Blog > 2021 > January

Introducing the new Plutus Playground

Developers are invited to test out our improved smart contract tools before full release

25 January 2021 Olga Hryniuk 4 mins read

Introducing the new Plutus Playground

Goguen is Cardano’s development theme that focuses on utility, smart contract support, and native token issuance. While delivering it as a system of interactive components, we are gradually adding all the building blocks to add smart contracts to the Cardano platform.

Goguen brings native token support along with Plutus and Marlowe to help develop the smart contracts that are essential to establishing a global, decentralized financial system. To lay the groundwork, we have introduced transaction metadata, upgraded the ledger to support token locking (which is essential for complex smart contracts), and will soon deploy native token support for multi-assets. We are also building devnets to bring in other developer communities.

Now, we have refreshed and upgraded the Plutus Playground and we are encouraging developers to contribute to its growth by testing the pre-release version.

What is the Plutus Playground?

Plutus Playground provides an environment for writing and testing smart contracts before they are released on the Cardano blockchain. Plutus Core, which is the smart-contract language embedded into the ledger, is based on Haskell formal programming principles and allows developers to write high-assurance applications that interact with Cardano. Haskell was chosen as the basis for the Plutus Platform because it stands out from other programming languages for offering the ability to write more secure code. Using Haskell for smart contract deployment ensures that contracts are programmed to do exactly what they are expected to and can be tested for accuracy before implementation.

As well as providing a web-based simulator for writing and executing smart contracts, the new Plutus Playground also allows users to access popular smart contracts that have already been written. An early version was previewed at PlutusFest in December 2018. Since then, the project has expanded considerably and this new release of Plutus Playground reflects that.

Who is it for?

Plutus Playground is for people creating decentralized applications (DApps), and smart contract programmers who wish to work with Cardano. Plutus will become a platform for building DApps for supply chains, track and trace, medical records, identity voting, property registration, P2P payments, and financial systems. Thus, it will serve the needs of audiences such as:

  • companies, large and small
  • governments
  • the Cardano community and ada holders
  • entrepreneurs.

Plutus Playground features and improvements

So, now is the time for developers to start building Plutus contracts and testing them prior to the deployment of Plutus on the Cardano mainnet later this year. Plutus Playground works through your web browser and there is no need to install software. There are tutorials on compiling and simulating smart contracts written by the Plutus team.

Improvements have been made to the backend software, reported issues have been addressed, and the interface is even better.

Plutus Playground UI

Figure 1. The old Plutus Playground editor (left) compared with the new interface, which is now available

As with the existing Plutus Playground, the interface is split into three sections:

  • editor
  • simulation
  • transactions.

The simulator shows how a contract will behave on the Cardano blockchain. An important aspect of this is that it can act as a training tool for people who do not have advanced developer skills because it demonstrates the working principles. Users can define and modify the wallets that interact with a contract, as well as the actions that affect the outcome. The results can then be evaluated to see what happens on the blockchain and how transactions occur.

The Plutus Playground offers a choice of keyboard setups. Developers can choose between Vim and Emacs options or stick with the default keyboard.

We have also refreshed the look and feel with UX improvements. Finally, the simulator is more realistic in the way it runs Plutus applications, and as previously, it can be linked with GitHub accounts to save contracts and any work in progress. You can find a full technical walkthrough here.

How to get involved

We are now encouraging experienced developers (and less experienced ones too!) to test Plutus Playground before the final offering. If you are interested in smart contracts and wish to get involved, we are eager to hear your feedback.

The Playground refresh goes live today at https://playground.plutus.iohkdev.io/. You can join Plutus discussions at the Cardano Forum and visit the Plutus GitHub repository. For access to additional support and resources, register your interest by filling out this Typeform for us to add you to our Slack community.

Our new delegation strategy – announcing the pools we’re supporting

We are committed to a vibrant pool ecosystem and we’re supporting that by delegating to 100 community pools

22 January 2021 Tim Harrison 7 mins read

Our new delegation strategy – announcing the pools we’re supporting

The Cardano stake pool community powers the Cardano network; the health and vitality of this critical operator ecosystem is essential to the effective running of the protocol. And as we continue to evolve Cardano’s utility through Goguen, this will become ever more important. Staking with quality pools is the very best way to give back to the Cardano community.

