Moderna has been one of this year's stock market stars. The biotech company has been on everyone's radar screen as it commercialized its coronavirus vaccine and generated billions of dollars in revenue and profit. It's a story of a small player reaching the major leagues.

And in 2022, there's a cryptocurrency that may follow a similar path. It may progress from being a new hopeful to a crypto that's proven itself. I'm talking about Solana (CRYPTO:SOL). The platform launched in the spring of 2020 and has been gaining ground ever since.

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Starting small, finishing big

Of course, Solana's price increase this year already has topped that of Moderna and just about every other stock. It's soared 13,600%. But in my comparison, I'm focusing on the idea of starting small and finishing the year as a major, established player. Moderna has done that. And if Solana can do it too, the crypto may extend 2021's increase.

So... why Solana? The blockchain stands out for a few reasons. The first one is speed. Solana uses a proof of history method for validating transactions on the platform. This involves marking each block of data with a timestamp of sorts. The process makes it easier and quicker for validators to do their job. In the end, Solana processes about 50,000 transactions per second. And the way Solana was designed means the platform eventually may process more than 700,000 transactions per second. That by far surpasses the speed potential of market leader Ethereum. That platform aims to process as many as 100,000 transactions per second after an upgrade set for next year.

Now speaking of other players, the cool thing about Solana is it's working with them. Here's what I mean: Solana developed a bridge that allows the transfer of assets across networks. This bridge -- called Wormhole -- works with Ethereum, Polygon, Terra, and Binance Smart Chain. This clearly will boost use of Solana because it means users don't have to choose between Solana and other players. Instead, they can use them all.

Making progress in decentralized applications

Another point to note about Solana is the progress it's made in the development of decentralized applications. The platform hosts more than 350 projects from non-fungible tokens to finance to games. This variety of applications running on Solana shows the real-world utility of the platform. Ethereum still remains ahead of Solana when it comes to number of projects. And that blockchain has the first-to-market advantage. But there is room for more than one player in this field. So, it's possible for Solana and Ethereum both to be key actors on this stage in the future.

Solana has had a tremendous year when it comes to price performance. But next year could be even more important. Because Solana will prepare the terrain for the long term. Like Moderna, it could progress from risky, newish player to one that shows it has what it takes to lead in its field well into the future -- and progressively find its way into more and more investment portfolios.

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.