Blockchain is more than just one of the latest tech crazes. It is a revolutionary technology whose applications have the potential to transform our society and spur global growth. From medical research to help the environment, the applications of blockchain go well beyond a couple of innovative enterprise uses. (Read AI in Business: The Transfer of Expertise from Internet Companies to the Enterprise.)
Since this technology’s full potential has yet to be discovered, it’s time to move ahead of schedule and start learning how to work with it as soon as possible. Today, a lot of programmers want to know which programming skills they need to get started with blockchain, and if you’re reading this article, you’re probably among them.
So, do not waste any more time, and let’s see what programming languages you need to learn to look like you’re the cool, edgy guy who can code on the distributed ledger.
C++ – The King of the Hill
The granddad of every programming language out there, C++ is, still today, the king of the hill. Since it’s an object- rather than a process-oriented extension of the C language, C++ interacts perfectly with blockchain’s inherent structure.
This programming language can manipulate the blockchain’s blocks & chains as easily as binding LEGO bricks together to build a toy castle. C++ is also flexible enough for blockchain since it provides full control over CPU and memory usage, dealing nicely with the high resource demand needed to give quick service to all nodes at the same time.
C++ is the language that was originally used to write Bitcoin, but it is used even today to implement a broad range of ground-breaking blockchain applications. (Read Will Bitcoin Win the Race to Become an International Currency?)
Want to know one? In a world dominated by an oligopoly of unreliable VPN providers that often expose their customers’ privacy, C++ is being used to code the innovative decentralized VPN Lethean that could revolution private communications.
They are so ubiquitous, that nearly all web systems already use them in a way or the other, leaving you free reign over application logic since you do not need to focus on integration. While they are not as effective as C++ in terms of resource management, they are the ideal solution to handle multiple asynchronous operations simultaneously.
Couple this with the amazing portability and the fact that the ledger is tamper-proof since once written it cannot be changed, and you got all the reasons why so many blockchain companies use these two languages for their apps. In fact, Java & JS have been used to build tools and environments to build and deploy smart blockchain apps such as Truffle and ARK.
Erlang and the Permaweb
Somewhat of an underdog among the other mainstream programming languages used for blockchain, Erlang shines as a less-known gem for the amazingly unique applications developed with it. Erlang is the perfect candidate for building the exceptionally robust back-ends systems needed to achieve the scale required by the most revolutionary broad-scoped blockchain projects.
In fact, today, 90% of Internet traffic is routed through Erlang-running nodes. Its inherent fault tolerance is just one of the characteristics that make Erlang superior to other programming languages to build, for example, peer-to-peer networks in a blockchain ecosystem.
Let’s have a look at one of the most prominent examples.
Arweave’s Permaweb is one of these amazing blockchain technologies. It allows for permanent permanently archiving web content in a sort of “parallel” world wide web. This new web uses blockweave, a blockchain-based distributed ledger technology, and has been up and running for a few years already. Other than being able to store information that is now lost in the traditional web, the decentralized web may also provide a fantastic solution to internet censorship in countries such as Russia, China, or other African nations.
In fact, as Sam Williams, Arweave co-founder and CEO explained “Information on the Permaweb cannot be manipulated or removed giving citizens the ability to hold their governments accountable and to help preserve democracy — and it’s already working!”
Solidity and Ethereum
Solidity was designed and developed by the creators of Ethereum, so it’s a language built to deploy smart contracts and make Decentralized Applications (DAPPs). Given the importance of Ethereum, I think there’s no need to explain the importance of learning this language.
An incredibly agile language, Solidity uses a beginner-friendly code that breaks down the complexities of machine-level code into simple, human-readable instructions. Solidity boasts a purposefully slimmed down but very declarative syntax that makes it the ideal candidate for smart contracts.
Its creator, Dr. Gavin Wood, described it very well: “It [Solidity] was meant to be a sophisticated tool for developing contracts that could ultimately give both developers and users good information on what the code did.”
Golang and the HyperLedger Fabrics
Golang (also known as Go) is a programming language that was developed by Google employees in 2007 to mix the simplicity in syntax and semantics of Python with the efficiency of C++. While it is not a functional programming language, Golang is an elegant and advanced compiling language whose many features allow for the application of functional principles in the development.
Lightning fast, easily maintainable, and efficient, Go has all the perks required by distributed systems since it is flexible enough to deal with the multiple parts of a blockchain simultaneously.
Among its most prominent applications, Golang is the language behind the majority of the HyperLedger Fabrics’ chaincode. The HyperLedger Fabrics is a larger-scale permissioned distributed ledger platform hosted by The Linux Foundation that works at the enterprise level.
It’s one of the most popular smart contracts solution used by large companies and has now grown into the de-facto market standard. Golang is also used for the Loom Network, a platform used for decentralized online games.
What We've Learned
Among the various programming languages you can use to develop blockchain technologies, there’s no clear “winner.” Each one of them serves a different purpose, and since your mileage may vary, it’s often down to personal preferences.
Although it’s a bit hard to master all these languages at the same time, having a general smattering of each one of them may help you choose the right programming language to deploy your blockchain project.