Like any ecosystem, success comes from the balancing of interests, dissemination of power, and the variety and diversity of actors. And like an economy, a balance of commercial influence; bigger players, smaller players offering greater diversity and a healthy core in between.

As much as ‘code is law’ (and features the judiciary?) we can all recognize the inputs, outputs, human behaviours and social dynamics that shape the community which surrounds and supports any blockchain protocol.

So as part of our continuing commitment to healthy ecosystem growth, we recently outlined our new strategy for delegating IOG’s ada funds. We instigated this delegation strategy to support our long-term vision for Cardano’s growth and evolution and reaffirm the values we espouse. All in line with following a fiscally sound path which can maintain the commercial viability of our organization.

A positive response

We put out the call for delegation in December. Our community responded very positively, and by the time we closed for entries just before the Christmas break, we had received just under 300 (299 in fact) applications for delegation. We have since retired all but one of our public pools – their creation was always an entirely tactical activity – and we’re now shifting toward our longer term strategic intent.

The process

Over the past two weeks, we have reviewed all entries from our call for delegation. The process has been relatively complex. We have tried to identify a cross section of pools based on a number of factors, all important on their own merit. Viewed holistically, these factors provide an invaluable map of the SPO environment. Among the key factors (and within them, variables) that we took into account were:

Purpose – is this a purely commercial venture, or is it doing something to give back or pay forward to the community or the wider world (content, education, support for the disadvantaged, sustainable practice, donations to charity, etc. )

Geography – are they an active and committed player in an under-represented region?

Technical contribution – is the SPO running a best-in-class technical operation or building (tools, applications etc.) on Cardano? Have they been a contributor since the ITN – or longer?

Stake and pledge ratio – what is the ratio here? Is the amount of pledge ‘reasonable’ given their stake, or does this SPOs ‘commitment to the network’ –through pledge – suggest they ‘deserve’ a higher level of delegation from the community?

Community engagement – are they an active member of the SPO community? Are they adding value through positive role-modelling on social, or supporting other community members via contributing to guilds/alliances etc. Are they helping drive visibility and adoption in an ethical, sustainable way?

The selection process has been challenging, iterative, illuminating and inspiring.

Challenging because we have not been able to delegate to every pool we might have liked to – our SPO community is hugely talented and not everyone got a delegation in this first cohort. While we applied some basic filters to narrow down the field from 299, we still had a long list of probably 75% of that number. So we had to look at factors more holistically; this was not a yes/no choice. Kudos, by the way, to pooltool.io and adapools for providing additional data sources during the process.

As our first-ever program, we had always regarded this as a ‘pilot’ we would evolve iteratively. Initially, we planned to classify pools separately. Pools centered on purpose or mission-driven objectives vs. those focused on more technocratic factors. For a start, we were surprised at the number of mission driven pools within the ecosystem. Given our broader mission as a community, perhaps this shouldn't have been a surprise. However, once we dug into the data, it became clear that many pools were hard to classify, adding value in a number of ways; purpose, technical contribution, geographic spread, community contribution. The very best pools here set the standard for all.

Choosing pools

The selection process was illuminating due to the richness of the data set, which reflected the diversity and breadth of our community. We gained some powerful insights. So much so, in fact, that we plan to anonymize the data set and share a subset with the community a little further down the line, both to identify elements we need to iterate, and to provide a snapshot of community growth and evolution over time. Think of it as a quarterly ‘census’ of the SPO community.

That same richness has been truly inspiring – SPOs in dozens of countries, across every continent (except Antarctica… hmm… now there’s a challenge for someone to take up!). Tangible evidence of a young, but fast-maturing community committed to excellence, collaboration, and making a positive difference in the world. All through Cardano.

So let’s meet the pools we have selected:

Congratulations to our very first 100-strong pool cohort. We’ll start delegating to our selected pools from the end of January/early February (based on operational considerations), staking IOG funds of 3.2M ada per pool to support block production. Each quarter through 2021, we shall recruit a fresh cohort and update this list accordingly.

We want to make our approach as visible as possible. We have created a dedicated Twitter list, so you can follow our first cohort. And while we have no formal guidelines, we see these delegations as bootstrapping; pools should continue doing what they do within the community and look to organically grow their delegate base, while we delegate to them.

