(Written by @ElliotHill of the Cardano Foundation)
The Cardano blockchain is poised to enter a phase of significant change at the end of February. For the first time in our protocol’s history, users will be able to define their own custom tokens through the multi-asset ledger, adding a new layer of functionality and utility to the Cardano blockchain.
This will be made possible through the Mary hard fork 127, one of the most important events to occur on the Cardano blockchain since the rollout of Shelley in July 2020. As part of the wider rollout of Goguen, Mary represents a step-change for Cardano — delivering long-awaited Cardano components to our community.
Named after the mother of our native token’s namesake 41 (ada), Mary Lovelace, the Mary hard fork will be facilitated by IOHK’s hard fork Combinator 26. This will handle the seamless transition from Cardano’s current mainnet to Mary, and for the general ada holder, no user actions will be required.
We will be publishing a user-friendly FAQ about Mary closer to the time. But here, we’re going to discover some of the things that you will notice with the arrival of Mary on Cardano, and explore Mary’s potential impact on our ecosystem. Below, we’re going to look at what impact it will have on our ecosystem and community.
What impact will the Mary hard fork have on the Cardano ecosystem?
We know that native assets and tokens will soon arrive on Cardano, but what can they be used for? Like other blockchains, tokens will be a central and core part of many decentralized applications launching on Cardano. This is likely to take the form of utility tokens, governance tokens, and tokens representing real-world assets.
The important thing to remember is that while smart contracts are arriving shortly — and will form an important part of our ecosystem — they are not required to create a native token on Cardano. This means that as soon as the Mary hard fork is complete, you can create a user-defined native token on Cardano and begin using your newly created assets.
Native assets could be used to mint non-fungible tokens, or ‘NFTs’, which can be used to represent a huge range of unique real-world and digital assets. For example, an NFT could be minted which represents a fractional equity stake in a forestry biodiversity initiative. This could be traded on digital asset exchanges, and held by those looking to offset their carbon footprint via the Cardano blockchain.
Alternatively, a Cardano-based native NFT could be used for creating a unique work of digital art 71 stored on the blockchain forever. Such NFTs have seen growing popularity among blockchain enthusiasts 34, with utility in both online gaming and the world of collectibles.
We previously explored 103 what decentralized finance would look like on Cardano, and native tokens are also an important step on this journey. Native tokens representing stablecoins, wrapped assets, and lending protocol utility tokens will all be instrumental in bringing the world of DeFi to Cardano.
What impact could the Mary hard fork have on the wider world?
Blockchain adoption is accelerating, and that means many new users are entering our ecosystem. Recently, we have had many discussions about how we can bring users from emerging economies 76, especially those on the African continent, into the blockchain ecosystem.
Native tokens, available through the Mary hard fork, could be one of the first features on Cardano that can be tailored for financially underserved communities. Let’s imagine a token is created that represents a regional-level exchange of value for nations with highly inflationary national currencies. These tokens could be used to pay for local goods and services, without the need to use traditional limited bartering systems or trading in physical goods.
The impact and power of such a user-defined currency could be the difference between a subsistence farmer increasing their market access within the local area through easier access to liquid capital. Or, it could empower a young artist in a small village to successfully make a career out of their talents by selling their art to a global audience through digital tokens.
Native tokens could also make it easier for individuals in emerging economies to take payments for services from overseas. Native tokens pegged to fiat currencies as a stablecoin, such as Tether (USDT) 3, could facilitate the instant cross-jurisdiction settlement of assets. This would make it easier for a freelancer from Venezuela, for example, to accept a US dollar stablecoin without waiting for lengthy bank settlement times and also avoiding bolivar volatility.
By giving every user the ability to generate user-defined tokens on Cardano, Mary opens the door to a long list of new applications, limited only by the users’ imaginations. This holds the potential to empower those in emerging economies through the affordable and borderless nature of Cardano native tokens — while simultaneously alleviating the pain points associated with user-defined tokens on existing blockchain protocols.
What features will Mary deliver?
The most important part of the Mary hard fork will be the orderly transition of Cardano from a single asset ledger — supporting only ada — into a multi-asset ledger. This will introduce support for multiple diverse user-defined tokens on Cardano.
But what will this look like in practice? In short, it means that you will begin to notice new assets being exchanged on the Cardano blockchain. Like ERC-20 tokens that can be created and transacted on the Ethereum network, native tokens will open up similar functionality for Cardano — albeit with some fundamental differences and improvements.
Some of the components required to create native tokens on Cardano arrived in our earlier hard fork, Allegra 18. This included redeeming and burning tokens, sending tokens, writing monetary script, and minting new tokens.
Now, through Mary, this integration will be finalized and Cardano’s Rosetta API will be updated for multi-asset support. Our engineering partners, IOHK, recently published 127 an article that deep-dives into some of the technical aspects of Mary.
We are anticipating that the Mary hard fork will be a historic event for the Cardano blockchain. Now, all that’s left is you. Native tokens on Cardano are user-defined — this means that our community is free to unleash their creativity and entrepreneurship when deploying tokens.
So what will you build? Will you launch an NFT? Create a utility token for a unique DApp idea? Explore DeFi possibilities? Let us know in the comments below, and head over to our native assets devnet documentation 142, where you can explore what is required to launch a token on Cardano.
Read more about Goguen era components and future blockchain technology outlooks here: