NFTs went into full swing in August 2021, but by September 2021 people started to question the huge gas fees (transaction fees) they were paying on the Ethereum blockchain. Can Solana save the day with its low transaction fees?
Summary of Steps to Buy a Solana NFT
Why are people even considering moving away from Ethereum?
The issue with Ethereum is that when a lot of people want to transact on the blockchain at the same time, transaction fees go way up.
This is exactly what happened during the NFT craze in the summer of 2021.
For some people, these high fees motivated them to move to other blockchains, including Solana.
What is Solana?
Solana is a blockchain.
You can think of a blockchain as a public ledger where transactions can be viewed, verified, and cannot be reversed (immutable).
In much the same way that the Ethereum blockchain has a native currency called Ether (ETH), the Solana blockchain has a native currency called Solana (SOL).
The Solana blockchain is decentralized (is not controlled by any single entity) and verifies transactions (the consensus mechanism) using what’s called “proof-of-stake” and “proof-of-history”.
Rather than get into the technical details, what’s important to understand is that Solana does not use “proof-of-work”, which is what Ethereum (and Bitcoin) uses as their consensus mechanisms.
Why is this important?
Because proof-of-work is more energy intensive (and hence more expensive) than Solana’s proof-of-stake/proof-of-history mechanism.
Is Solana better than Ethereum?
Solana is most often compared to Ethereum since they can both interact with smart contracts. Therefore, theoretically they can have the same use cases such as Decentralized Finance (DeFi) and NFTs.
But is Solana better than Ethereum?
Even Mike Tyson is asking.
Solana or Ethereum?— Mike Tyson (@MikeTyson) September 9, 2021
The Case for Solana
OK, so here are a few reasons why Solana might be an "Ethereum Killer".
It can handle a lot of transactions per second
Solana is not only designed to be fast, but it can handle A LOT of transactions per second (TPS).
Solana is already processing over 1,000 transactions per second, but theoretically could handle many more - maybe 50,000 transactions per second or more (currently there are not enough transactions on the Solana network to prove that).
Compare that to Ethereum which can currently handle up to about 30 transactions per second (but usually closer to around 15 transactions per second).
The transaction fees are low
Solana is cheap to use.
According to Solana’s website:
"Solana's scalability ensures transactions remain less than $0.01 for both developers and users."
I’ve paid hundreds of dollars in ETH for transactions on the Ethereum blockchain to do things like swap tokens when the network is congested, so less than a penny sounds like a great deal to me.
Solana opens up new possibilities, particularly for blockchain games
Solana’s speed and low cost also opens up new possibilities in blockchain games that require a lot of fast transactions.
One example would be Star Atlas, an ambitious, space-themed, multi-player game being built on Solana (not fully released yet).
But there are many other games on the horizon and blockchain gaming is poised for massive growth in the coming years, which will lead to a greater demand for fast, high throughput blockchains like Solana.
The Case for Ethereum
Yes, Ethereum is slower, more expensive, and can’t handle as many transactions per second, but it is still the king of NFTs.
Ethereum is where the action is at
Ethereum has a “real thing” feel to it. It is where the action is at.
Think of it like this …
An apartment in Manhattan is smaller and more expensive than an apartment in Albany.
Does that make the apartment in Albany better?
Maybe. Maybe not.
It depends what you value.
Maybe you like to be close to certain types of restaurants or museums.
You can even say, “I live in Manhattan” and people might be impressed.
It’s similar to Ethereum.
Yeah, it’s expensive, but there a lot more people involved in the Ethereum eco-system with a lot more happening.
People are more familiar with the tools
People are more familiar with tools to interact with the Ethereum blockchain.
A lot of people already have Metamask set to be used with the Ethereum blockchain. And they already have ETH in their wallets to make transactions.
Ethereum is more decentralized/more secure
Not to get too technical, but the more decentralized a blockchain is the more secure it is. Ethereum is more decentralized than Solana.
Ethereum has also been battled tested over the years and as proved itself resilient to attack.
Case in point, on September 14, 2021, Solana was attacked causing the blockchain to go down for several hours. Ethereum was also attacked on the same day and the blockchain continued uninterrupted.
ETH2.0 will lower transaction fees
And let’s not forget the fact that Ethereum is moving from "proof-of-work" to “proof-of-stake” in an upgrade called Ethereum 2.0.
