At the end of last year, IOHK, the organization that supports open-source development including the Cardano project, announced their devnets plan to support the “longer-term strategic goal” of opening up Cardano to several different development languages – as explained in the ‘‘Island, Ocean, Pond” video.
This past week, building further on the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM), IOHK is introducing another software development environment to support development using the Glow programming language.
François-René Rideau of Mutual Knowledge Systems is reportedly the creator of Glow, a DSL that will allow people to author “verifiable” decentralized applications (dApps) from a single specification and they’ll also be able to deploy it on an EVM network.
The Cardano community was first introduced to GLOW and MuKn toward the end of 2020, which was when IOHK announced their devnets approach.
While commenting on how he began working with IOHK, Rideau noted:
“I began my career proving the correctness of a centralized payment protocol but soon, I wanted to move on. I’ve been involved in crypto since 2014. Eventually I found Cardano and I realized how much I like the community. We have a similar focus on doing things the right way. That is why I wanted to port my domain specific language to GLOW to Cardano.”
Responding to a question about why he started his company Mutual Knowledge Systems, or as he calls it MuKn (Moon), Rideau revealed that nearly three years ago, he had been reviewing various whitepapers. He also mentioned that he “understood techniques for some and economics for the others.”
He added that “some, I understood a little bit of the economics and none of the techniques.” He further noted that by reading whitepapers that did not actually solve the underlying problems, he began to realize or felt he “could do better.” So, that’s why he started developing a scaling solution.
“A friend suggested that I work on scaling for smart contracts. At first, I tried to make a company around scaling but soon we discovered that language and logic were crucial for everyone in the decentralized space. Now, we have a company called Mutual Knowledge Systems which is built around our programming language GLOW. In essence, GLOW is a much better way to write applications than existing languages.”
He further explained that writing a decentralized application is the “single hardest thing to do in the world.” That’s because you cannot afford to make a mistake, Rideau claims. He also noted that “any error means a significant loss of user funds” and “on top of that, the tools didn’t exist to create the most secure DApps.” That’s why his company decided to create those tools, Rideau noted.
“When you make a DApp you are not just fighting random errors, you are fighting active adversaries. An attacker will always attempt to make bad things happen in your ecosystem, it can be very profitable for them. The military can guard their hardware infrastructure and make sure that software is secret. Developers in the blockchain space don’t have that luxury. With a DApp, part of it must be public. That means you can’t hide every bug or exploit.”
Rideau also mentioned that he believes that to write a software or computer program, you must use a “domain specific” language and a “formal set of tools and techniques.” He explained that the “power of simplicity and abstraction allows us to do all the reasoning necessary with less attack surface.” He pointed out that it’s “harder to check a million lines of code for a bug, but if you have a 1000 lines, then you can make sure it remains safe.”
While discussing what appealed to him about the Cardano community, he noted:
“I started like everyone else, on Ethereum. When I met the Cardano community I felt we thought in the same way. We want to do things that are correct and things that work. We think in the long term, not about if it just works for today. We want to build on stone and not quicksand. At times, this can be frustrating because things go slow, but I am happy with the attention to detail and quality in the development of Cardano. Is it perfect? No, it’s not. But it’s got great fundamentals.”
While commenting on how he’s hoping Glow will change the DApp developer experience, Rideaau explained that Glow is portable. He clarified that now it works on both Cardano and Ethereum, however, in the future it will also work with any blockchain platform that is “sufficiently advanced.” He added that this means that you may run your application once and you’ll “never have to worry about it working on any other platform.”
He further noted that developers will run their app on the blockchain or distributed ledger tech (DLT) network that “works the best and those that work best will shine on their own merits.” He claims that this makes blockchains “compete to bring a solid value proposition.”
Rideau revealed that they’ll be launching this early version of GLOW that is developed on the EVM. They already have “something to show,” he claims, while clarifying that it’s not yet “production ready.” However, they are able to “demonstrate simple applications.” He also mentioned that users are able to see how they can write a 20 line application which “performs along the same lines as a hundred line application.” He added that while they are not yet ready for the “full launch,” he believes they have “something exciting to show.”
“GLOW can be used to target any smart contract in the EVM network. That means that Cardano can run any smart contracts written with GLOW on the sidechain. Glow is still in development. There are some things that it can do and some it can’t. We invite anyone to join the Glow community where we are actively adding features. If you have a great project maybe we can prioritize features that you need.”