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Input Output Hong Kong, one of the companies behind the Cardano blockchain, has announced that they have started a testnet for its Cardano's Alonzo upgrade.

Alonzo is the next step in a series of upgrades to the blockchain that will bring new features like smart contracts and the ability for a decentralized finance ecosystem. Alonzo marks the last phase in the network's "Goguen" era.  

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Cardano is being built in five stages, each named after famous poets or computer scientists. Cardano's Goguen phase is named after Joeseph Goguen, an American professor of computer science from the University of California and the University of Oxford. 

Before the Goguen stage, Cardano completed its "Shelley" phase. This brought Cardano from a federated blockchain to a decentralized one where the community became the validators of the chain instead of the developers. 

The addition of the Alonzo upgrade will now give Cardano the ability to compete with other decentralized finance ecosystems like Ethereum, Binance, Polkadot, Solana and others. 

Alonzo will be rolling out in three phases, Alonzo blue, white and purple with each opening up to more of the public until it fully integrates. The process will take 90 days resulting in a smart contract enabled Cardano by the end of August. 

On Cardano's development site, the Alonzo announcement said that the upgrade will bring exciting new features.  

"The ‘Alonzo’ hard fork will bring exciting and highly-anticipated new capabilities to Cardano through the integration of Plutus scripts onto the blockchain. These will allow for the implementation of smart contracts in Cardano, enabling the deployment of a wide range of new DeFi applications for the first time."

It also said that the testnet will slowly begin to expand to include more users.

"Over the next few months, the program will expand to include more users as we integrate new testnet functionality and features on the way to mainnet deployment."

Ethereum is currently the leader in the decentralized finance space by a large majority, but the high fees and slow transaction times prevent users with smaller holdings from participating.

This gives other projects, such as Cardano, Binance, Polkadot and Solana an opportunity to make strides and take away from of Ethereum's market share. 

Charles Hoskinson, the founder of Input Output Hong Kong, said he believes this will be the busiest time in the company's history.

"This is probably going to be the busiest 90 days in my company’s history and the ecosystem’s history. I’m not saying 90 days after this video, Alonzo will be on the Mainnet. What I’m saying is the most critical engineering path, integration path, coordination path, and community path are for the next 90 days."