The lead horses in crypto may be galloping along, but the real race is happening a couple of thoroughbreds behind the two market leaders. Cardano (CRYPTO:ADA) and Solana (CRYPTO:SOL) are neck and neck as the fourth- and fifth-most valuable cryptocurrency tokens by market cap after you back out a pair of dollar bill-hugging stablecoins. They also happen to be the two largest denominations hoping to topple Ethereum‘s (CRYPTO:ETH) dominance in the realm of blockchain tech being deployed in decentralized apps.
Cardano had the lead over Solana — in terms of market cap — through most of last year. A surge in Solana in the fall ended with Solana finally overtaking Cardano in early November. It didn’t last. Renewed interest in Cardano finds that denomination standing out as one of the few cryptocurrencies to move higher over the past month. Cardano regained its lead over Solana late last week, and the market cap battle continues.
It’s a fight that everybody can win
Solana temporarily edged ahead of Cardano in November when it was hitting new all-time highs. Cardano had peaked two months earlier. The two proof-of-stake protocols were toying with $70 billion market caps, and unfortunately the sharp correction in the crypto markets finds today’s battle taking place at a much lower level.
Cardano’s market cap was hovering around $46 billion on Thursday morning, with Solana staying close at $44 billion. The gap has closed over the past day, but not in an ideal manner. Cardano has slipped 6% over the past 24 hours, with Solana lucky to be marching in place.
The market cap battle is interesting, but the real fight isn’t just about which fast-growing crypto is ahead of the other. The real opportunity here is taking a bite out of Ethereum’s dominance in decentralized finance. Ethereum is the undisputed leader with its blockchain propelling smart contracts found at the heart of more than 3,000 widely adopted decentralized apps.
The rub for Ethereum is that it’s finally vulnerable. A popular metric for measuring success in this market is total value locked, essentially the sum of all of the assets currently staked in a certain protocol. A year ago, Ethereum commanded more than 95% of the total value locked. It was just below 75% of the market six months ago; now it’s down to just above 60%.
Solana and Cardano aren’t necessarily second and third on that list right now. Solana is close, and Cardano has a lot of ground to make up. However, recent upgrades to both leading cryptocurrencies have them positioned strongly to make a run for market share. Ethereum is popular and a pioneer in smart contracts on the blockchain. However, Solana and Cardano are running circles around Ethereum in terms of processing speed, the amount of transactions it can handle, and the ultimate cost to complete a transaction.
There doesn’t have to be a single winner. Solana and Cardano — as well as Ethereum, for that matter — have all delivered strong wealth-altering returns over the past year. Just don’t narrow your crypto-hunting expeditions to the two most valuable currencies by market cap. There are a lot of exciting things happening just below that surface.
This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis — even one of our own — helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.