Cardano, a smart-contract blockchain aiming to rival market leader Ethereum, tripled in February to dominate performance rankings among the CoinDesk 20 digital assets.   

The gains came during a bullish month across the board for cryptocurrencies, with bitcoin (BTC), the largest, posting a 36% return. Ether (ETH), the second-biggest and the native token of the Ethereum blockchain, climbed 7.4% on the month.  

But it was Cardano and other Ethereum alternatives that topped the rankings. Aside from the 274% gain for Cardano’s ADA token, the ATOM token from Cosmos rose 122%, based on CoinDesk pricing. 

Cardano’s gains were so impressive that its market capitalization climbed to about $40 billion, becoming the third-most-valuable digital asset and vaulting past cryptocurrencies like bitcoin cash (BCH) and litecoin (LTC) that had led the industry standings in recent years. XRP, the token used in Ripple Labs’ payment network, fell 15% on the month.

ADA climbed to a new all-time high of $1.49 on Feb. 27, topping the peak price of $1.30 reached in early 2018 at the tail end of the last bull market for cryptocurrencies.

The ebullience in the market for ADA might eventually contend with some of the network’s realities. While touted as an “Ethereum competitor,” Cardano doesn’t as yet have any smart-contract functionality. Input Output Hong Kong (IOHK), the developer team behind the blockchain, has taken a long-term approach to developing the network. For example, Cardano only recently transitioned out of the hands of IOHK and into the community’s control with July’s “Shelley” hard fork.

The “Mary” hard fork scheduled for today will allow users to create new tokens that run on Cardano natively, just as ADA does.

Goguen is the next hard fork on the docket for IOHK CEO and Ethereum co-founder Charles Hoskinson. That upgrade should occur in the first half of 2021 and should introduce smart contracts, the team claims.

That being said, it’s likely that unit bias – when investors buy a cheaper alternative asset given its lower price against more established ones  – is coming into play for the cryptocurrency given its low price per unit compared to other cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, ether or even Polkadot’s DOT