A smart contract is a self-executing digital contract enforced by the terms of an agreement that are written into lines of code. When a smart contract’s predefined rules are met, the agreement is automatically enforced and the contract is executed.
The term “smart contract” was first proposed by Nick Szabo in 1994. Szabo defined smart contracts as computerized transaction protocols that execute terms of a contract. He envisioned smart contracts to revolutionize financial transactions by bringing them to the digital realm. With the advent of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology, Szabo’s vision is being fulfilled as smart contracts are being implemented on blockchain or distributed ledger technology.
Smart contracts enable credible transactions to be executed without third parties and are thus superior to traditional contract law and reduces the transaction costs associated with contracting. They allow anything of value to be transacted in a transparent, trustless, and conflict free way without a middleman. Therefore, smart contracts have the potential to disrupt and revolutionize a number of industries with their numerous use cases.
Such use cases include and are not limited to; banking and financial services, prediction markets, insurance, digital identity, real estate and land titles recording, authorship and intellectual property rights, the internet of things (IoT), tax records, and more.
Smart contract technology is being implemented on a multitude of cryptocurrencies and blockchain protocols that enable developers to write their own programs and smart contracts. Ethereum is the most notable blockchain protocol enabling smart contracts and others include EOS, Cardano, NEO, Hyperledger, NEM, Tron, and the list goes on.