To check out some of these pools, visit pooltool.io or adapools and search on each ticker. You will also shortly be able to filter by dedicated lists. Additionally, we’ll also be introducing some of them here on the blog and to our monthly show over the weeks and months ahead.

Looking ahead

If you were not selected this time, take heart. We had many more pools than we could delegate to this time. We encourage all pools that missed out to apply again for the fresh cohort in Q2; we’ll make a new call for applications at the end of March and rotate delegations at the end of April.

Every pool will need to reapply. However, we shall simplify the process for pools that missed out this time. It is also important to note that as the ecosystem grows, we are seeing some strong community contributors emerge who did not apply for delegation. We also welcome community feedback on how we can continue to grow and evolve the process.

Please check out the program and if you want some support bootstrapping your pool operation (or providing ‘block security’ while you grow your organic delegate base) don't miss out next time.

We are delighted to see many pools grow from strength to strength. Equally, when a smaller pool calls out that they are stalling, we must listen. Alongside this program, your choice as a delegator is key to supporting a pool ecosystem of abundance and generosity. Because there lies growth and the community we all desire. This is what we do. As the leading crypto community, it is something we should all be very proud of.

IOG is committed to seeing the Cardano ecosystem grow and flourish. We will continue to play our part. And remember, as a community, we all have our parts to play.

Project Catalyst – the first winning proposals

The community has spoken and 11 projects will receive funding to advance the Cardano ecosystem

12 January 2021 Dor Garbash 4 mins read

Project Catalyst – the first winning proposals

Project Catalyst is an ongoing experiment in exploring decentralized innovation and collaboration at its highest level. As the first stage in the Voltaire roadmap, it challenges participants to pool their ingenuity, creativity and passion to identify ground-breaking projects that support Cardano’s growth. 

Fund2 was the first time that Project Catalyst participants pitched, debated, refined, and voted on proposals using real ada. This was aimed at enhancing and bringing new value to Cardano. We challenged Fund2 participants to come up with ways to encourage Cardano ecosystem development in the next six months. With an available initial ada fund worth $250,000, we are able to fund 11 proposals.

Today, we are thrilled to announce the funded proposals in Fund2.

PoolTool platform upgrade: Opening avenues to build businesses and applications on Cardano that differentiate between stake pool operators by offering additional products. This upgrade is aimed at increasing infrastructure diversity across Cardano.

Ouroboros over RINA: Deploying a proof of concept stake pool and relay solution of Ouroboros over RINA using Ethernet/WDM at two sites in Tokyo, Japan. 

Haskell/Plutus/Marlowe education: Creating educational content that conveys complex information in a structured way, supplemented with examples that inspire ideas. This proposal makes it easier for new developers and entrepreneurs.

Create a message-signing standard: Generating a message-signing standard to prove reserves, identity, and stake pool delegation. 

Liqwid: Cardano lending markets for decentralized finance: Creating an open-source, non-custodial liquidity protocol to earn interest on deposits and borrow assets on Cardano.

Cardano for mobile DApp developers: Turning mobile platforms into the first-class citizens of the DApp world with mobile SDKs, mobile-first DApp experience and app store compatibility. 

GimbaLabs – starter kits and tools: GimbaLabs is a startup platform providing free and open source APIs, lessons, and project-based learning resources to help people bring their ideas to life on Cardano and so drive adoption of the blockchain.

Lovelace Academy for Marlowe and Plutus: Establishing an online academy to attract, inspire and educate individuals and companies to create applications on Cardano's smart contract and native assets platform. 

Sign Tx Arduino: Starting a library for code written in the C programming language that is compatible with the Arduino development environment.  Sign local Cardano transactions in advance of smart contracts being available to  enable applications for the internet of things (IoT). 

Pet Registry DApp with ₳Pay: Helping developers accept ada payments on websites. The Pet Registry DApp, built on ₳Pay, will service a global audience in a cheaper, better way. Devs are inspired by successful apps and the tools needed to build them, By creating both, we can inspire and accelerate devs and their solutions.

Japan Cardano Governance Association: Meetings & Communities & Podcasts: supporting online/offline meetups, governance podcasts etc. for our Japanese community.

