Hey! It’s great seeing you here. I am Ed, the Engineer and today I’m going to open up my secret toolbox and share some great tools I use to build Blockchains.
If you’re a Blockchain developer or a developer-to-be, you’ve come to the right place! If you are not one, maybe you should consider becoming one.
“There are only 5,000 developers dedicated to writing software for cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin, and blockchain in general. And perhaps another 20,000 had dabbled with the technology, or have written front end applications that connect with the blockchain.”
– William Mougayar, The Business Blockchain
Decentralized apps or dapps, as they are fondly called, are serverless applications that can be run on the client-side, within a blockchain based distributed network.
We’re going to learn what the best tools are to build dapps and over the next few minutes, we’ll take these tools apart one by one. For a better understanding of where they fit into our development cycle, we’ll group them up into stages – just like the buildings we build.
So, shall we begin? Yes, we can!! 😉
The Foundation: Platforms
The first and foremost element for any structure to stand tall and strong is its foundation. The same goes for Blockchain apps. Here, in place of all the mortar and other things, we’ve got Decentralized and Public blockchains. There are several existing networks on the likes of Bitcoin, Ethereum or Hyperledger that can be used to build dapps. Ethereum and Bitcoin are both decentralized, public chains that are open source, while Hyperledger is private and also open source. Bitcoin may not be a good choice to build dapps on as it was originally designed for peer-to-peer transactions and not for building smart contracts.
The Pillars of Concrete: Languages
Now, once you’ve got your foundation in place, you need to start raising pillars that will act as the skeleton for your applications. How do we do this? Well, we’ve got two great languages specifically for building dapps.
Before the dawn of Solidity, Serpent was the reigning language for building dapps. Something like how bricks replaced stone to build massive structures. Serpent though is still being used in many places to build dapps and it has great real-time garbage collection.
The Transit Mixers: Frameworks
After you choose your language to build dapps, you need a framework to simplify the mixing of concrete to build your pillars. I find these frameworks interesting:
Here is another great framework for Ethereum, which boasts of taking on the task of managing your contract artifacts for you. It includes support for the library that links complex Ethereum apps and provides custom deployments.
The Contractors: Integrated Development Environments
Maybe, you are not the kind that likes to build things from scratch. You just need a one-stop place where you can tell what kind of building you want and everything else just falls in place. Hire a contractor.
If you’re looking for the complete package to build dapps, there are two great tools you can use, Ethereum Studio and Remix (Browser-Solidity). The IDE takes care of everything – right from emulating the live network to testing and deploying your dapps.
This is an adapted version of Cloud9, built for Ethereum with some additional tools. It has a blockchain emulator called the sandbox, which is great for writing automated tests. Fair warning: You must pay for this tool as it’s not open source and you must use Azure Cloud to access it.
This can pretty much do the same things that Ethereum Studio can. You can run Remix from your local computer and allow it to communicate with an Ethereum node client that’s on your local machine. This will let you execute smart contracts while connected to your local blockchain. Remix is still under development during the time of writing this article.
The Rebound Hammer: Testing tools
Nothing goes live until it’s tried and tested. Just like the rebound hammer you may use to check the quality of concrete, we have a great tool that helps you test dapps.
For testing purposes, use the testnet, an alternative blockchain. Whether you want to create a new dapp using Ethereum or any other chain, I recommend that you use the related testnet, which ideally works as a substitute in place of the true blockchain that you will be using for the real dapp. Testnet coins are different from actual bitcoins, and do not hold any value, allowing you as a developer or tester to experiment, without needing to use real bitcoins or having to worry about breaking the primary bitcoin chain.
The Wallpaper: dapp Browsers
Once you’ve developed your dapp, it needs to look pretty for the consumers to use. Dapp browsers are mostly the User Interfaces for the Decentralized Web. Two popular tools that help you bring dapps to your browser are Mist and Metamask.
It is a popular browser for decentralized web apps. Just as Firefox or Chrome are for the Web 2.0, the Mist Browser will be for the decentralized Web 3.0. Ethereum developers would be able to use Mist not only to store Ether or send transactions but to also deploy smart contracts.
With Metamask, you can comfortably run dapps in your browser without having to run a full Ethereum node. It includes a secure identity vault that provides a UI to manage your identities on various sites, as well as sign blockchain contracts.
There! Now you can build a Blockchain!
Now you have all the tools you need to make amazing and reliable dapps. I know you’re always hungry for more – this Github repo created by Christopher Allen has a great listing of tools and resources you can use to begin/improve your Blockchain development skills.
If you’re one of those lazy-but-smart folks who want to get things done at the click of a mouse button, then BaaS or Blockchain as a Service is something you might be interested in. There are several big players in this market at the moment, on the likes of IBM, Azure, SAP and AWS. BaaS is basically for organizations and enterprises that need blockchain networks that are open, trusted and ready for business. If you go the BaaS way, let me warn you – you’re probably going to miss out on all the fun of building your very own blockchain from scratch.
With so many banks and financial entities beginning to set up their blockchains for recording transactions and transfer of assets, and investors betting billions on distributed ledger-related startups, there are hardly a handful of developers out there, who have the required skills.
This leaves you with a strong enough reason to develop great blockchains and sharpen your skills in the area. Our Building Blockchain Projects book should help you put some of these tools to use in building reliable and robust dapps.
So what are you waiting for? Go grab it now and have fun building blockchains!