What are EVM Compatible Blockchains? (2023)
An important offshoot of Ethereum's innovation is the emergence of EVM-compatible blockchains. But what exactly does "EVM-compatible" mean, and why does it matter? Let's dive in.
Ethereum, launched in 2015, ushered in a new era of blockchain technology by introducing Smart Contracts and the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) to the world. These advancements extended the scope of blockchain technology beyond mere transactions and into programmable contracts. An important offshoot of Ethereum's innovation is the emergence of EVM-compatible blockchains. But what exactly does "EVM-compatible" mean, and why does it matter?
What is EVM?
The Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) is a component of the Ethereum network that executes smart contracts. It's a Turing-complete virtual machine, which means it can run scripts of arbitrary algorithmic complexity given enough time and memory.
In simpler terms, you can think of the EVM as a global, decentralized computer where all smart contracts are run. Each Ethereum node runs its own EVM instance, which helps to maintain consensus across the blockchain—each node agrees on the outcome of computations and transactions.
Smart contracts are scripts of code that developers write in high-level languages like Solidity or Vyper, which are then compiled down to EVM bytecode and deployed on the Ethereum blockchain. When a smart contract is called (i.e., when someone interacts with it), the EVM executes the contract's code.
Importantly, the EVM is completely isolated from the main network, which means each smart contract has no access to the network, file system, or other processes. This isolation increases security and consistency throughout the Ethereum ecosystem.
Understanding Ethereum and the EVM
Ethereum set itself apart by creating an environment where developers could write and deploy Smart Contracts - self-executing contracts with the terms of the agreement directly written into code. These contracts run on the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM), a distributed computer that executes the code contained in these contracts.
The EVM operates on an isolated environment for each contract, ensuring security and preventing any potential interference between contracts. This environment is Turing-complete, meaning it can solve any computational problem given enough resources. It's important to note that while the EVM is a part of Ethereum's ecosystem, it is agnostic to the underlying hardware and operating system, allowing it to run on any computer that supports Ethereum1.
EVM-Compatible Blockchains: A Definition
An EVM-compatible blockchain is one that can run, or emulate, the Ethereum Virtual Machine. In essence, it means the blockchain is capable of executing Ethereum's Smart Contracts and supports the programming languages Ethereum uses, such as Solidity and Vyper. Essentially, they've adopted the EVM as their standard for executing Smart Contracts.
By being EVM-compatible, these blockchains can leverage the vast number of existing Ethereum DApps (Decentralized Applications), developers familiar with Ethereum's toolsets, and Ethereum's thriving community. In other words, EVM compatibility opens up a new blockchain to an established and active ecosystem.
Examples of EVM-Compatible Blockchains
Several blockchains have chosen to be EVM-compatible to take advantage of Ethereum's features and community. Some examples include Binance Smart Chain (BSC), Polygon (previously Matic Network), and Avalanche.
Binance Smart Chain is an example of a blockchain that opted for EVM compatibility to tap into Ethereum's vibrant ecosystem. BSC not only supports EVM but also maintains compatibility with the existing Ethereum network. As a result, it has been able to host a variety of DeFi (Decentralized Finance) applications initially built for Ethereum.
Polygon is another blockchain that provides EVM compatibility. Polygon is a layer 2 scaling solution for Ethereum, meaning it aims to improve Ethereum's scalability by processing transactions off the main Ethereum chain. However, to maintain interoperability with Ethereum and its applications, Polygon also supports the EVM.
Avalanche, while it has its unique virtual machine, the Avalanche Virtual Machine (AVM), also supports the EVM to allow for compatibility with Ethereum-based applications.
Advantages of EVM Compatibility
EVM compatibility brings with it several advantages for a blockchain. First, it gives developers the ability to port their applications to other blockchains without needing to rewrite them. It also allows developers to write DApps using Solidity, a language many are already familiar with, rather than having to learn a new language for each blockchain.
From a user perspective, EVM compatibility means that they can interact with DApps on these blockchains using their Ethereum wallets, like MetaMask. This ease of access can be a significant factor in user adoption and the overall success of a blockchain.