On behalf of the Project Catalyst team, we want to congratulate all of these exciting projects. Each funded team will receive their ada by the end of January so they can begin bringing their ideas to life. We are looking forward to seeing the impact of these projects on the Cardano ecosystem. 

We also want to extend our congratulations and gratitude to everyone else who participated in Fund2. Our proposers, community advisers, collaborators and voters all had a hand in making Fund2 a success. Project Catalyst is all about putting the community in command of Cardano and you have demonstrated that the future of our ecosystem is in very good hands. 

Although 11 ideas have been funded this time, a number of strong contenders met the community voting threshold but missed out on funding this time. In the linked PDF, those projects highlighted in green have secured community funding. Those in yellow were approved for funding by the community, but the treasury did not have enough funding to support their proposals. We’ll be encouraging these proposers to resubmit their ideas for the just-launched Fund3 where relevant (with its focus on the DApp ecosystem) and we hope to see the best of these funded by the community next time.

We have bold and ambitious plans for Project Catalyst in 2021, with ada worth millions of dollars being made available to fund innovation on Cardano. Submission for proposals for Fund3 will open tomorrow, don’t miss out on the opportunity to make your voice heard.

If you’d like to join the Project Catalyst community as a proposer, community adviser, implementer or voter, please join us on Ideascale and start innovating alongside our global network of participants. Sign up to the Telegram announcement channel for the latest news. 

Project Catalyst blasts off into 2021

New fund will commit $500k in ada to find groundbreaking ideas which accelerate Cardano development

6 January 2021 Eric Czuleger 5 mins read

 Project Catalyst blasts off into 2021

Project Catalyst is the first stage in our Voltaire roadmap, created to bring best-in-class governance to Cardano. Effective governance is vital to Cardano because it gives the power to shape the blockchain to its users. Anyone who signs up to Catalyst will be able to propose ideas, and then registered ada holders will vote on funding proposals focused on the continued evolution of Cardano as a platform and a community. This will not only accelerate development but also sustain the Cardano ecosystem in the long term. 

This journey began with two test funds, and then Catalyst swung into action for real with Fund2 in September. With it we saw a very early – and remarkable – example of decentralized collaboration. Thousands of people came together – proposing teams, community advisers and ada-holding voters – to generate, refine and prioritize funding for proposals to drive Cardano forward.

Voting on Fund2 has just concluded and tallying of the votes is under way. Soon, the winning teams will receive funding to help make their proposals a reality. Join our dedicated Telegram channel for Catalyst and stay tuned to our social channels for updates on this.

Challenge accepted

Meanwhile, with barely a beat, we’re moving forward with even greater purpose by harnessing the community momentum integral to Catalyst. Fund3 launches today and we want to expand the Catalyst community with every fund, encouraging ever more people to get involved.

If you’re not familiar with Project Catalyst, this is how it works. Every funding round begins with a defined set of challenges. Each challenge represents an ‘intention’ by the Cardano community, a collective goal we’d like to achieve – we like to talk of return on intention as the way of measuring progress for the project! Each challenge is designed to be broad enough to inspire both technical and general ideas, while being specific enough to provide focus. As long as an idea addresses a challenge and makes a strong case for meeting the intended outcome, it will be considered. So we welcome all proposals, from marketing initiatives and infrastructure development, to content production and product enhancement. 

Project Catalyst relies on the ingenuity of a global network of participants so all ideas are encouraged and can always be ‘re-entered’ for future funds if they do not meet the challenge criteria at hand.

Fund2 contained a pool of ada worth $250,000 and Fund3 doubles that, distributing $500,000 in ada between proposers, voters, and community advisers. Fund3 has three challenges:

  1. Developer ecosystem challenge: How can we encourage developers to build on Cardano in the next six months?
  2. DApp creation challenge: What decentralized applications (DApps) should be funded to drive user adoption in the next six months?
  3. ‘Community choice’ challenge: This new category is where we ask the community itself to set one or more challenges, which will have their own funding round in Fund5. An additional $500,000 pool will be available to cover any goal the community wishes to set, whether it’s about executing the community roadmap, funding content or podcasts, encouraging non-profit work or whatever else is determined to be a priority.

So how do you participate in Project Catalyst?

