What are Smart Contracts?

Smart contracts are self-executing computer programs that can automatically enforce the rules and regulations of a contractual agreement. 

They are designed to facilitate, verify, and enforce the negotiation or performance of a contract without the need for intermediaries like lawyers, banks, or notaries.

Smart contracts

In essence, smart contracts are digital contracts that are stored on a decentralized blockchain network, which ensures their immutability, transparency, and security. 

They can be used to execute a variety of contractual obligations, such as payments, transfers of ownership, or the delivery of goods and services, among others.

The key advantage of smart contracts is their ability to automate and streamline complex processes, reduce the risk of fraud, and eliminate the need for intermediaries, which can result in significant cost savings and increased efficiency.

But while smart contracts may have many advantages over traditional contracts, they are not exempted from risks or limitations.

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How do Smart Contracts Work?

Smart contracts are self-executing computer programs that run on a blockchain network. 

They are written in a programming language, such as Solidity, and are stored on the blockchain as a series of code instructions that define the terms and conditions of a contractual agreement.

Smart contract simplified explanation

When a smart contract is deployed on the blockchain, it becomes part of a distributed ledger that is publicly visible and transparent. 

The code of the contract is executed automatically and autonomously by the network nodes, according to the rules and conditions set out in the contract.

To execute a smart contract, a user sends a transaction to the blockchain network that contains the required inputs and parameters of the contract. 

The network nodes validate the transaction, execute the contract code, and update the ledger accordingly.

The results of the contract execution are recorded on the blockchain and are visible to all network participants, ensuring transparency and immutability. 

Once the conditions of the contract have been met, such as the transfer of a payment or the completion of a task, the smart contract automatically releases the relevant assets or actions.

Smart contracts can be used to automate a wide range of processes and transactions, such as financial transactions, supply chain management, or digital identity verification, among others. 

They offer several advantages over traditional contracts, such as efficiency, security, and cost savings, and have the potential to revolutionize many industries by removing intermediaries and streamlining complex processes.

Smart Contracts on Blockchain Symbiosis

Smart contracts and blockchain are closely related because smart contracts are typically deployed on blockchain networks.

Blockchain is a distributed ledger that records transactions in a secure and transparent way, without the need for intermediaries. It is a decentralized network where transactions are verified and recorded by a network of nodes, and then added to the blockchain in a chronological and immutable manner. Each block in the blockchain contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, which ensures that the entire chain is tamper-proof and resistant to hacking.

What is Blockchain

What is a blockchain and how does it work?

Smart contracts, on the other hand, are self-executing digital programs that run on a blockchain network. They are designed to automate the execution of contracts, without the need for intermediaries such as lawyers or brokers. Smart contracts are typically programmed in a specific programming language, and can be used to execute specific actions when certain conditions are met.

By deploying smart contracts on a blockchain network, the execution and enforcement of contracts can be automated in a secure and transparent way. Blockchain technology ensures that the smart contract is tamper-proof and resistant to hacking, while smart contracts automate the execution of the contract without the need for intermediaries. This makes smart contracts on blockchain an attractive option for businesses and organizations looking to streamline their contract execution processes and reduce costs associated with intermediaries.

Smart Contracts and Oracles: Real-World Integration on the Blockchain

Smart contracts and oracles are closely related in the context of blockchain technology. Oracles are third-party services or systems that provide external data to a smart contract, enabling the contract to execute based on real-world events and data.

Smart contracts are designed to operate on a decentralized blockchain network, which makes them secure and tamper-proof. 

However, smart contracts are limited to the data that is stored on the blockchain, and they cannot directly access data from external sources. 

This is where oracles come in – they provide a way for smart contracts to access and use data from outside the blockchain network.

Oracles can be used to trigger the execution of smart contract code based on external events or conditions. 

For example, below there is an image extracted from the Chainlink use cases web page, where it is graphically explained how a blockchain asset is updated based on a real wold input to an smart contract.