Moreover, EVM-compatible blockchains often offer improved scalability and lower transaction fees compared to Ethereum, making them attractive alternatives for DApps and users that are priced out of the Ethereum network due to high gas costs.
EVM compatibility also enables enhanced portability and interoperability across different blockchains, since Smart Contracts and DApps developed for one EVM-compatible chain can be easily migrated to another with minimal code modifications. This portability feature eliminates the need to create separate codebases for each chain, which in turn reduces development costs and time.
Finally, the broader user base and developer ecosystem that Ethereum provides can also be accessed by DApps built on EVM-compatible blockchains. With Ethereum boasting a user base of 100M+ unique wallets, the potential for mass adoption of DApps on EVM-compatible networks is significantly amplified.
The Future: A Multi-Chain World
As blockchain technology evolves, the future appears to be trending towards a multi-chain ecosystem. EVM-compatible blockchains are critical players in this shift as they can optimize for scalability and efficiency while still leveraging everything that the Ethereum network has to offer.
In this context, EVM compatibility is more than just a technical specification. It becomes a gateway to a broader ecosystem, enabling access to a vast community of developers, a rich array of DApps, and an established infrastructure. With EVM-compatible blockchains, applications built are not restricted to a single chain but can interact and operate across multiple chains, broadening their reach and potential impact.
How do I build my dApp on EVM compatible blockchains?
Building a decentralized application (dApp) on an EVM-compatible blockchain follows a process similar to developing on Ethereum itself, given the shared underlying architecture. Here's a general step-by-step guide:
Learn Solidity: Solidity is the primary programming language used to write smart contracts for EVM-compatible blockchains. Familiarize yourself with the syntax and concepts, such as state variables, functions, and inheritance.
Install Development Tools: Install necessary development tools including:
- Truffle: Truffle is a development environment, testing framework, and asset pipeline for blockchains using the EVM. It simplifies the process of developing, testing, and deploying smart contracts.
- Ganache: Ganache is a personal blockchain for Ethereum development you can use to deploy contracts, develop applications, and run tests.
- MetaMask: MetaMask is a browser extension that allows you to interact with the Ethereum blockchain, including test networks.
Write Your Smart Contracts: Using Solidity, write the smart contracts that will govern the operation of your dApp. Smart contracts are the backbone of your dApp, controlling its logic and data.
Deploy Your Smart Contracts: Once you've tested your smart contracts, you can deploy them to the EVM-compatible blockchain of your choice. You'll need to have some of the blockchain's native cryptocurrency to pay for transaction costs.
Integrate with MetaMask: MetaMask allows users to interact with your dApp from their browser. It handles account management and transaction signing.
Test Your Complete dApp: With everything put together, thoroughly test your complete dApp. This should include both automated tests and manual user testing.
Deploy Your dApp: Once you're confident in your dApp's functionality and security, you can deploy it to a live network.
Remember, this is a general guide. The specifics can vary based on the EVM-compatible blockchain you choose to deploy on. For example, deploying on Binance Smart Chain (BSC) would involve configuring your development tools to work with BSC's network and acquiring BNB to pay for transaction costs. Always refer to the specific documentation for the EVM-compatible blockchain you're using for the most accurate information.
Finally, ensure that you follow best practices for secure smart contract development. The Ethereum ecosystem has developed a set of security patterns and practices to avoid common pitfalls and vulnerabilities. Even when deploying on EVM-compatible blockchains, these principles remain critically important
In summary, an EVM-compatible blockchain is one that can run the Ethereum Virtual Machine, enabling it to execute Smart Contracts and DApps initially designed for Ethereum. These blockchains benefit from the established ecosystem that Ethereum provides, including a wide developer base, existing DApps, and a large user base.
The key to understanding the importance of EVM compatibility lies in recognizing the value of interoperability and the potential of a multi-chain future. As we continue to innovate and explore the capabilities of blockchain technology, EVM-compatible blockchains will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in shaping the landscape of decentralized applications and the broader blockchain ecosystem.