Again, not to get too technical, but proof-of-stake is less energy intensive than proof-of-work (there is a lot more to it, but just trying to keep things simple). The net result is that the Ethereum blockchain will be able to handle more transactions with lower transaction fees.
Solana vs Ethereum: So which is Best?
From a speed and transaction fee perspective, you could say that Solana is better than Ethereum, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we should just ditch Ethereum (see Ethereum points above).
A lot depends on the particular use case you are looking at, for example blockchain gaming vs. NFT art.
A lot also depends on how quickly Solana can gain market share over Ethereum to establish itself as the chain that people want to transact on and are familiar with.
It is important to point out here that Solana is not the only contender for the title of “Ethereum Killer”.
And, of course, there additional scaling solutions that work on top of or are compatible with Ethereum such as Polygon (MATIC) and Immutable X, which also add to the complexity of the competitors in this space.
So how this will all shake out is not clear yet.
But what is clear is that Solana has gained enormously in popularity. And the Solana's native currency, SOL, has exploded in price in 2021.
How to Buy Solana NFTs
However you feel about Solana, I think it is important to try things out - at least to get a feel for things.
So let’s go through buying an NFT on the Solana blockchain, step-by-step.
Step 1: Buy Solana
The first thing you need to do is to buy some SOL, the native token of Solana.
Luckily that’s pretty easy to do as SOL is available on most of the major centralized exchanges including:
- Binance (including Binance.us, the Binance exchange that U.S. citizens can access)
- FTX (including FTX.us, the FTX exchange that U.S. citizens can access)
Note: FTX has a special integration with the Phantom wallet, you may want to check that out if you are using FTX.
How to Buy SOL on Coinbase
If you are brand new to buying crypto, then you may want to start off with Coinbase. The fees are a bit higher, but it has a simple interface and tends to be newbie friendly.
Want to learn more about buying crypto on Coinbase? Here is a step-by-step guide to setting up and buying crypto on Coinbase by Youtuber Collection Crypto. Although it is not specific to buying Solana, the concept is the same..
OK, after you are all set up on Coinbase, here are the specific instructions for buying SOL.
Navigate to the "Trade" menu in Coinbase, search for “SOL” and then click "Buy" next to the search result for Solana (SOL).
You should now see the “Buy Solana” screen
Click on “Custom” to enter the amount of SOL you would like to buy. Think about your budget for your NFT purchase and purchase at least that amount. See below for my purchase example to get an idea of what you might want to spend (but it is totally up to you!).
Click “Preview Buy”
Then click on "Buy Now"
Congratulations, you own some SOL!
Step 2: Install a Solana Wallet
Now you need a Solana Wallet so that you can make purchases on the Solana blockchain.
I use Phantom. It works for me and it is popular, but there are other wallets out there.
Phantom is available as a browser plugin, including for Chrome and Firefox.
To get the wallet, go to: https://phantom.app (please make sure you are on the correct website, there are scammers out there!).
Once you are on that site, click the button to install the plugin to your browser. I'm using Chrome.
After Phantom is installed on your browser, you will need to "Create New Wallet".
OK, this part is very important:
On the Secret Recovery Phrase screen, you need to write down the random words that are presented to you ON A PHYSICAL PIECE OF PAPER. Do not lose these words and DO NOT SHARE IT WITH ANYONE.
If you lose these words, you will not be able to get into your wallet if, for example, you change computers, etc. Also, anyone who has these words will be able to access your wallet (so don't share them!)
Keep these words in a safe place (you may even want to consider a safe deposit box).
You will also be prompted to create a password. You will need this to access your wallet when you want to use it.
Once everything is all set, you should see the Phantom logo in the upper right corner of your browser (if you are using Chrome or Firefox).
Step 3: Transfer SOL to Your Wallet
You now need to fund your new Phantom wallet.
Open your wallet by clicking on the Phantom logo in the upper right corner of your browser (enter your password if asked).
You now need to copy your wallet address. Your wallet address is used to receive funds.
Since you are sending SOL to this wallet, all you need to do is hover over "Wallet 1" (unless you changed the name) at the top of the screen and click on it.
You should get a message that says "Copied".
You can paste this address to a text editor to make sure you have it.
