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Cardano’s Vasil Upgrade Marks a Milestone in the Evolution of Blockchain


The average crypto watcher, aware that Ethereum has just completed its long-awaited transition to a proof-of-stake validation system, may wonder what the overall outcome of the Vasil hard fork upgrade on the Cardano blockchain is. occurred at 9:44 p.m. UTC on Thursday, September 22. I(t should be finalized in five days, September 27.)

The significance of Vasil’s rather technical set of changes, which improves the ledger’s programmability and throughput potential, perhaps requires zooming out to see a bigger picture.

Read more: What Cardano’s Highly Anticipated Vasil Hard Fork Will Bring

Cardano, sometimes touted as an “Ethereum killer”, is playing a long game. Critics of this process (divided into “epochs” named after Romantic poets, computer scientists, and Enlightenment thinkers) often criticize the protocol for lagging behind other smart contract blockchains that already host thriving decentralized finance (DeFi) ecosystems and have amassed billions of dollars in total. locked value.

But the early achievements of the leading smart contract platform, Ethereum, are “brilliant but unstructured,” according to Aggelos Kiayias, chief scientist at Cardano builder Input Output Global (IOG). Smart contracts on Cardano are “different,” says Kiayias, who is also a professor of cryptography at the University of Edinburgh.

Smart contracts on Cardano

This is because Cardano is grounded in functional programming, a precise, mathematical way of writing code that uses immutable data to tell the program exactly what to do, as opposed to getting results through state-altering objects. of a program.

“I think a lot of people struggled when smart contracts were launched in Cardano because they were hoping there would be an easy way to transfer complex contracts from Ethereum to Cardano immediately,” Kiayias said in a post. an interview with CoinDesk. “But it requires familiarity with functional programming and having to rethink, what would be the best way to program things in this new environment?

For Kiayias, not only is functional programming a simple and natural approach to take, but when it comes to critical infrastructure, it makes perfect sense. Indeed, the intention of a computer program then becomes very clear and easy to verify. This simplicity also invites the possible automation of this verification. And while some time investment is required, Kiayias said the intricacies of Cardano’s feature-based Plutus script can be simplified by using domain-specific languages ​​such as Marlowe.

Cardano is not the only blockchain to favor formal verification of smart contracts; the Tezos blockchain was also designed with this in mind. These days, however, such concerns may have fallen into disuse amid the DeFi rush.

bitcoin in the blood

Another fundamental difference between Cardano and most other layer-1 smart contract chains is its choice to use a design borrowed from Bitcoin.

Unlike Ethereum, which uses an account-based model rather than a bank’s, Cardano is based on the “unspent transaction output” (UTXO) system, a way of calculating what is held in bitcoin wallets. keeping an eye on the remaining change when fractions of the coins are spent. But Cardano is extending this practice so that it is not constrained by Bitcoin blockchain data limits, an approach known as “extended unspent transaction outputs” (EUTXO).

This design naturally corresponded to a deterministic functional approach and has significant advantages, explained Kiayias.

“Either a transaction matches the current extended UTXO set and spends some UTXO and introduces others, or it doesn’t match,” he said. “So I have this deterministic assurance as to how my transaction is going to interact with the state of the blockchain and not be modified by other transactions.”

This is not the case for an account-based model like Ethereum, Kiayias pointed out. “In this case, I cannot fully predict how my transaction will interact with the state of the blockchain, because other transactions may be ‘sandwiched’ before my transaction, modifying it, and then my transaction commits basically with a state that didn’t exist when I issued it. That actually makes a huge difference for smart contracts.

Large-scale security

Tying this to the changes implemented by Vasil will make Cardano’s UTXO pattern more easily referenced, keeping more load on the chain, which is better for scaling and is also better from a scaling perspective. Security.

“Upgrading Vasil will make it possible to refer to UTXOs, and there are substantial space savings because of that,” Kiayias said. “So while in theory it’s a small accounting consideration, it’s a huge benefit in practice.”

Kiayias said it’s nothing new in the tech world to see people rushing, which has arguably turned DeFi into something of a hacker’s playground.

“If I want to improve usability or speed, I can always do better than you by sacrificing security,” Kiayias said, defending Cardano’s methodical approach and careful academic peer review process.

“But I think we still need a scientific way to assess system security,” he added.

Cardano’s native cryptocurrency, ADA, has risen around 4% in the past 24 hours, trading at 46 cents at press time.

Update: Friday, September 23, 2022, 01:27 UTC: Edited to reflect the update made at 21:44 UTC in the first paragraph.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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