Traditional contracts are simply written agreements that establish the rules of a relationship and provide the details of each party’s rights and responsibilities. They play a vital role in enabling safe transactions between two parties. Smart contracts perform the same function on blockchain networks.
This article will discuss what smart contracts are, how they got started, how they work, their purpose, and how they’re being used. We will also go over their advantages and disadvantages.
What are Smart Contracts?
Smart contracts are computer programs that contain the terms and conditions of an agreement. They are stored and run on a decentralized blockchain network. Their code is self-governing, meaning it is enforced without the need for a central authority, a legal system, or other third parties. Smart contracts are also self-executing… Once deployed, they can’t be canceled or changed.
How Did Smart Contracts Get Started?
Smart contracts were first proposed by cryptographer and computer scientist Nick Szabo in 1994. He wanted to create a set of plug-ins that could be connected to make contracts, just like electronic parts can be combined to make circuits.
However, smart contracts didn’t really take off until Vitalik Buterin launched Ethereum in 2015. Unlike Bitcoin and other first-generation blockchain protocols, Ethereum is designed to create smart contracts and decentralized applications (Dapps).
How Do Smart Contracts Work?
Smart contracts are now available on most modern blockchains. However, they work slightly differently depending on which protocol they were built on.
On the Ethereum blockchain, smart contracts are written in the Solidity programming language. They are the mechanism used for token transfers, becoming the digitized representation of a physical asset or service. For example, Ethereum’s ERC-20 and ERC-721 tokens are both smart contracts.
These contracts are stored publicly on the blockchain, where everyone can see and verify their legitimacy.
To deploy a smart contract, you first need to create an Ethereum account. This account is called an “Ethereum wallet.” Once you create an Ethereum wallet, you will be given a unique address that can be used to send and receive Ethereum’s native token called ether.
What is the Purpose of Smart Contracts?
Smart contracts’ primary purpose is to automate the process of contract execution.
For instance, let’s say you rent an apartment from a landlord. You and the landlord would sign a lease stating the agreement’s details, such as how long you’ll rent the apartment, how much rent you’ll pay, and what upkeep is included.
The lease becomes a legally binding agreement once both parties have signed it. If either party fails to uphold their end of the deal, they can be held liable in a court of law.
With smart contracts, these terms can be turned into code and added to the blockchain. Once the contract is deployed, it cannot be modified by either party. So, if the landlord tries to raise your rent or if you stop paying rent, the contract will automatically enforce the agreement. There is no need for courts or other third parties.
What are Smart Contracts Being Used For?
Here are a few real-world examples of how smart contracts are being used.
- Trading Cryptocurrency: Smart contracts power decentralized exchanges and automated market-maker technology, making it possible for investors to trade cryptocurrencies without using centralized exchanges.
- NFTs: Smart Contracts are the magic behind NFTs. Sites like opensea.io and rarible.com feature a massive selection of art, photos, music, and other NFTs.
- Gaming: Smart contracts are being used to power thousands of blockchain-based games. You can find some great examples at https://playtoearn.net/blockchaingames
- Digital Identity: Platforms like welups.com offer blockchain-based identity verification.
- Insurance: Sites like lemonade.com use smart contracts and blockchain technology to provide insurance. They offer policies including everything from homeowners and renters’ insurance to automotive, pet, and life insurance.
- Loans: Smart Contracts enable you to borrow money against your cryptocurrency instead of selling it. Services like saltlending.com allow you to use your cryptocurrency as collateral.
- Escrow: Services like smartlink.so use smart contracts to hold assets until specific conditions are met. This protects both parties in an agreement.
The Advantage of Smart Contracts
Here are a few of the benefits of smart contracts:
- Trust and transparency: Smart contracts are stored on a public blockchain, which is transparent and unchangeable. It allows safe transactions between parties who may not know or trust each other.
- Reduced Costs: Many of the tasks that lawyers, banks, and real estate agents used to do can now be done automatically by smart contracts.
- Faster Transactions: Smart contracts automate the process of contract execution. This means transactions can be completed much faster than by traditional methods.
- Increased Security: Smart contracts are stored on a blockchain, making them more secure than traditional contracts. Additionally, cryptography makes smart contracts highly resistant to hacking.
- Reduced Risk of Fraud: Smart contracts automate the contract execution process, and neither party can modify the terms of the agreement after it is deployed. So, the risk of fraud is significantly reduced.
The Disadvantages of Smart Contracts
Although smart contracts have a lot to offer, there are some disadvantages:
- Require a Programmer to Create: You must learn how to code smart contracts or hire a programmer to code them.
- Possible Flaws or Vulnerabilities: As with any software, there is always a risk of flaws or vulnerabilities in the code.
- Difficult to Update: Even if both parties want to change or end an agreement, it can be difficult because smart contracts are designed to be permanent and unchanged.
Smart contracts are a new and innovative way to create and execute contracts. They have many benefits, such as being open, having lower costs, making transactions faster, improving security, and reducing fraud.