Solana 'Sucks Right Now'—Devs Are Doing Something

Solana has become the center of the DeFi world in recent weeks, between meme coins and buzzy tokens like Wormhole, Jupiter, and Tensor, pushing decentralized exchange trading volume on the chain to an all-time high in March. But the network now appears to be falling victim to its own success.

Amid growing demand, congestion on the chain is causing transactions to fail and making it difficult to perform even basic tasks. As the Helium Foundation’s head of protocol engineering recently put it, “Solana sucks to use right now.” And he’s not the only Solana maxi that’s publicly voicing these frustrations.

After weeks of growing frustrations and tweet threads from Solana builders tossing out accusations against certain apps and startups, a clear cause has been identified. And the fix, or at least part of the fix, may be right around the corner.

Solana Foundation Head of Strategy Austin Federa tweeted a rundown of the situation on Wednesday, noting that the issues stem from an implementation of the QUIC protocol and can be attributed to a known issue that suddenly got much worse due to “unprecedented demand.”

“What was not expected was the rate at which demand for Solana would increase, flipping the implantation from ‘adequate but needing improvement’ to ‘inadequate’ in a matter of days,” he wrote. “A charitable reading is a ‘failure of success,’ which is otherwise known [as] a ‘failure of planning.’ This is, put simply, tech debt.”

Federa said that the issue—which developers have been discussing on Twitter in recent days—had been on the roadmap to be fixed. However, he wrote that the Foundation had been putting more resources towards “important new work” like the upcoming Firedancer client, which aims to make Solana more robust following past instances of crashes and downtime.

“Every decision is a series of tradeoffs,” he added. “Sometimes you get it right, sometimes you get it wrong. This is not dissimilar from what the Solana network went through in early 2022—when demand outstripped the capacity of several systems.”

The Solana Foundation is tapping developers from across the ecosystem, including from Anza—a dev shop spun out of Solana Labs in January—as well as the Firedancer team, infrastructure company Jito, and beyond. A fix for Anza’s Agave validator client on Solana is expected on or around April 15, and may help alleviate congestion.

Anza engineer Rex St. John shared a screenshot of the Solana explorer on Wednesday afternoon that depicts vastly improved ping times for the network. “Previews of coming attractions,” he wrote. “Don’t get excited yet. This is just a test of what will go out more widely when cooked.”

Decrypt reached out to the Solana Foundation early Wednesday for more details on timing and the work being done on the network, but did not receive a response by press time.

While the data shows increased trading demand on Solana, some members of the community have pointed fingers at other causes that may be exacerbating the issue.

For example, new project Ore creates a mining experience akin to Bitcoin on Solana, but puts more strain on the network as a result. Elsewhere, prominent builder Mert Mumtaz—co-founder and CEO of infrastructure startup Helius Labs—and others have alleged that some infrastructure firms on Solana are taking advantage of the bug to juice their profits.

“Imagine knowing of a bug on mainnet as an infra provider,” Mumtaz tweeted on April 4. “And instead of helping patch it, you exploit it for a profit and ruin the UX for everyone and then brag about it. Shameful.”

There may not be one single cause for the demand that is stunting Solana network performance at this time, but the root cause is known—and developers appear to be pushing hard to test and deploy fixes to possibly yield improvement in the coming days.

“It will take some time, but we’ll get there,” Federa tweeted of incoming fixes.

Edited by Guillermo Jimenez

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