January 3, 2023

Top Smart Contract Programming Languages for Blockchain Developers

Table of Contents

As we approach the Web3 era, the demand for developers proficient in smart contract programming languages is increasing. This is not surprising as smart contracts are core elements in Web3 and pretty much rule how things operate. With that said, if you want to future-proof your career in Web3, mastering one of the available smart contract programming languages is key. But which one out of all these languages is the best one for you? Which is the most popular one? These questions are just some that we’ll answer in this article. Furthermore, after completing this article, you’ll have a solid understanding of smart contract programming languages and the many ways to become a Web3 developer today! 

Moving forward, we’ll first cover the basics, and you’ll have a chance to understand smart contracts – what they are and how they work. Then, we’ll explain what smart contract programming languages are. This is also where you’ll learn what the most popular smart contract programming language is. We’ll also go over a list of the top smart contract programming languages and do a quick overview of some of them. Last but not least, we’ll explain how you can start developing all sorts of decentralized applications (dapps) the easy way. After all, you can do a lot with existing smart contracts and slowly ease into smart contract development over time. Moreover, if effortless dapp development interests you, make sure to create your free Moralis account and start BUIDLing!

illustrative image showing multiple elements in a phone built using various smart contract programming languages

Exploring Smart Contracts and Languages

Before focusing on smart contract languages, we need to get you all up to speed. Our initial goal is to make sure that you know what smart contracts are. Next, we’ll be able to focus on the core topic of today’s article. However, even though you all probably know this, let’s first repeat what programming languages are.

Programming languages, also known as coding or computer languages, are systems of notation for writing pieces of software, scripts, and other sets of instructions. Programming languages are the base of consistent and reliable programming. They are globally universal, which enables communities from different parts of the world to join forces. Furthermore, the majority of programming languages are text-based, and that text is typically based on the English language. People have created nearly 9,000 programming languages so far (according to the Online Historical Encyclopaedia of Programming Languages). However, only about one-tenth of them are active, and only a fraction of the active ones are used by larger groups of devs. These are known as the leading programming languages. Moreover, as far as smart contract programming languages go, there are currently only a few alternatives available.    

two men handshaking a deal physically while typing up a smart contract

What are Smart Contracts?

Smart contracts are on-chain pieces of software or programs. They are lines of code deployed on programmable blockchains, such as Ethereum. Both “smart” and “contract” point to the core characteristics of these on-chain programs. They are “smart” because they are fully automated. Once deployed, smart contracts do what they are programmed to do without any intermediary. Furthermore, the “contract” part indicates a binding agreement these pieces of software enforce. Essentially, smart contracts trigger specific predefined actions when certain predefined conditions are met. 

With this definition in mind, you probably already see the power of such automation. Combined with the transparent nature of Web3, everyone can view the code of these on-chain programs. As such, devs can work on top of each others’ lines of code. Moreover, many case-specific smart contracts have already been created, and their verified templates are publicly available. Moreover, we can expect more of them to emerge as Web3 develops. 

All in all, smart contracts have the potential to create a trustless world – a world where you don’t have to trust the other party. Instead, the trust is coded in the program, and anyone can verify it. This means that most industries will be disrupted to the core as the need for intermediaries will no longer exist. 

So, let’s say you want to use a smart contract to buy a piece of land. That kind of contract would automatically transfer ownership proof to your account as soon as your payment goes through. Nonetheless, smart contracts govern all cryptocurrencies. The former enforces the predefined rules regarding their transactions and ownership.         

outlined code from various smart contract programming languages such as Solidity, Vyper, and Rust

What are Smart Contract Programming Languages?

Smart contract programming languages are all programming languages we can use to write smart contracts. Some of these were created from scratch solely for writing contracts, while others came from existing languages.

