Chain Reveals 'Ivy' Smart Contract Language in First Public Demo

Venture-backed startup Chain gives first ever public demo of its Ivy smart contract language.

AccessTimeIconDec 7, 2016 at 7:45 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 11, 2021 at 12:44 p.m. UTC

The 'Wild West' of smart contracts is about to get a little wilder.

Following the first-ever public demo of enterprise blockchain company Chain's in-house smart contracts language this week, the venture-backed startup is now preparing to release the technology to the public.

However, in an exclusive demo of the technology with CoinDesk, the person in charge of developing the language gave a sneak peek at the company's latest creation, explaining, too, what he envisions as its ideal application.

Product architect Dan Robinson told CoinDesk:

"Ivy is particularly useful and well-suited for smart contract use cases that involve controlling property in a particular way. It’s a concept we call secured property or smart property."

Ivy is currently in its R&D phase and is being implemented primarily for internal applications, though he said the expectation is it will eventually be opened to other developers.

Compiled to the Chain Virtual Machine (its stack machine that translates the code and performs operations), Ivy is described on its website as a declarative language in that its control-flow isn't specified, compared to ethereum's Solidity language (which is object oriented with higher organization).

Pulling from the prototypical smart contract example first used by developer Nick Szabo, Robinson said early smart contracts the company developed using the language are functionally similar to a vending machine.

Specifically, he gave the example of a smart contract that would run on a "relatively decentralized exchange" where users can make offers and bids on a multi-asset network. Users could either purchase an underlying asset or a seller could revoke the offer in this paradigm.

Robinson compared it to a vending machine in which a user can unlock a secured asset (such as a bottle of water) in exchange for a few tokens, but only the owner would have direct access to the product prior to its sale and the key to withdraw the received funds:

He said:

"The owner of the vending machine can also go in with his special private key, his physical key, open the vending machine and withdraw the money that’s been paid into it and also the [water bottle] that was protected by it."

Speaking smart contract

While the earliest examples of smart contracts written with the language are bound to be rather simplistic, the release comes into a competitive ecosystem.

Ivy is just the latest in a growing blockchain ecosystem that has seen no shortage of competing in smart contract languages.

For example, in June, blockchain consortium R3 hosted a smart contracts summit to review a wide range of template being experimented with by the likes of Barclays and others.

Then, in August, distributed ledger startup Digital Asset open-sourced its own DAML coding language, which it described as similar to a smart contract language, but designed specifically for the financial industry.

Going into the new year, a series of challenges (including ensuring contract counterparty confidentiality and contract accuracy) are among the top priorities by a number of parties.

However, Robinson described Chain's language as unique, given that it is designed for a future when digital assets (not just distributed ledgers) will be widely used by financial firms.

He concluded:

"A large part of our focus at Chain is financial use cases. Generally, we think that blockchains are most useful when you have some kind of digital asset that is being transferred and issued on a network."

Ivy image via Shutterstock


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