Unfortunately for Solana (SOL), outages are becoming a common thing. Since the start of 2022, Solana has suffered 5 outages (out of their 7 total). For most of these outages, the cause was what has historically been touted as Solana’s biggest strength: high volume. Solana was considered one of the many “Ethereum Killers” due to its high speed, low fees, and massive throughput. The blockchain is able to achieve this by not ratcheting up fees significantly when volume spikes, a mechanism which Ethereum does implement and has recently resulted in fees temporarily getting into the thousands due to a botched NFT mint.
Somewhat ironically, the most recent Solana outage was also due to NFTs. The issue was largely caused by an NFT minting protocol called Candy Machine, from the Metaplex DAO team. Metaplex released a statement on Twitter about the issues, and has put plan into place to prevent this in the future:
Candy Machine is used by a majority of new #SolanaNFT projects to launch their collections. In this change, a 0.01 SOL penalty will be collected when a wallet attempts to complete an invalid transaction, which is typically done by bots that are blindly trying to mint.
The irony here, of course, is that the solution to high volume on a low fee network is to raise fees. This plan is in line with a plan from the Solana team to introduce fees on subsequent transactions from the same wallet address. While this sounds reasonable, a large use case for the Solana network is high frequency trading due to the incredibly low fees.
Why Is It Always NFT Mints?
Why do NFT mints often cause network congestion leading to crashes or extreme fees? Well, that’s largely due to the timing. Since the doors to mint an NFT open for everyone at the same time, the demand for space on any one specific block becomes incredibly high all at once. Chains like Ethereum scale to meet the demand per block, which results in higher fees. Many NFT projects have recently gotten around these limitations by whitelisting individual addresses and allowing them access to the mint at staggered intervals, resulting in lower demand per block. In fact, it’s now rare to see fully open minting of NFTs to individuals who have not gotten in via connections, quid pro quo, or Discord activity.