On June 3rd, the Microsoft Research team announced a new verification tool for securing smart contracts written in Solidity, the predominant programming language of the Ethereum network.

That tool, dubbed VeriSol, was produced in a collaborative effort between Microsoft Research, the tech giant’s innovation arm, and Microsoft Azure Blockchain, the company’s cloud computing arm aimed at helping enterprises and institutions easily build their own blockchain applications.

Microsoft

Notably, the tool isn’t merely a goodwill contribution to the cryptoeconomy (though it has been open-sourced), as Azure Blockchain will leverage the Solidity analyzer to help their own institutional clients’ products. As the team’s Senior Software Engineer Cody Born explained on the news:

“VeriSol allows us to iterate more quickly because of the automatic and continuous checking, and it allows us to catch bugs faster without having to worry about potentially affecting customers.”

Smart contracts can’t be edited on the fly once they’re live, so it’s key to meticulously review their code before activating them on the Ethereum mainnet — otherwise bugs can wreak catastrophe with tangible economic consequences.

April, a fiat-crypto ramp for the Dai stablecoin called DAIHard conducted its beta launch, but due to bugs, a whitehat hacker drained the contracts before a more malicious agent could. Accordingly, the idea with VeriSol is to quickly and efficiently catch such Solidity discrepancies before, not after, they cause problems.

Microsoft Embraces Blockchain

VeriSol’s announcement comes on the heels of several high-profile blockchain embraces in the Microsoft ecosystem as of late.

In just this month alone, the company or its various arms have added the Bitcoin unicode symbol to to the widely popular Microsoft Excel spreadsheet system; revealed a decentralized ID project built atop Bitcoin; and announced Azure Blockchain support for Quorum, JP Morgan’s permissioned fork of Ethereum.

Indeed, Microsoft’s position as a stakeholder in the wider blockchain space is growing, and tools like the open-source VeriSol will now help projects beyond its direct purview grow, too. To that end, Microsoft Principal Researcher Shuvendu Lahiri noted of the verifier:

“We envision empowering not just Azure Blockchain developers and customers, but contributing to a full blockchain ecosystem that is safer and helping people realize the full potential of the technology without being plagued by the costly mistakes in smart contracts.”

And thus the activity and public infrastructure around smart contract technology — and particularly around Ethereum, the largest smart contract platform to date — continues to steadily bloom.

Alas, Microsoft isn’t the only industry titan releasing free tech centered on Ethereum, either. “Big Four” accounting powerhouse EY released its Nightfall privacy tool just days ago.

Solidity 101

First outlined in 2014 by Ethereum co-founder Gavin Wood, Solidity was eventually built out by a group of Ethereum developers headed up by Christian Reitwiessner.

The language was loosely inspired by aspects of other popular and more mainstream programming languages like JavaScript, Python, and C++. For that reason, newcomers to programming that are interested in learning Solidity are recommended to delve into one of its influencers as a starting point.

According to Solidity’s documentation, the language fundamentally builds contracts as follows:

“A contract in the sense of Solidity is a collection of code (its functions) and data (its state) that resides at a specific address on the Ethereum blockchain.”

Thus Solidity gives developers the ability to “govern the behaviour of accounts within the Ethereum state,” its documentation explains.

Those interested in giving Solidity a further twirl might explore Andreas Antonopoulos’s and Gavin Wood’s explainer text Mastering Ethereum or sign up for CryptoZombies, a free educational resource that helps beginners learn to code a zombie-based game in the language.

The early bird gets the worm, of course. Per the momentum Ethereum has already gained to date, it seems likely Solidity will be around for decades to come.


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Posted by William M. Peaster

William M. Peaster is an editor and cryptocurrency writer. He is not a financial adviser. He enjoys covering both the promise and warts of the emerging cryptoeconomy. Follow him on Twitter: @WPeaster


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