Many new development blockchains have emerged over the years, and, in turn, many new programming languages have seen the light of day. Moreover, many blockchain dev foundations and communities have created special programming language wrappers enabling devs to use their legacy skills to write smart contracts. These options are already available for certain blockchains. Of course, we can expect more of those solutions as the blockchain realm goes mainstream.    

Now, what language is used to write smart contracts? There’s no straight answer to that question, as it all depends on which blockchain a smart contract is targeting. Plus, certain blockchains support more than one smart contract programming language. However, the chances are pretty high that the smart contract in question is written in the most popular smart contract language or any other of the top smart contract programming languages listed below. 

Solidity in front of a computer

What is the Most Popular Smart Contract Programming Language?

The first (and to this day) and the most popular smart contract programming language is Solidity. It was developed by Christian Reitwiessner and Alex Beregszaszi in collaboration with several former Ethereum core contributors. As such, this programming language focuses on the Ethereum chain and running scripts on Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM). This also means you can use Solidity to create smart contracts for other EVM-compatible chains (BNB Chain, Polygon, Avalanche, etc.). Since Ethereum was the first programmable chain, Solidity already has quite some millage and, thus, a proven track record.

Solidity is an object-oriented, high-level, curly-bracket programming language. Furthermore, according to the Solidity documentation, its developers drew inspiration primarily from C++, Python, and JavaScript. This smart contract programming language is statically typed, meaning that the variable type is known at compile time. It also supports inheritance, complex user-defined types, libraries, and other features. Essentially, Solidity enables you to create all sorts of smart contracts that will run on EVM.

The main advantages of Solidity include the following:

  • A large and accessible community 
  • Turing-completeness (can run any computable functions)
  • Uses concepts known to other modern programming languages
  • It’s quite easy to start with

On the other hand, Solidity has one main disadvantage – it is a rather new programming language. Consequently, devs need to learn it from scratch. Plus, the libraries and other tools are still young; hence, you may face many challenges.

The following is a simple “Hello World” Solidity smart contract example:

pragma solidity >=0.7.3;

contract HelloWorld {

   event UpdatedMessages(string oldStr, string newStr);

   string public message;

   constructor(string memory initMessage) {

      message = initMessage;
   }

   function update(string memory newMessage) public {
      string memory oldMsg = message;
      message = newMessage;
      emit UpdatedMessages(oldMsg, newMessage);
   }
}

List of the Top Smart Contract Programming Languages

Aside from Solidity, there are several other smart contract programming languages. In fact, here’s the list of the leading options and the leading chains these languages target:

  • Solidity (Ethereum and other EVM-compatible chains)
  • Rust (Solana, Polkadot, NEAR, and others)
  • Vyper (Ethereum and other EVM-compatible chains)
  • Yul and Yul+ (an intermediate language used for the Solidity compiler)
  • JavaScript (NodeJS) (Hyperledger Fabric, NEAR)  
  • C++ (EOS)

Rust, JavaScript, and C++ are well-known and popular legacy programming languages. We strongly encourage you to do further research regarding these on your own since we cannot cover them in this article. Moreover, since we’ve already covered Solidity above, let’s quickly cover Vyper and Yul.

Vyper logo on top of a laptop

Meet Vyper

Vyper is a “pythonic”, strong-typed programming language designed for writing EVM-compatible smart contracts. It comes with a small and understandable compiler code, and it also has efficient bytecode generation. Furthermore, Vyper creators intentionally designed it to have fewer features than Solidity in order to make contracts more secure. This simplification should also make smart contracts easier to audit. With that said, note that Vyper does not support modifiers, inheritance, inline assembly, function overloading, operator overloading, recursive calling, infinite-length loops, and binary fixed points. 

Programming languages for blockchain developers comparison.

Here’s also a simple “Hello World” Vyper smart contract example: 

# @version ^0.2.0

greet: public(String[100])

@external
def __init__():
	self.greet = "Hello World”

Meet Yul and Yul+

Note: If you want to work with Yul and Yul+, you’ll first want to get familiar either with Solidity or with Vyper. Moreover, the Ethereum Foundation recommends exploring this smart contract programming language only when you properly understand smart contract security and the best practices of working with EVM. 

