Shiba Inu is known for two things: Its mascot, the Shiba Inu dog. And its jaw-dropping 2021 performance. The cryptocurrency surged 45,000,000% last year. It's pretty much impossible to predict that sort of enormous short-term gain. But there are elements that can help us pick potential long-term winners in this dynamic market.

When I say winner, I'm referring to cryptocurrency players that have what it takes to attract more and more users and investors. And that eventually should lead to an increase in market value. The following two players could dwarf Shiba Inu over the long term. They offer more real-world utility. Both of the following players are blockchains that can host decentralized applications (dApps). And, unlike Shiba Inu, they aren't limited by a massive circulating supply of tokens. Let's check them out.

An investor standing outdoors in a city traces a line in the air showing investments gaining.

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Ethereum

Ethereum (ETH 0.63%) already is a leader in the cryptocurrency market. It's the second largest by market value after Bitcoin. But Ethereum has room to grow. And that could happen soon. Here's why. Ethereum right now is tackling its biggest problems: transaction speed and fees. The crypto player is in the middle of a major upgrade.

The idea of the upgrade is to carry out transactions more quickly -- and that will reduce congestion and costs users pay to complete operations on the network. Part of this involves a switch from the proof-of-work validation process to proof-of-stake. This puts validation power in the hands of those who have the biggest stake in Ethereum. And it eliminates the need to use tons of computer power to validate. This means an extra advantage is a greener platform.

Ethereum expects to switch over to proof-of-stake in the third or fourth quarter of this year. Then, it aims to introduce sharding next year. These chains relieve congestion on the main network. The result of the complete upgrade? Ethereum will go from today's average of about 15 transactions per second to more than 100,000.

As I mentioned above, coin supply won't hold Ethereum back from gains. Circulating coins total about 120 million. That's compared to 549 trillion for Shiba Inu. Ethereum -- unlike Shiba Inu -- has room to grow in value without reaching an impossibly high market capitalization.

2. Cardano

One of Ethereum's co-founders went on to launch Cardano (ADA -5.65%). So, we can count on a lot of the same quality in this younger player. What makes Cardano special? First, it already uses proof-of-stake to validate transactions. So, it's already pretty fast. It can handle 250 transactions per second. And software engineers are working on a scaling solution that could greatly increase speed. 

Another positive is the way work on Cardano is unfolding. The blockchain only launches an update or something new after a peer review process. Of course, this slows down progress. But the big plus here is it avoids technical problems down the road. Once work on Cardano is complete, the system may be more reliable than other blockchains that have moved more quickly.

Right now, software engineers are working on the final two stages of Cardano development. The roadmap includes a total of five stages. The goal is to create a completely self-sustaining, decentralized system. Last fall, Cardano's smart contract functionality launched. Right now, more than 2,600 smart contract scripts in the Plutus language exist on the network, according to Adapools.org.

Like Ethereum, Cardano's growth isn't limited by token supply. Cardano's tokens in circulation total about 33.7 billion. So, Cardano could increase by five, for example, and still maintain a reasonable market value. All of this means investors in Cardano today have the opportunity to get in early -- and watch the blockchain grow.