The new technology.
If you’ve been in the world of tech and the web for even as little as a month, I guarantee you’ve heard of what ‘The Blockchain’ is but if you haven’t, well… you’re here now.
A Blockchain in simple words is a ledger that keeps track of transactions made on a decentralized network.
It is called a blockchain because it is literally a chain made of a series of blocks that is duplicated and distributed across a network of computers connected to it. Once a block is recorded to the blockchain it cannot be altered. This is a characteristic known as being immutable.
Blockchain technology is hailed as being trustless, because it operates outside of the traditional centralized power that control financing. It does not require a third party system to operate and has no need for one since it is built on cryptographic proof.
There you have it. It’s like this really incredible technology that allows humans do so much more than we ever could.
On a personal note, i think its right up there on the list of greatest human achievements, next to the control of fire.
Blockchains have been the center of discussion, and technological innovation for about a decade and ever since then it’s made countless headlines.
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It has only been a short while but this industry has produced billions of dollars but unfortunately it has seen heavy losses as well.
Over the years there have been a few incidents that trend and seem to ruin the image of this lucrative and advanced technology amongst the general public that evidently seem to slow down its mass adoption.
To every tech industry there’s a hacker and blockchain technology is no different. The most prominent hacks being smart contract hacks and each year the industry loses a huge amount of money to smart contract vulnerability.
If you’ve been around long enough you’ve probably noticed there’s a new one per month. This is because smart contract programming is a young concept compared to other concepts of programming, but you’d have to stay tuned for another publication to read more about that.
So, what is a Smart Contract?
A smart contract is a program that verifies and executes the performance of a contract without the need for a trusted third party. Programs that run on blockchains are commonly referred to as smart contracts because they mediate important functionality (such as currency) without having to rely on a central authority (like a bank).
Or if you like the IBM definition,
“Smart contracts are programs stored on a blockchain that run when predetermined conditions are met. They typically are used to automate the execution of an agreement so that all participants can be immediately certain of the outcome, without any intermediary’s involvement or time loss.”
Think of them like the traditional contracts in existence today, where two or more parties sign an agreement to achieve a goal. The only difference here is that unlike in traditional paper contracts, a smart contract is hosted on the blockchain; even in a hundred years that information will stay safe and immutable.
Once hosted it will go on to do exactly what it has been programmed to do, without foreign influence. Unlike traditional contracts, none of the parties involved can go behind each other’s back and manipulate the terms of agreement. Once deployed, it will carry out the same function for years.
A smart contract programmer is a person that writes this code and designs the logic.
It’s fun to think of them more like cyber-lawyers. They write a set of rules for an application that are immutable. Laws an application must execute for them to be regarded as fully functional.
What can they be used for?
An important purpose of smart contracts is to be able to define the movement of digital assets on a blockchain network (i.e. non-fungible tokens, crypto-currency, etc.) between known and anonymous identities.
This article covers 4 popular blockchains in existence as of time of writing and the smart contract languages used to interact with them.
Note: Does not include pre-existing languages such as C or C++.
Bitcoin has been growing and showing no signs of slowing down this growth since Satoshi Nakamotos’ White paper in 2009. It is no doubt the network that got 70 percent of us interested in block chain technology.
Before i get into nifty and gritty details here, you should know, Bitcoin initially couldn’t support Web3 applications. It was made for just for sending money to people over the internet without centralized interference.
But as other competing networks evolved, the need to host these web3 applications on the network became clear if Bitcoin was to stay relevant.
It uses a consensus mechanism called Proof-of-Work (POW), and that just means it operates on a validator system where 51% of the nodes operating on it have to agree on the validity of a block before it gets added to the main chain.
Side story: You might’ve even heard the story of the lucky pizza guy who got 10,000 Bitcoin (BTC) for a delivery he made. Apparently he was a teenager who sold two boxes of pizza to a programmer Laszlo Hanyecz who was hungry for pizzas.
This was a mode of payment that was unsupported at the time and could be said to be the first real world transaction done with Bitcoin.
That transaction was worth roughly $687.70M at Bitcoins All Time High (ATH).
Blockchain technology had evolved beyond its basic intent of creation, this evolution led to the creation of Stacks formerly known as Blockstack.
What‘s Stacks about?
Stacks is an open-source layer one blockchain that allows for the execution of smart contracts. The Bitcoin network is now able to support DeFi, NFTs, smart contracts and decentralized apps through this layer one chain.
Its developers created their own unique consensus mechanism called Proof-Of-Transfer (POX) which directly connects the Stacks blockchain network to the Bitcoin blockchain network.
Proof-Of-Transfer is the documentation unique to each remitter that will prove that funds in the form of crypto currency have/had been transferred to a State Controller’s Office for payment of unclaimed property.
It is also the first known hybrid protocol between two blockchains.
This consensus mechanism (Proof-Of-Transfer) uses the Proof-Of-Work of Bitcoins blockchain to secure its own blockchain, making Stacks completely reliant on Bitcoin and its security.
What is Clarity?
Clarity is a programming language created to write fully expressive smart contracts on the Stacks layer one network.
It has a native read access, can react to native Bitcoin transactions, and is by far is the most used since it’s a general purpose smart contract solution which doesn’t sacrifice the concept of decentralization or the ability to react to Bitcoin’s global state.