Yul is an intermediate programming language for Ethereum that supports EVM and ewasm (Ethereum-flavored WebAssembly). Furthermore, Yul has a good target for high-level optimization stages. The latter can benefit both EVM and ewasm platforms. Nonetheless, Yul comes with a low-level, highly efficient extension: Yul+. The latter was initially designed for an optimistic rollup contract. Essentially, you can look at Yul+ as an experimental upgrade proposal to Yul. 

The following is a simple Yul example contract:

{
    function power(base, exponent) -> result
    {
        switch exponent
        case 0 { result := 1 }
        case 1 { result := base }
        default
        {
            result := power(mul(base, base), div(exponent, 2))
            if mod(exponent, 2) { result := mul(base, result) }
        }
    }
    let res := power(calldataload(0), calldataload(32))
    mstore(0, res)
    return(0, 32)
}

Join the Web3 Revolution Today!

Now’s the best time to learn how to join the Web3 revolution with your legacy skills. Sure, in case you know JavaScript, Rust, or C++, you can start writing smart contracts for certain blockchains. However, it’s worth repeating that you do not need to write smart contracts and master one of the smart programming languages above to create a wide range of dapps. By utilizing existing smart contracts, you can offer a ton of value to Web3 users. Even if you know how to create your Web3 contracts, you still want a straightforward way to implement them into your dapps since they are the top layer of the current blockchain tech stack. This is where Moralis simplifies things, making the development process feel like a breeze!

Moralis is an enterprise-grade Web3 API provider that enables you to query all sorts of on-chain data with single lines of code. The Moralis fleet includes the ultimate EVM API (a.k.a. Ethereum API), Solana API, NFT API, Web3 Auth API, Token API, and Streams API. With these powerful tools at your disposal, you can work with Web3 contract methods and call a smart contract function from JavaScript or any other Web2 programming language. After all, Moralis supports all leading programming languages:  

Moralis documentation page outlining its supported languages

With Moralis, you can deploy your dapps to any of the leading blockchains. That way, you’ll never depend on any single network. Moreover, Moralis already supports the most popular blockchains and is continuously adding support for new reputable chains:

On top of the option to easily fetch all NFT, token, and transaction data, with Moralis, you can easily implement Web3 authentication. Thanks to Moralis’ Streams API, you don’t have to listen to smart contract events using ethers.js. What’s more, a free Moralis account grants you access to all the tools offered by Moralis! 

Top Smart Contract Programming Languages for Blockchain Developers – Summary

After reading this article, you’ve gained a solid understanding of smart contract programming languages and smart contracts. As such, you know what they are and how they work. You also know that Solidity is the leading programming language for writing smart contracts. In addition, you were able to find out that you may use Rust to write on-chain programs; however, not on the Ethereum chain. You also learned the basics of the Vyper and Yul smart contract programming languages. Last but not least, you had a chance to learn about Moralis – the ultimate Web3 API provider. Consequently, you now know that aside from fetching on-chain data, Moralis also empowers you with a Web3 JS call contract function. Hence, it is the ultimate dapp-creating toolbox. 

With the knowledge obtained in today’s article, you have two options. On the one hand, you can focus on mastering one of the leading smart contract programming languages. Or, use your existing legacy skills and start creating dapps easily with Moralis. If you choose the first option, you should enroll in Moralis Academy and take the “Ethereum Smart Contract Programming 101” course. However, if you prefer the second option, you should dive into tutorials awaiting in the Moralis documentation. This is where you can learn how to use all Moralis API endpoints. Moreover, do not forget to explore other blockchain development topics on the Moralis blog and the Moralis YouTube channel.   

poster from the Ethereum smart contract programming course on Moralis Academy
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