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Ethereum’s Shapella was a Success: Here is What Other L1s Have Been Up to in April

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The Ethereum protocol support team finally shipped the Shapella upgrade on the mainnet just over a fortnight after a series of successful testnet deployments. In the lead-up to the final release, developers executed the hard fork on the Zhejiang testnet on Feb 8, followed by another deployment on the Sepolia testnet on Feb 28. A final dress rehearsal for the upgrade on the Goerli test network went down on Mar 15 ahead of the launch on the mainnet on Apr 12.

The arrival of Shapella marked an important milestone for the leading layer one network, which previously celebrated transitioning from a proof-of-work (PoW) consensus mechanism to proof-of-stake (PoS) in the Merge event last summer. The upgrade's mainnet release, which grabbed headlines in the first half of April, activated withdrawals of Ether deposited (staking) on the Beacon Chain address since Dec 2020. While the spotlight on Ethereum has eclipsed that of its competitors thus far this month, the ecosystem's progress is still more or less matched by other actively-building layer one chains.

Here is a roundup of notable developments among L1s that you may have missed in recent weeks:

Algorand Foundation introduces a tool suite solving technical pain points

Despite being a relatively newer and lesser-known ecosystem, Algorand has carved out a niche thanks to its pioneering pure proof-of-stake technology. The Algorand Foundation's business and strategic partnerships have further helped increase the chain's visibility. The permissionless payments-focused project has also benefitted from other ecosystem-specific developments in recent months. As part of its efforts to appeal regular users, the Foundation launched AlgoKit, a comprehensive but user-friendly developer tool suite, at the end of last month.

“AlgoKit is a huge milestone in establishing Algorand as the most developer-friendly blockchain. It brings some of the most desirable Web2 UX features into the ecosystem,” Algorand Foundation CTO John Woods remarked on the launch.

In addition to providing an ideal environment to build and deploy smart contracts, the tool suite aims to make it easier for developers from other ecosystems to get their bearing as far as the Web3 experience goes. Algorand is one of many L1 projects seeking to onboard more users and advance its ecosystem but certainly not the only one at it.

To learn more about Algorand, visit our Investing in Algorand guide.

Subnets rescue activity on Avalanche, pushing to a six-month high

Avalanche has also been beefing up via collaborations with financial institutions and the continued adoption of its subnet technology. The network's number of daily active addresses surged to a six-month high of 82.61K mid-this month, data from DeFi dashboard shows.

The Spruce subnet testnet brings together major financial institutions

Earlier this month, Avalanche launched its Evergreen subnet – Spruce, with the backing of institutional partners, including WisdomTree, T. Rowe Price Associates, Wellington Management, and Cumberland. The institutions joined others in testing multiple applications and assets using Spruce to realize the upsides of on-chain trade execution and settlement. Thanks to the partnership, the firms can use Spruce's DeFi apps to simulate transactions such as foreign exchange and interest swaps.

To learn more about Avalanche, visit our Investing in Avalanche guide.

Merit Circle DAO aims to become the gaming hub following subnet deployment

Still on the technology, popular gaming community Merit Circle DAO announced Beam as a solution curated to enable it to launch on the Avalanche network as a subnet. Merit Circle DAO intends to secure a serious position as Avalanche's new blockchain gaming hub. The metaverse-focused DAO explained in a Medium post that Beam would serve as a sovereign network powered by Avalanche and Ethereum.

Helium completes migration to Solana

By and large, attaining an optimal balance on the scalability, decentralization and security aspects of blockchain development has been the ultimate goal for many developers. To this end, several L1 projects – the latest being Helium- have continued exploring feasible compromises to deliver the ideal environment. Last week, the protocol's core developers said the blockchain had completed its migration to Solana. The proposal addressing the same was discussed within the community last September before proceeding to a vote.

The Helium Foundation confirmed that the vote results leaned towards Solana being the best serve Helium's goal to deploy decentralized wireless infrastructure incentivized by crypto globally. Solana also comes with a broader audience and more developers to work on the project. Helium’s internet-of-things (IoT) network stopped issuing HNT, switching to IoT. More than 991,000 Solana NFTs were minted to commemorate the event, symbolizing each physical hotspot node operating on the blockchain wireless communication protocol.

The event provided a notable test case for Solana's latest state compression feature, which empowers creators with a more cost-effective option to mint a vast number of NFTs than on other platforms, or even Solana's traditional NFT minting process. Solana Foundation's Jon Wong said it would take more than $33 million to mint a million NFTs on Ethereum, while it can achieve the same with under $11,000 using compression.

To learn more about Helium, visit our Investing in Helium guide.

Solana’s web3 smartphone Saga to ship from May 8

Last June, while launching the Solana Mobile Stack software ecosystem for Android, Solana Labs revealed plans to debut a flagship Android smartphone this year. Saga, the Web3 smartphone, will soon start rolling out as crypto's first-ever mainstream smartphone, according to the team of contributors behind Solana. Interested users will have to fork out some $1,000 for the phone, while those who pre-ordered can expect their shipment from the second week of May. It is about more than just the price and hype since the Saga natively hosts lots of crypto functionality.

The device is equipped with all the features of a conventional smartphone but with a touch of Web 3 integrations. It also includes a Solana dApp Store where one can access a range of apps designed for web3 platforms, such as wallets, NFT apps, DeFi apps, social apps, and the dApp workspace. Solana co-founder Anatoly Yakovenko said that cumulatively, these features pushed the Saga to the closest it can be to a hardware wallet with a splash of Web3 for the best user experience possible. Nevertheless, Saga's market will likely be constrained (for obvious reasons) to developers, crypto enthusiasts, and early adopters.

To learn more about Solana, visit our Investing in Solana guide.

Solana’s emissions tracker

Netizens can now view Solana's emissions in real-time. The Solana Foundation recently collaborated with carbon data platform Trycarbonara to gather statistics from on-chain data and a sample of Solana validators. The organization backing the protocol said the event marked the first time it has published its carbon emissions data in this manner.

Though the data is pulled from software installed on Solana validator nodes, it is only updated on a dedicated dashboard every two weeks. Still, plaudits to Solana, as it is now relatively easy to routinely track key environmental metrics, including the network’s energy consumption, carbon footprint, and network power intensity, among other data points.

Hedera calls off a quarterly testnet update

In other news, the Hedera blockchain was scheduled for a quarterly testnet update today but didn’t proceed.  The network’s team called off the event over the weekend, explaining that the decision was expected to have little impact on the network. Reportedly, developers now have additional time to make necessary adjustments to the prior changes made in the Hedera Smart Contract Service – introduced in the v0.35.2 version of the Hedera service release. The forthcoming update, a mainnet upgrade, is set for May 9. Meanwhile, the scale of development activity around Hedera has been looking up in recent days.

To learn more about Hedera, visit our Investing in Hedera guide.

Sam is a financial content specialist with a keen interest in the blockchain space. He has worked with several firms and media outlets in the Finance and Cybersecurity fields.