The cryptocurrency markets have seen better days. But if you invested in the world's biggest cryptocurrency right after its launch, you're still way ahead of the game. Bitcoin has soared more than 3,250% since 2009. Even if you invested in Bitcoin at a later time, you still may be looking at double- or triple-digit gains.
But what if you didn't? Well, if you missed out on Bitcoin in its early days, don't despair. Right now is a great time to get in on young cryptocurrency players that may follow in Bitcoin's footsteps -- by offering growth over the long term. A perfect example is Cardano (ADA -0.37%).
Next up: The Vasil hard fork
Cardano is celebrating its fifth anniversary in a way that should please users and investors. The blockchain is launching an upgrade this week: the Vasil hard fork. This should add to Cardano's speed and efficiency. And that should help it attract even more developers and users.
For instance, the Vasil hard fork will use an accounting model that should support faster and more sophisticated decentralized applications. The hard fork also will introduce diffusion pipelining. This will streamline performance -- and increase the amount of data Cardano can handle. Today, blocks of data go through a series of steps. Pipelining allows some of these steps to happen at the same time.
As it stands today, Cardano already has made significant progress. More than 3,200 Plutus (the native smart contract language used on Cardano) scripts exist on the blockchain. And developers are building 1,100 projects there. The blockchain has processed a total of more than 50 million transactions.
Farther down the road, Cardano is heading for another big milestone: the launch of its hydra heads scaling solution. Hydra heads allow certain operations between a certain number of participants to take place off the main network.
Goals of Hydra
Testing has shown each hydra head could handle 1,000 transactions per second. Goals of hydra are to increase the volume of data handled at a particular time and the speed it takes to complete a transaction.
The Vasil hard fork -- and later the hydra scaling solution -- could ensure Cardano a top spot in the world of cryptocurrency.
Today, the crypto player already is among the most popular. It's the eighth-biggest by market value. Still, like the rest of the cryptocurrency market, Cardano's price has declined in recent months. Cardano has dropped more than 60% so far this year.
Considering the Cardano improvements set to happen imminently and in the future, and Cardano's price today, right now is a good time to get in on the story. The Vasil hard fork probably won't boost Cardano's price right away. Ethereum's recent upgrade -- known as The Merge -- didn't lift that cryptocurrency.
Today's economic environment
Investors have shied away from cryptocurrency amid concern about rising interest rates and the economy. In this context, investors often favor safer assets. As a newish industry, cryptocurrency holds more risk.
But economic downturns don't last forever. And when things start looking up, riskier assets should see a new wave of interest. All of this means crypto investors probably will have to be patient.
If you're comfortable with risk and are ready to hold on for the long term, Cardano could be a great player to buy right now. Ahead of its upgrades, Cardano may be at one of the most exciting moments of its story.
Cardano might not climb as much as Bitcoin. But it could offer very solid performance over time. So even if you missed out on the most famous crypto player, you still may score a big cryptocurrency win with Cardano.