Introduction To Blockchain Programming Languages: Solidity

Solidity was the first smart contract language, and remains the most widely-used, despite some downsides.

Will Solidity remain the most popular blockchain programming language?

Since the launch of Ethereum in 2015, the idea of smart contracts—code that executes trustlessly on the blockchain—has become a reality. Ethereum, and other smart contract platforms that came after it, enable the creation of decentralized applications (dApps) that run without any centralized servers or third party administrators, providing a fundamentally different paradigm to the prevailing Web2 approach.

Alongside the many smart contract blockchain platforms, including Ethereum and EVM machines, Binance Smart Chain, Cardano, Solana, and others, there are multiple blockchain programming languages that can be used to create smart contracts and dApps. These languages have different properties, and various advantages and disadvantages.

This series looks at some of the most popular smart contract coding languages, and what they offer.

Solidity: The Default Choice

Solidity is the undisputed leader for smart contract development, since it's the default choice for Ethereum and all Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) platforms, which includes L2s and other popular chains including Binance Smart Chain and Avalanche.

Solidity was proposed in 2014 by Gavin Wood and implemented by the Ethereum team, specifically for use in Ethereum's smart contract ecosystem.

Solidity is notably similar to JavaScript, making it relatively accessible to new developers familiar with the popular language (though there are also key differences). Its position as the leading option for dApps stems from being the first smart contract language on the pioneering Ethereum platform—meaning that now, after over eight years, it boasts massive network effect and enjoys robust support from a vibrant developer community. Solidity is integrated well with popular development tools, facilitating Ethereum-based project development.

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Abundant resources and dedicated forums are available to assist new developers to delve into Solidity, which is important, since those who come from Web2 will need to learn blockchain- and Ethereum-specific concepts such as gas, state variables, and decentralized execution.

Security Challenges

Solidity's security features, including function modifiers and support for inheritance, help in the creation of secure and modular contracts. Solidity's intentional omission of some features present in general-purpose languages, reduce its functionality, the trade-off being that security against certain types of attacks is enhanced.

However, security remains a critical concern, since coding errors can potentially expose vulnerabilities that can lead to the loss of user funds.

For this reason, it's vital that Web3 developers have their Solidity code thoroughly audited before deploying it—and even then, there are many examples of professionally-audited protocols being successfully attacked and losing millions of dollars. It's also important for developers to stay abreast of evolving Web3 standards and best practices.

Solidity has the odd quirk, such as having no native support for decimals. Another challenge for Solidity developers is optimizing their code to ensure gas costs are as low as possible, since this significantly impacts how many and what type of users will be prepared to use the application. More experienced developers may find that coding in Solidity results in higher gas costs compared to lower-level languages.

#1, But Challenges Remain

While Solidity is the most popular smart contract programming language, and the default option for Ethereum and EVM chains, developers must navigate the fine balance of leveraging its strengths while mitigating its downsides.


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