Chainlink oracle NFT

Oracles are an important component of many blockchain applications, and they enable smart contracts to be used in a wider range of use cases. 

However, it is important to note that oracles can also be a potential point of failure or vulnerability, as they rely on external data sources that may be subject to manipulation or attack. 

It is important to carefully consider the security and reliability of oracles when designing and deploying smart contracts.

Traditional Contract vs. Smart Contract

There are several differences between smart contracts and standard contracts, including:

Execution: Smart contracts are self-executing, whereas standard contracts require manual execution by the involved parties or intermediaries.

Automation: Smart contracts can automate the execution of contractual obligations, whereas standard contracts require human intervention to ensure compliance.

Immutability: Smart contracts are immutable and cannot be easily altered or terminated once deployed on the blockchain, whereas standard contracts can be modified or terminated with the agreement of all parties.

Intermediaries: Smart contracts eliminate the need for intermediaries, such as lawyers, banks, or notaries, whereas standard contracts often require third-party involvement.

Transparency: Smart contracts are transparent, visible, and auditable by all network participants, whereas standard contracts may not be visible or accessible to all parties.

Cost: Smart contracts can reduce transaction costs and eliminate the need for intermediaries, whereas standard contracts may involve higher transaction costs due to the involvement of third-party intermediaries.

Speed: Smart contracts can execute and settle transactions faster than traditional contracts, which may involve delays due to the need for human intervention and processing.

Smart Contracts Limitations

While smart contracts offer several advantages over traditional contracts, they also have some limitations, including:

Immutability: The immutability of smart contracts can be a disadvantage in some cases because once a smart contract is deployed, it cannot be easily modified or terminated, even if there are errors or unforeseen circumstances that arise.

Technical complexity: The use of smart contracts requires a certain level of technical expertise and knowledge of blockchain technology, which can be a barrier to adoption for some users.

Legal enforceability: While smart contracts can automate the execution of contractual obligations, they may not be legally enforceable in all jurisdictions. In some cases, traditional contracts may still be required to ensure legal enforceability.

Limited functionality: Smart contracts may not be able to handle complex or unexpected situations that require human judgment or intervention. They are best suited for simple, deterministic processes that can be automated.

Lack of standarization: Smart contracts are still in their early stages of development, and there is currently no standardized protocol for their creation and execution. This lack of standardization can make it difficult for different smart contracts to interact with each other.

Smart Contracts Use Cases

Smart contracts have numerous potential use cases across various traditional industries, including:

Financial Services: Smart contracts can be used to automate financial transactions, such as payment processing, trade settlements, and insurance claims processing.

Supply Chain Management: Smart contracts can be used to track the movement of goods and raw materials, automate the verification of authenticity and provenance, and facilitate payments and settlements.

Real Estate: Smart contracts can be used to automate the process of buying and selling properties, streamline title transfers, and automate property management tasks.

Digital Identity: Smart contracts can be used to manage digital identity verification, authentication, and authorization, as well as secure access to digital assets and services.

Gaming: Smart contracts can be used to automate the distribution of rewards, manage in-game assets, and enable decentralized gaming ecosystems.

Energy Trading: Smart contracts can be used to facilitate peer-to-peer energy trading, allowing individuals and organizations to buy and sell energy directly without intermediaries.

Governance: Smart contracts can be used to automate voting and decision-making processes in organizations and communities, ensuring transparency and accountability.

But while the use of smart contracts in traditional industries is barely developed, smart contracts are already well in use for many blockchain applications.

Smart Contracts in Web3

Web3 refers to the third generation of the internet, which is focused on creating a decentralized and peer-to-peer network that is based on blockchain technology. 

Smart contracts are a critical component of the Web3 ecosystem, as they enable the automation and execution of decentralized applications and services.

In the context of Web3, smart contracts are typically created using programming languages such as Solidity or Vyper, which are designed to run on blockchain networks such as Ethereum. 

These smart contracts are deployed on the blockchain, where they can be accessed and executed by any network participant who meets the specified conditions.

