What is Solana?
Solana blockchain network supports the development of smart contracts and dApps (decentralized applications). Solana blockchain network is EVM-compatible and highly scalable. Solana is the biggest competitor of decentralized giant ‘Ethereum’ with an unimaginable speed (where each block is generated every 400 milliseconds and there is no need for a layer-2 scaling solution) and much lower fees.
Solana works on the ‘proof-of-stake’ validation model and also employs a previously unseen ‘proof-of-history’ algorithm or clock mechanism that adds a timestamp to every transaction for easy and quick verification. The hash chain on Solana is canonical; however, validators can produce them independently without waiting for committed blocks.
Solana became one of the top performers in the alternative payments space in 2021 and is the fourth biggest cryptocurrency worldwide. Indeed, it is the top choice for developers today with all those automation features, ultra-fast speed, low-cost structure and strong community support.
This blog post is for you if you’re a beginner on Solana and want to explore this space. This Solana development guide intends to give you a clear path to developing on the Solana platform.
Key points to note;
- Smart Contract and dApp development are two different development workflows on Solana.
- Smart Contracts on Solana are called Programs that are developed in Rust, C, and C++ programming languages.
- These programs are deployed on-chain, run via Solana Runtime, and stay there forever.
- For encryption, Solana uses ED25519 and SHA256 for hashing.
- Programs on Solana are smart contracts, and accounts are called buffers. Developers can create accounts with a declared size in bytes and can store arbitrary binary data in them. The accounts are, by default, owned by the system programs.
- The operational unit on Solana is called instruction, and multiple instructions can be clubbed together into a message. Further, a message with an array of signatures is called a transaction.
- The developers coming for the first time into the Solana ecosystem do not require prior knowledge or hands-on experience with smart contracts or Rust to get started here. It is even okay not to have the blockchain experience at all.
Why? Because there are already many programs available for developers to interact with and dApps can be created similar to how you create them in centralized applications with third-party SDKs. (it is as simple as that)
However, once you’re comfortable creating dApps using SDKs, you would want to learn how to create your own programs.
Solana Smart Contract Architecture
Solana has an absolutely different Smart Contract model when compared to any other EVM-based blockchain model. In a traditional setup, the code and state are combined into a single contract, whereas on Solana, smart contracts are stateless and only contain program logic.
There are two types of programs on Solana; the native programs and Solana Program Library (SPL). Native programs act like the backbone of the network. They are upgradeable and work as a foundation for all other essential components on the network. One of the examples of a native program is a ‘system program’ that is vital for account creation. Other native programs are staking and voting programs. An example of an SPL is a token program that allows multiple functions like minting and burning.
Any external accounts can access the smart contracts deployed on the network to store data related to program interaction. Hence, the logical separation of contract code and state takes place, making Solana smart contract development unique from other EVM-enabled blockchain networks.
Anyone can use these programs by submitting transactions to the network via JSON RPC API (Application Programming Interface). Solana also has a Command Line Interface (CLI) to enhance interaction with dApps. DApps can also interact with the blockchain or programs using any existing SDKs (software development kits) built on this API.
Solana Smart Contract Workflow
- Firstly, the 'Program' section allows developers to create smart contracts using Rust, C, and C++ languages, and developers can quickly deploy them on the blockchain.
- After being done with the smart contract development, users must develop dApps using the client SDKs and using JSON RPC API to make them usable.
- The ‘Client’ section allows for the creation of dApps that can interact with the deployed Programs. The decentralized applications can interact with the smart contracts by submitting transactions vis client SDK.
- Subsequently, both ‘Program’ and ‘Client’ will work in collaboration to form a network of applications and contracts that can communicate with each other to update transactions on the blockchain.
Major applications that developers can build on the Solana network are digital tokens, Exchange (DEX) platforms, Web 3 Games, NFTs, Crowdfunding platforms, and Media networks.
Mainly, for all dApps created on the Ethereum network, MetaMask is one of the common wallet tools for entering the world of Web 3.0. MetaMask is the only go-to solution for dApp authentication on Ethereum, many other blockchains and layer-2 networks.
However, the Solana app development process relies on the Phantom wallet to authenticate users. Therefore, just like MetaMask is the go-to wallet for Ethereum, Phantom is the most favored non-custodial Solana wallet. Users can store, send and receive their Solana tokens using the Phantom wallet, and it is available both for mobile users and as a web browser extension.
Why build on Solana – Final Words
The idea of creating on the Solana network can be intimidating at first, especially if you have no experience with the required programming languages. Still, the Solana app development process is created in a way that can cater to all levels of programming experience.
As Solana’s development landscape proves to be the most efficient, fastest and cost-effective solution out there, it becomes easier for budding web 3 developers to take their chances without any difficulties.
App development on Solana is versatile, and developers can build using different programming languages. Also, the ecosystem is such that even non-developers using a few lines of code can interact with the blockchain network skillfully.