From sharing insights to submitting ideas 

First of all, anyone wishing to get involved with the project, whether as a proposer, adviser or simply a voter, should sign up to our collaboration platform. You do not have to be an ada holder to propose an idea or take part in the discussion phase. 

Fund3 begins with an insight-sharing phase in which people can give their perspectives on the challenge before proposals are launched. Think of this phase as a community brainstorming forum to inspire proposers.

After the discussion of the challenge, participants with proposals will publicly submit an initial draft.

Refining ideas, finalizing proposals and review

Community members will be invited to provide constructive criticism, offer suggestions, give positive affirmations in the form of ‘kudos’, and even offer to form partnerships and collaborations with proposing teams. The goal is to pool community knowledge and expertise – and Catalyst members are a diverse crew with valuable life and professional experience to offer. The following graph shows the makeup of people who signed up for Fund2:

After community feedback is given, proposers are afforded the opportunity to revise and finalize their plans.

Once proposals are ready, a group of expert reviewers, recruited as community advisers, will give a rating for how well each one addresses the challenge. After this, ada holders can register and then cast their vote. The votes, which are weighted according to the size of each voter’s holding, are then counted and requested funds distributed to the winning proposals.

Looking forward

Fund2 generated incredible creativity and strong proposals, some of which will soon be funded into reality. We expect even greater things from Fund3 as we start building a thriving DApp ecosystem on Cardano. We call Project Catalyst an ‘experiment’ – and we intend to encourage this spirit for some time to come. But our intent is very real and very determined. Every week that goes by presents opportunities to improve and refine this groundbreaking program for, and with, the Cardano community.

Join us in developing Cardano’s on-chain governance by signing up to our IdeaScale collaboration platform and our dedicated Catalyst Telegram channel.

The final days of Christmas

The past, present, and future of Cardano in the spirit of an olde English counting song

4 January 2021 Anthony Quinn 3 mins read

The final days of Christmas

These are our final two thoughts about the past, present and future of Cardano in the spirit of an olde English counting song. There's one for each of The Twelve Days of Christmas, from December 25 to January 5, published in four batches. You can look back to the first batch, which went out on Christmas Eve.

Day 11. Charles Morgan, head of cybersecurity

My brief takes in a wide range of activities, from the obvious aspects of securing our websites, to advising staff on their physical safety on their travels (such as putting a wedge under a hotel bedroom door!), and enforcing two-factor authentication for almost 250 people around the world (Yubikeys are brilliant for this). And we’re having to deal with an awful lot more than Santa coming down the chimney, as you can see from these security statistics over the past year. Can you believe that one in five of the billions of files online are completely open for global access? Scary stuff if that’s your health records or financial information.

I have three interesting items I am working on the moment. The first is theft detection, tracing and anti-money-laundering strategies for Cardano using machine cognition. Then, there’s the automation of security audits and anomaly detection. And, on a more personal level, I’m working towards my Ethical Hacker v11 certification.

As for 2021, I am looking forward to having more team members in cybersecurity. This is going to allow us to be far more proactive in our security posture, in running dynamic and static audits of our products, and it will allow us to pursue ISO/IEC 27001 certification and compliance. This work is critical to Input Output becoming recognised globally as a technologically-stable company, which, thereby, will bolster confidence in Cardano and our products based on the blockchain platform.

Day 12. Rob Moore, digital deliveries manager

The Shelley launch and the start of decentralization for Cardano was a monumental event for the project. The whole of the web team was on call in case anything unforeseen happened, but, of course, all we ended up doing was watching the transition take place. However, even playing that bit part in helping to make Shelley happen is something I won't forget in a hurry. 

Setting ourselves up to deliver quality creative work has been absorbing much of my time recently. December’s Mantis launch of a new client for developers working with Ethereum Classic is a taste of things to come.

Live music, seeing friends and family, having plans, meeting work colleagues in real life, going abroad. All the things we used to take for granted. These are the things I’ve been missing and hope to get back to in 2021.

That completes our Twelve Days of Christmas. We hope some of them – whether on Daedalus, Japanese poetry, decentralized identity or the thoughts of a dreaming octopus – have struck a chord with you. The rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas by the choir of Clare College Cambridge has certainly raised plenty of laughs. Here's to an exciting 2021!