Clarity is a decidable language, which means you can accurately predict what the program would do before executing its code. This leaves little vulnerability for bugs, a key factor in maintaining the security of the network.
Ethereum is definitely the second most popular blockchain network out there. This network was founded by Vitalik Butterin as a way to facilitate creation of smart contracts, decentralized applications, and much more solutions that haven’t even been invented yet.
A source of many criticism has been its relatively slow processing of transactions, maxing somewhere around 15-30 transactions per second as a Proof of Work network. This is considered extremely slow in comparison to traditional Centralized Finance (CeFi) bodies.
Ethereum turns to the future for hope, as founder Vitalik Butterin has predicted that at the end of the ETH2.0 road map the network will experience a leap in those numbers.
It is predicted that Ethereums’ transaction processing speed will rise up to handling 20,000–100,000 transactions per second in the coming future.
Created in 2015, Ethereum raised 18.3 million in Bitcoin in 2014 and kicked off to a slow but steady start.
Ethereum uses Proof-Of-Stake (POS) which allows the network choose a validator for a block based on how many token this participant has staked. Once chosen the validator verifies the block and if it’s valid the validator adds the block to the chain then gets a reward.
POW had raised many environmental complaints as the energy required to compute transactions was so much it posed a threat to the Earth’s greenhouse and to address these complaints community decided it was time to switch to a less consuming mechanism so they switched from Proof of Work to Proof of Stake.
This decision came swift, and right when it was needed the most; during the NFT boom where so many transactions were coming into the network as everyone wanted a piece of the cool graphic art that could sell for 2000–300,000 US dollars.
What some people didn’t know was that this art was actually connected to several lines of code that created its authenticity. That code was mostly written in Solidity.
What is Solidity?
Solidity is considered as one of the best and most popular smart contract language.
Created by the Ethereum network team, most notably Christian Reitwiessner and Alex Beregszaszi, it is an object-oriented, high-level programming language that is statically typed, supports interfaces as well as libraries, and was designed for creating smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain.
The Flow blockchain made its debut in October 2020 as a Proof of Stake protocol created by Dapper labs.
Dapper labs had already been successful on the Ethereum blockchain environment when they created crypto kitties, an NFT that quickly blew up in the market, with one of such NFT’s reaching an all-time high of 119ETH.
But in 2017 crypto kitties had clogged up the Ethereum network which motivated its developers to create their very own blockchain network.
Flow was initially created for web3 assets, crypto games, and NFT’s, like its predecessor Ethereum, and like Ethereum it has enough potential to evolve into something better.
It is a layer one blockchain like Bitcoin, Stacks, and Ethereum, that enables fast low-cost transactions and supports smart contracts as well, has a multi-role architecture and an inbuilt logging support.
The native language developed for this blockchain network is Cadence.
What is Cadence?
Cadence is a resource-oriented high-level programming language that introduces new features to smart contract programming that help developers ensure that their code is safe, secure, clear, and approachable.
It is type safe and has a strong static type system, which prevents important classes of erroneous or undesirable program behavior before the program is run on-chain.
Cadence boasts of offering developers;
- Safety and security.
The syntax of Cadence is so similar to that of Swift, Kotlin, and Rust that developers of these languages are known to experience little to no problems learning and adapting to Cadence.
Note: It is the least popular language on this list, but deserves its spot on it.
Solana was released in March 16, 2020, and has been growing its influence and popularity in this space ever since. It has long gone mainstream with NFTs as the go-to blockchain network to deploy NFTs due to its lower transaction costs and faster transaction processing speed.
Its white paper was released by Anatoly Yakovenko in November 2017 and it raised $314M in funding rounds led by Andreessen Horowitz in 2021.
Personally I’d say Solana as a blockchain network has one of the fastest growth and adaptation, having a transaction processing rate of up to 50,000 transactions per second, which qualifies it to be one of the fastest blockchain networks in existence as at the time of writing.
It has its own consensus mechanism called Proof of History, which eliminates the need for storing time stamps in the block data of the blockchain, freeing up space and improving the speed of processing transactions.
The developers at Solana did not create their own native smart contract language, but they choose an already existing language that was compatible with their network called Rust.
Rust is a high demand language due to its high performance while processing a heavy amount of data, its efficient compiler, concurrency, and focus on memory safety and protection.
It is a statically typed language built to support system-level programmers, who write low-level code and it also allows developers handle bugs at compile time, which makes it even more convenien to develop with.
Rust has been popular for Solana smart contract development because of beginner friendly and makes it easy to create these secure smart contract applications with little friction.
Since its mainstream adaptation, Rust has been used to rewrite a number of codebase for big tech companies like Facebook and Discord. An amazing display of the powerful capabilities of this programming language.
In the future we will see more blockchains rise, and more smart contract languages created.
These blockchain based network and smart contracts are fated to revolutionize the way we currently operate under web2.0 and centralized systems.
If you’re here because you want to be a blockchain developer then i suggest you choose a network you wish to develop on, join its community, learn its smart contract language, and start building.
This is the first part of this publication, and I will be releasing other parts gradually, so make sure to follow and stay updated on more educative and informative content on blockchain technology, the world of web3, smart contracts, DeFi, NFTs, and everything in-between.
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Stay safe and see you next time.
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