Solidity

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What Is Solidity?

Solidity is an object-oriented, high-level programming language specifically designed for creating and implementing smart contracts on various blockchain platforms. These platforms predominantly include Ethereum, but Solidity has been used on others, such as Polkadot, as well.

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How Does Solidity Work?

Solidity’s syntax draws inspiration from influential languages like C++, Python, and JavaScript, lending it an air of familiarity for developers versed in these languages.

Smart contracts, the central application of Solidity, are self-executing contracts with the terms of the agreement directly written into code.

They enable trusted transactions and agreements to be carried out without the need for a central authority, legal system, or external enforcement mechanisms.

Solidity breathes life into these contracts, providing a robust set of features, such as complex member variables, inheritance schemes, and type-safe functions, to craft intricate and secure blockchain applications.

Running on the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) or EVM-compatible virtual machines, Solidity programs harness the power of blockchain technology, playing a crucial role in the development and operation of decentralized applications (dApps).

How Was Solidity Created?

In August 2014, Gavin Wood, the co-founder of Ethereum, proposed Solidity, an object-oriented programming language designed to enable the development and implementation of smart contracts on various blockchain platforms.

Under the guidance of lead developer Christian Reitwiessner, a team of ex-Ethereum core contributors, including Alex Beregszaszi, crafted Solidity.

The language is most prominently associated with the Ethereum blockchain, but it also operates seamlessly with other EVM (Ethereum Virtual Machine) compatible virtual machines.

Solidity’s inception aligned with the surge in popularity of Ethereum’s enterprise-oriented blockchain, Hyperledger Fabric, and private blockchains alike.

It found broad applications. For instance, SWIFT harnessed its capabilities in a proof of concept running on Hyperledger Fabric.

Pros and Cons of Solidity

Advantages of Solidity

  • Robust capabilities: The adoption of Solidity for creating blockchain applications is largely due to its robust capabilities.
  • Smart contract development: Solidity allows the development of smart contracts that are safe, reliable, and have the potential to enhance operational efficiency, reduce costs, and minimize reliance on third parties.
  • Familiar syntax: Solidity’s syntax, inspired by C++, Python, and JavaScript, makes it a familiar terrain for developers acquainted with these languages. Variables, functions, arithmetic operations, and other familiar programming concepts are heavily utilized in Solidity.
  • Abundant documentation and use cases: A wealth of open-source documentation and use cases for Ethereum and EVM chains make the task of constructing complex applications a less daunting endeavor.
  • Innovative functionalities: Even in scenarios requiring innovative functionalities such as liquidity farming and lending, one can simply fork the source code of popular decentralized exchanges like Uniswap.

Disadvantages of Solidity

Like any language, Solidity has its drawbacks.

  • Immutability of smart contracts: The immutability of smart contracts in Solidity, while beneficial in many cases, can pose challenges. Once a contract is deployed, it cannot be altered or improved, which can be problematic in dynamic environments.
  • Limitations in gathering and updating information: Solidity, like other blockchain-based systems, cannot autonomously gather and update information in its system. This becomes a critical issue when handling volatile data like currency pairings (forex).
  • The relative scarcity of libraries and resources: Compared to mature languages like C or Java, Solidity is still in its infancy. Despite its growing popularity, the relative scarcity of libraries and resources may render learning Solidity a challenging task for beginners.

Example of Solidity

// SPDX-License-Identifier: GPL-3.0
pragma solidity ^0.8.4;

contract Coin {
// The keyword “public” makes variables
// accessible from other contracts
address public minter;
mapping(address => uint) public balances;

// Events allow clients to react to specific
// contract changes you declare
event Sent(address from, address to, uint amount);

// Constructor code is only run when the contract
// is created
constructor() {
minter = msg.sender;
}

// Sends an amount of newly created coins to an address
// Can only be called by the contract creator
function mint(address receiver, uint amount) public {
require(msg.sender == minter);
balances[receiver] += amount;
}

// Errors allow you to provide information about
// why an operation failed. They are returned
// to the caller of the function.
error InsufficientBalance(uint requested, uint available);

// Sends an amount of existing coins
// from any caller to an address
function send(address receiver, uint amount) public {
if (amount > balances[msg.sender])
revert InsufficientBalance({
requested: amount,
available: balances[msg.sender] });

balances[msg.sender] -= amount;
balances[receiver] += amount;
emit Sent(msg.sender, receiver, amount);
}
}

The Bottom Line

Despite the plethora of challenges as a new and emerging programming language, Solidity has carved out a significant place in the programming landscape due to its instrumental role in powering Ethereum’s smart contracts.

Like any tool, its effectiveness depends on how it’s wielded, demanding developers to be conscious of both its strengths and limitations to truly unleash its potential.

As the role of smart contracts grows in the future of financial ecosystems, it can be expected the role of Solidity will grow too.

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Sam Cooling
Crypto & Blockchain Writer
Sam Cooling
Crypto & Blockchain Writer

Sam Cooling is a crypto, financial, and business journalist based in London. Along with Techopedia, his work has been published in Yahoo Finance, Coin Rivet, and other leading publications in the financial space. His interest in cryptocurrency is driven by a passion for leveraging decentralized blockchain technologies to empower marginalized communities worldwide. This includes enhancing financial transparency, providing banking services to the unbanked, and improving agricultural supply chains. Sam has a Master’s Degree in Development Management from the London School of Economics and has worked as a Junior Research Fellow for the UK Defence Academy.