"Why are you guys building on Solana?"
Potential investors, users, and contributors have often asked us this question. For us, Solana is a no-brainer. However, as we've gained a larger audience, it's evident that this isn't clear to many people. The masses in the larger crypto ecosystem have an incomplete understanding of Solana, and fall back on preconceived notions of what it is and its shortcomings. Our team has years of experience building on Solana, as well as other blockchains like Ethereum, Flow, and Cardano. We're secure in what it is and what it isn't.
This article will paint a broader picture of why projects like ours choose Solana. From the outside looking in, what are the pros and cons for a project looking to build the killer app? Why would a project build on Solana versus an EVM-based L2, or alternative L1 like Avalanche, Cardano, or Algorand? These are the questions we're looking to answer in this article.
While members of other crypto communities constantly loathe Solana, it continually ranks the highest in user adoption, innovation, and developer experience. While the metrics are in its favor, the intangibles are where its staying power is derived. Solana consistently has one of the most active and supportive communities in our experience. The community's builders are concerned with creating and nurturing quality products that matter to real users rather than a fixation on metrics and paradigms that are unimportant to the masses that will benefit from blockchains.
There are clear advantages to using Solana, both technically and socially. Here are just a few of the major ones we've identified.
1) Atomic Composability & Quality Primitives Solana developers have built a wealth of primitives for just about anything you'd need to do on a blockchain. This makes building complete applications much more accessible, with the ability to leverage Cross Program Invocation (CPI) to plug in functionality from programs currently deployed on the network. While composability exists on other blockchains, Solana can package it with a host of other advantages. Its biggest competitor, Ethereum, is trending toward a L2-centric roadmap, which fractures this plug-and-play functionality. Solana's monolithic design ensures that atomic composability will always be a hallmark of the network.
2) Scalability & Cost This is a commonly known advantage. Solana is one of the fastest and cheapest blockchains available. A significant issue with Ethereum is its increasing fees when faced with high traffic. If the average user wants to swap on a DEX, their fees may be much higher than the day before because of a popular NFT mint happening. As mentioned earlier, Ethereum has opted toward a L2-centric roadmap to mitigate this, among other issues. In contrast, Solana uses a cheap fixed base-fee while using local fee markets to lever higher fees for increasing hotspot traffic. If a popular NFT mint happens, minters will experience increasing fees, while the DEX trader's fees will remain stable. In addition to low cost, Solana processes transactions much quicker than most other options. For comparison, an Ethereum block takes 15 minutes on average to finalize. In contrast, a Solana block finalizes in 6.5 seconds on average. Another key metric is confirmation time, in which Solana sits at 400 milliseconds. This is important for an application's user experience, and the overall developer experience.
3) User & Developer Adoption Another key point of contention when choosing a blockchain to build on is user and developer adoption. Solana is consistently ranked the highest in terms of developer activity and continuously attracts extremely talented developers (per Developer Report by Electric Capital). This leads to more on-chain primitives for other developers to work off of, more improvements to the chain, and more mentorship for newer developers. Developer adoption leads to user adoption, with more people building amazing products easier than ever. This has led to mass products, companies, and infrastructure primed for mass appeal, like DRIP, Squads, Helius, Star Atlas, Teleport, Solarplex, and StepN.
4) Continuous Improvement Since its creation, Solana has continuously improved at a rate unrivaled by nearly every blockchain platform. In only three years, the network has increased geographic decentralization ten-fold, improved the developer experience by miles, and fostered standards for everything from NFTs to identity. Many of these improvements were community-led and implemented, which separates Solana from most other chains.
While we love Solana, no blockchain is perfect. The network has experienced multiple periods of downtime in its history. This is the biggest drawback of the chain and what detractors tend to reach for when arguing against its viability. Additionally, concerns about centralization are often cited in arguments against Solana. The network's biggest challenge is the narratives spawned from these drawbacks, some rooted in truth and many not.
Let's break down a few of the significant problems commonly mentioned when covering Solana.
1) Client Diversity Solana still only has one validator client available. This is identified as a reason for outages that have happened in the past. While Jump's Firedancer is keyed in to be a massive improvement, it is not fully available in production. Until then, the risk of bugs in updates to the current Solana Labs client leading to outages still must be accounted for.
2) Validator Requirements Running a Solana validator demands more powerful hardware than a blockchain like Ethereum. This makes it more difficult for the average user to run a validator in their home. Depending on who you talk to, this is a significant drawback in the decentralization department. In an adversarial environment, the ability of most people to run a validator is essential. However, as hardware power accelerates, this cost gap may close. Solana scales with Moore's Law, which is a fundamentally different design decision than Ethereum and a drawback to some.
3) Token Distribution A commonly cited drawback of Solana is its initial tokenomics. This is a valid argument from an investor standpoint, with about 48% going to insiders initially. This is less important to us, as we see value in the network whether the price of SOL is $1 or $100. Additionally, in a post-FTX world, many larger institutions have exited the network. This means initial token allocations are gradually disbursing from larger firms to individuals and smaller entities. As a Proof of Stake blockchain, this is good for the network.
We aim to bring a crowdfunding experience that builds on the experiences possible within current Web2 solutions. While Solana has drawbacks, we're committed to being a part of the solutions. Time and time again, we've seen the community and core contributors come together to solve complex problems and cultivate a platform for mass-appeal products to be grown. Solana is the only chain where our vision is possible. Many chains lack the developers, user experience, adoption, and growing organic community all in one package, like Solana has.
Because of that, we build on Solana.