and Ethereum’s Vitalik Buterin are building the architecture of Web3 in completely opposite ways. How long before the knives come out?

Art by Clark Miller
April 15, 2022 1:15 PM PDT

Last October, an image appeared on Twitter of a crypto Mount Rushmore: a drawing of four men etched in stone, looking out onto a valley of trees. There was Dorian Nakamoto, rumored to be the pseudonymous creator of bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto. There was the distinct, angular jawline of Vitalik Buterin, co-founder of Ethereum, the world’s second most valuable blockchain behind Bitcoin, with a market cap of over $370 billion. And there were two other forefathers, whose faces were less immediately identifiable on the cartoon mountain.

They are Anatoly Yakovenko and Raj Gokal, who were catapulted to crypto fame last year when their blockchain, Solana, became a stunning success, reaching a market cap of $33 billion and winning over investors like Andresseen Horowitz and Polychain Capital. However, whether they truly belong on crypto’s Mount Rushmore is up for debate.

Twitter stans have dubbed Solana an “ethereum killer”—a title CEO Yakovenko has actively refuted, saying his product wasn’t built to destroy or even directly compete with Ethereum. Rather, he engineered Solana out of a desire for record transaction speed and scalability, something Buterin’s brainchild didn’t target. Solana uses a novel method of validation Yakovenko thought up: proof of history, a way to time-stamp its superfast transactions. This method, when coupled with the widely used mechanism called proof of stake, has proven to be much faster and less energy intensive than Ethereum’s current architecture, proof of work, a security mechanism that requires the system’s servers to expend a significant amount of energy to confirm transactions.

It’s also much cheaper, costing users a fraction of a penny to use—a sharp contrast to Ethereum, which can cost anywhere from a few dollars to $100 per transaction. Though Ethereum will switch to proof of stake within the year, Buterin himself admits that the blockchain will likely never get much faster or cheaper than it is now—which is why Solana and other blockchains are emerging as cheaper, faster alternatives.

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