With address in hand, you can now go back to Coinbase (in this example) so you can transfer the SOL you bought earlier.
In Coinbase go to "Assets" and click on Solana then click the button that says "Send/Receive".
In the form the comes up, paste in the "To" address with your Phantom wallet address (make sure it is correct!).
You can "Send all" or enter an amount you would like to send. You may want to choose a small amount if this is your first time transferring crypto to your own wallet.
The next screen is a confirmation screen. Make sure everything is correct and then click on "Send now".
If you did everything correctly, your SOL should be in your Phantom wallet in a few minutes.
At this point, you should be ready to transaction on the Solana blockchain!
Step 4: Buy a Solana NFT
Now let's get busy hunting down a Solana NFT we want to buy.
Solana NFT marketplaces
The Solana ecosystem is very new, so there aren't a lot of tools and marketplaces out there (yet). And the ones that are out there are in "alpha" or "beta", meaning that they may not quite be ready for prime time (so please use at your own risk).
Nonetheless, here are a few marketplaces to help you get started:
Solanart seems one of the more popular NFT marketplace in the Solana network, as of now, but even Solanart is still in beta. And who knows how things will play out in the future - we are very, very early!
Solana NFT Collections: Knock-Offs Galore?
Solana NFT collections have been increasing in popularity, but as you start to browse these various Solana marketplaces, you might get the feeling that you have seen these before.
You can check out Degen Apes on Solanart here.
You can check out SolPunks on Solanart here.
Some of these Solana projects do have that "knock-off" feel to them. But this type of "mimicking" (if I can say that) seems to be working for these projects since they have captured a lot of attention.
Case in point, Solana's Degen Ape Academy recently made headlines with a million dollar sale.
How to Get in Early on Solana NFT projects
Maybe you want to skip the marketplaces and mint directly from a projects website before they hit the marketplaces.
I write about this method for Ethereum in my Profile Pic NFT article.
And you can basically do the same on Solana.
Similar to Rarity Tools for Ethereum, there is "How Rare Is" on Solana.
On "How Rare Is", they have a section for upcoming drops:
I checked out some of the listed projects and some seemed pretty scammy to me (but not all!), which helped me realize just how nascent the Solana ecosystem is - again, this is still very early days.
So if you are exploring - best of luck - but be careful out there!
Example: Purchasing an NFT on Solanart
OK, so let me admit that I didn't do a lot of research up front on which Solana NFT I wanted to purchase.
Check this article out for more on investing in NFTs.
You'll see in that article on investing that I strongly recommend diving into Discords and Twitter to really understand a project.
In this case, I didn't do that.
But I'm not trying to make a profitable flip here. Just want to have a bit of fun.
And with the lower prices and lower transaction fees on Solana, I feel free to do that.
So after a quick scan of the NFTs on the Solanart marketplace and just a bit of research, I decided to purchase a Cyber Samurai.
Well, I kind of like the way they look and they aren't too expensive.
Now, I just needed to connect my Phantom wallet to Solanart.
After connecting my wallet, I then navigated to the Cyber Samurai collection and sorted by Price: low to high (yeah, I'm cheap).
I clicked on one of the Samurai that I liked (well, the cheapest one for 2.0 SOL).
From there I just clicked "Buy" and then approved the transaction in Phantom.
After a few seconds... Boom... I've got myself a Cyber Samurai Solana NFT.
And what's cool about the Phantom wallet, is that I can see my NFT directly in my wallet. Nice!
Solana is a fast, high-throughput blockchain with low transaction fees.
But that doesn't make it automatically "better" than Ethereum.
The top NFT projects are still on Ethereum and Solana has a lot of "spin-off" type NFT projects that seem, somehow, lesser than the "real-thing" on Ethereum.
But that doesn't mean Ethereum will always be the king of NFTs.
In fact, we may see Solana (or some other blockchain for that matter) get stronger in a particular niche.
For example, Solana could take the prize for blockchain games given its fast, low cost transactions.
Time will tell.
But from now, I am happy with my new Solana NFT 🙂
About the Author
Ed is NFTska’s lead Editor and Author based in the Los Angeles area. He fell deep down the crypto rabbit hole starting in 2017. Ed actively participates in and follows the fast changing NFT scene. Learn more about Ed.