Introduction to smart contracts#
Already know what smart contracts are? Go to the quick guide to start building smart contracts on Concordium right away.
A smart contract is a user-supplied piece of code submitted to the Concordium blockchain, used to define behavior that is not directly part of the core protocol. Smart contracts are executed by nodes in the Concordium network according to predefined rules. Their execution is fully transparent, and all nodes must agree on what the outcome of execution is based on only publicly available information.
A smart contract can receive, hold and send CCD, it is able to observe some aspects of the chain, and maintain its own state. Smart contracts are always executed as a response to external actions, e.g., an account sending a message. In practice, smart contracts will often be a small part of a larger system, combining on and off-chain functionality. An example of off-chain functionality could be a server that invokes the smart contract based on data from the real-world, such as prices of stocks, or weather information.
Smart contracts can reduce the needed amount of trust in third-parties, in some cases removing the need for a trusted third-party, in other cases reducing their capabilities and thus reducing the amount of trust needed in them.
Because smart contracts are executed completely transparently, in a way that anybody with access to a node can verify, they can be very useful for ensuring agreement between parties.
Smart contracts are a very exciting technology and people are still finding new ways to take advantage of them. However, there are some cases where smart contracts are not a good solution.
One of the key advantages of smart contracts is the trust in the code execution, and to achieve this, a large number of nodes in the blockchain network have to execute the same code and ensure agreement of the result. Naturally, this becomes expensive compared to running the same code on one node in some cloud service.
In cases where a smart contract depends on heavy calculations, it might be possible moving this calculation out of the smart contract and have the smart contract execute only some key parts of the computation, using cryptographic techniques to ensure the other parts are executed correctly.
Finally, it is important to remember that smart contracts have no privacy and everything the smart contract has access to is accessible to everybody else on the Concordium network, meaning it is difficult to handle sensitive data in a smart contract. In some cases it might be possible to use cryptographic tools to not work with the data directly, but rather have the smart contracts work with derived notions such as encryptions and commitments, which hide the actual data.
Auction smart contract example#
A use case for smart contracts could be for holding an auction; here you program the smart contract to accept different bids from anyone and have it keep track of the highest bidder. When the auction is over, the smart contract sends the winner bid CCD to the seller and all other bids back. The seller then should send the item to the winner.
The smart contract replaces the main role of the auctioneer. The contract itself only governs the bidding part, and the on-chain distribution of CCDs. It will likely also need some logic for reimbursing the highest bidder if the seller does not fulfil their obligations. This will most likely mean that the contract needs to support some notion of proof that the seller has indeed fulfilled their obligation, or some way for the highest bidder to file a complaint. Smart contracts cannot resolve these real-world issues automatically, and the best solution is likely going to depend on the specifics of the auction.
For information about the lifecycle of smart contracts, see Lifecycle of a smart contract. You can also continue reading about contract modules, contract instances, and contract schemas. Also, read the Smart contracts best practices.
Smart contract development tools#
Concordium provides a number of tools to simplify the smart contract creation and deployment process.
The VSCode extension can help you develop Concordium smart contracts. The extension sets up the editor for development, installs the
cargo-concordium smart contract development tool for all supported platforms, and provides commands in the editor for the essential workflows, such as building and testing smart contracts.
You can watch a video about how to use the VSCode extension.
The integration testing library simplifies testing of your smart contracts before deployment.
The main library for Smart contract development can be found on crates.io.
To ease deployment and initialization, you can use the Smart contract deploy and initialize tool. It works with the Concordium Wallet for Web to deploy and initialize smart contracts to Mainnet and Testnet.