Smart contracts in Web3 can be used to automate various decentralized applications, including decentralized finance (DeFi), non-fungible tokens (NFTs), decentralized exchanges (DEXs), and more. 

They can facilitate transactions, manage digital assets, automate governance processes, and enable new forms of peer-to-peer interactions without intermediaries.

Web3 and smart contracts are still in their early stages of development, but they have the potential to revolutionize various industries and create new economic models based on decentralization and peer-to-peer collaboration.

What Is Web 3? Internet's Future

The transition from Web2 to Web3 technology.

Smart Contracts in NFTs

Smart contracts are a critical component of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) and enable the creation and management of unique digital assets on blockchain networks. NFTs are a type of digital asset that represent ownership of a specific asset or piece of content, such as artwork, music, videos, or virtual real estate.

NFTs are created using smart contracts, which are programmed with specific conditions and rules that govern the ownership and transfer of the digital asset. Once the smart contract is deployed on the blockchain, it is immutable and cannot be altered, ensuring the authenticity and uniqueness of the NFT.

Smart contracts in NFTs enable the creation of new revenue streams for creators, such as artists and musicians, by providing a way to monetize their digital creations directly without intermediaries. They also enable the creation of decentralized marketplaces and platforms where NFTs can be bought and sold, and ownership can be verified using the blockchain.

Smart contracts in NFTs also provide transparency and traceability, allowing the ownership and provenance of the digital asset to be verified and authenticated. This can be particularly useful for artwork and collectibles, where authenticity and provenance are critical factors in determining their value.

Overall, smart contracts are a crucial component of NFTs, enabling the creation and management of unique digital assets on blockchain networks and creating new possibilities for creators, collectors, and investors.

What are NFTs?

Use Cases and Benefits Explained.

Smart Contracts in DAOs

Smart contracts play a crucial role in enabling decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs), which are organizations that operate on a blockchain and are governed by code instead of a centralized authority. Smart contracts in DAOs provide a transparent and secure way to execute business logic, enforce rules, and manage assets.

In a DAO, smart contracts are used to define the organization’s rules, governance structure, and decision-making processes. For example, a DAO may use a smart contract to determine how decisions are made, how funds are allocated, and how members are granted voting rights. The code in the smart contract is transparent and immutable, which means that it cannot be changed without the agreement of the DAO’s members.

Smart contracts in DAOs also enable members to interact with the organization using cryptocurrency or other digital assets. For example, members may be able to vote on proposals or submit proposals for funding directly through the DAO’s smart contract.

One of the key benefits of using smart contracts in DAOs is that they enable decentralized decision-making and governance. Because the rules of the organization are encoded in the smart contract and enforced by the blockchain, there is no need for a centralized authority to make decisions or manage assets. This enables greater transparency, security, and efficiency in the organization’s operations.

Smart Contract Example

Here’s an educative example of a Solidity smart contract that can be used to list an NFT for sale.

Note that this contract assumes that the NFT is an ERC-721 token and that Ether is used as the payment currency. 

In a real-world scenario, additional functionality such as the ability to set and modify the fee percentage, or the ability to handle other types of NFTs or payment.

The code below is only a smart contract example used for educative purpose an must not be used to list NFTs for sale.

Smart Contract Example

The contract has a few different parts, but the most important sections are the constructor function and the buyToken function.

The constructor function is the first function that gets executed when the smart contract is deployed. It sets some initial values, such as the owner of the contract and the price of the NFT.

The buyToken function is what allows someone to purchase the NFT. 

When a buyer sends enough Ether (the cryptocurrency used on the Ethereum blockchain) to the contract address, the function is triggered. 

It then checks that the buyer has sent enough Ether to cover the price of the NFT, and if so, it transfers ownership of the NFT to the buyer and sends the Ether to the seller.

How Hackers Exploit Smart Contracts

Unfortunately, smart contract bugs can be exploited by hackers for their own financial gain. This is because smart contracts are often used to hold and manage large amounts of money or other valuable assets, and any vulnerabilities in the code can be exploited to steal those assets.

One way that hackers can exploit smart contract bugs is by finding a vulnerability in the code that allows them to manipulate the state of the contract in their favor. For example, they may be able to trick the contract into sending them more money than they should have received, or they may be able to change ownership of assets without proper authorization.

Another way that hackers can exploit smart contracts is by using a technique called “reentrancy.” This involves tricking the contract into calling back to the attacker’s code before the original transaction is complete, allowing the attacker to execute additional transactions and potentially steal more assets.

In either case, the results can be devastating for anyone who has money or assets tied up in the contract. That’s why it’s so important to thoroughly test and audit smart contracts before deploying them, and to be aware of potential vulnerabilities that could be exploited by attackers. It’s also important to have a plan in place for how to respond to a hack or exploit if one does occur.

Why Web3 Users Should Understand Smart Contracts Before Approving Transactions

Web3 users should not approve transactions without understanding the smart contract for several reasons. Firstly, smart contracts are self-executing and once a transaction is approved, the contract will execute the code exactly as it is written. This means that if there is a bug or vulnerability in the code, it could lead to unintended consequences and financial losses.

Secondly, many smart contracts have complex rules and conditions that govern how they operate. If a user approves a transaction without understanding these rules and conditions, they could inadvertently trigger a sequence of events that they did not intend.

Thirdly, there is a risk that malicious actors could create fake or malicious contracts designed to steal funds or exploit vulnerabilities. If a user approves a transaction without carefully reviewing the contract and ensuring that it is legitimate, they could fall victim to a scam or fraud.

In summary, Web3 users should always take the time to carefully review and understand any smart contract they are considering interacting with. This includes reviewing the code, understanding the contract’s rules and conditions, and verifying that the contract is legitimate and not a scam or fraud. By doing so, users can help protect themselves from unintended consequences and financial losses, as well as safeguard the integrity of the overall Web3 ecosystem.

Smart Contracts Frequently Asked Questions

The questions from other people are windows to knowledge that maybe we need, but we never consider we missed.

The most common programming languages used to create smart contracts are Solidity (used in Ethereum), Vyper (used in Ethereum), and JavaScript (used in EOS and other blockchain platforms).

To deploy a smart contract on a blockchain network, you need to write the code for the contract, compile it into a bytecode format, and then deploy it to the blockchain using a specific deployment tool or platform. The process may vary depending on the blockchain platform and the development tools being used.

Smart contracts are designed to be secure and tamper-proof, as they are executed on a decentralized blockchain network that uses cryptographic protocols to ensure the integrity and validity of transactions. However, there have been instances of smart contract vulnerabilities and bugs, which have led to security breaches and the loss of funds. It is important to thoroughly test and audit smart contracts before deploying them on the blockchain.

Smart contracts can be used for legally binding agreements, as they can enforce the terms of a contract without the need for intermediaries or centralized authorities. However, the legal status of smart contracts may vary depending on the jurisdiction and the type of contract being executed.

Yes, smart contracts can be used in private or permissioned blockchain networks, as long as the network supports the execution of smart contracts. Private and permissioned blockchains typically have fewer nodes than public blockchains, which can make them faster and more efficient for executing smart contracts.

The future of smart contracts is expected to be bright, as they have the potential to revolutionize the way that contracts are created, executed, and enforced. Smart contracts are already being used in a wide range of industries, and as blockchain technology continues to mature and become more widely adopted, the use cases for smart contracts are likely to expand.

Smart Contracts Terminology You Should Know About

There are some term that every Smart Contract user should be familiar with. 

The programming language used to write smart contracts on the Ethereum platform.

The process of reviewing a smart contract’s code to identify and fix any potential vulnerabilities or flaws.

A smart contract that holds funds or assets until certain conditions are met, such as the completion of a transaction.

A piece of code within a smart contract that performs a specific task.

A trigger that occurs when a specific action happens within a smart contract.

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