There’s a new smart contracts platform in town, and its name is Soroban. It’s pretty neat and is currently in its seventh preview release on a shared test network called Futurenet. The Stellar Development Foundation (SDF) has launched a myriad of programs to encourage crucial early adoption of the platform that so far includes a couple of Sorobanathons (Equinox is still accepting submissions), a hackathon, and two rounds of the Stellar Community Fund (SCF).
And we’re happy to say that these programs are working. The community has already built some cool projects, tools, and educational materials, many starting from humble hackathon beginnings and progressing into full-fledged SCF products.
I had the chance to sit down with the creators and developers of three such projects, where we ruminated on their work, experiences with Soroban-related programs, and what it’s like to develop in a greenfield environment. If you’ve been waffling on whether or not to start building on Soroban, hearing about these experiences might just be the spark of inspiration needed to bring that idea to life.
Hemanth Krishna, Shubham Palriwala, and Rishabh Keshan were nice enough to stay awake until 11:30 PM in India to chat with me about their Soroban IDE, titled Sorobix. Sorobix is a community-first, developer-centric, and open-source platform that allows the user to write, compile, deploy, and interact with Soroban smart contracts over their browser without any local setup.
The team saw the need for such a tool as they were tinkering with Soroban and discovered that setting up Rust, downloading the soroban-cli, and writing and deploying their first contract took about an hour. This kind of time is critical in keeping a developer’s interest, so being able to easily experiment with smart contracts directly in the browser lowers the barrier to entry for first-timers joining the Soroban ecosystem. Along with Sorobix’s snappy utility, the team is also focused on keeping the tool’s UI clean and intuitive, even as they add new features.
“Our aim with the product is to keep Soroban as accessible as possible to help bring new developers on board.”
Although Sorobix is now a full-fledged product, the team didn’t always have this end goal in mind. Sorobix started as a Hacka-Soroban-athon submission that the team pulled together in 48 hours without any prior Soroban or Stellar experience. So not only were they building a new prototype in Soroban’s rapidly changing environment, but they were doing so while also learning new technologies. Despite these challenges, their Web3 and Rust experience (Hemanth is a self-proclaimed Rust fanboy) helped them build the hackathon’s winning submission.
Now normally, hackathon projects don’t really progress post-event. However, with support and encouragement from the community and SDF, the Sorobix team has continued to develop their project and moved on to participate in the Stellar Community Fund.
“Both SDF and the community have been really helpful in supporting the development of our project and giving us constant reviews. We are excited to provide a meaningful tool for the Soroban ecosystem.”
Along with the feedback received from the Soroban Adoption Fund programs and the Stellar Developer Discord, the Sorobix team has also enjoyed the open-source, collaborative nature of Soroban’s development. The transparency has helped them understand what changes are being made to the platform and why — and so far, these updates have made Soroban faster and more efficient, something I’m sure we can all get behind.
As a previous blog post mentioned, tools such as IDEs will contribute massively to the Soroban ecosystem’s success. Go ahead and check out the Sorobix IDE alpha, tinker around, and provide suggestions to the team. Feedback is imperative as they continue to develop their tool.
We are thrilled to see the project progress and for the Sorobix team to become pioneers of the Soroban ecosystem!
Unlike Sorobix, the members of Chaincerts (Einer Zapata, Juan Hurtado, and Lorenzo Zuluaga, developers at LATAM-based company kommit) are no strangers to Stellar. Over the last four years in the ecosystem, they’ve built Stellar’s Elixir SDK and created an internal Stellar-based compensation program called mitkoin. And like many other devs, Stellar’s lack of smart contract capabilities caused the team to explore elsewhere to work on certain projects. After having subpar experiences with other networks and communities, kommit was excited to hear about smart contracts on Stellar and immediately started training their team in Rust and delving into Soroban’s tech.
The team submitted a couple of initial contract examples to Sorobanathon: First Light — an organization’s rewards contract, and a cascading donations contract — before taking part in the Stellar Community Fund with Chaincerts, an end-user service that revolutionizes the way that certifications are issued, verified, and showcased. The application issues visually appealing certifications as verifiable, non-transferable soulbound tokens (tokens that represent an individual or entity’s achievements or characteristics) that are managed through Soroban smart contracts.
The Chaincerts idea originated internally. kommit runs a program that trains employees on important topics such as how to write OKRs and KPIs, and they were looking to provide blockchain-based certifications for completing these programs. Current certification management systems are outdated and susceptible to falsification and manipulation. Moving the process to the blockchain ensures uniqueness while also providing credibility, decentralization, transparency, and ownership.
Chaincerts has evolved significantly from the team’s experiences in Sorobanathon: First Light to the project’s submission in SCF. Progressing through the programs has helped the team quickly get up to speed on all things Rust and Soroban.
“Rust is a complicated language. But you only need to know the basics to write a simple smart contract, so you naturally improve your Rust knowledge as you learn and use Soroban.”
And learning on the fly comes with the territory. As Soroban is still in development, changes to the platform and SDK happen regularly. But the Chaincerts team has a good technique for adapting to this kind of environment called progressive deployment, where they develop in smaller building blocks. This strategy allows them to progress on their projects while also incorporating new improvements.
Chaincerts isn’t all the team is focused on, they’re also innovating with a couple of other projects running on Soroban, including a Soroban library that allows Elixir developers to build decentralized applications. They are committed to the Web3 ecosystem and believe that blockchain and smart contracts open up amazing implications for the future. We can’t wait to see what the kommit team builds next!
Morgan Wilde, the brain behind useSoroban.app, heard about Stellar way back in 2014 from the Y Combinator Startup School. He had been a programmer for several years and soon started experimenting with the network by playing with transactions and composing operations. However, similar to the Chaincerts team, he lost interest when there weren’t any smart contract capabilities.
Over the years, Morgan moved on to work with other networks and hit some ceilings along the way, including a lack of decentralization on one chain and restrictions that caused a poor user experience on another. He started doing research on what network to try next, heard about Soroban on Stellar, and the rest is history.
Morgan created sorobandev.com for Sorobanathon: First Light, where he detailed his experiences experimenting with Soroban and Rust and designed various tools and example applications, including a tool for interacting with the Soroban RPC. Following Sorobananthon, he had an “aha!” moment, figured that you didn’t necessarily need the RPC tool to play with smart contracts, and decided he wanted to build a playground tool that allowed the user to interact with Soroban directly in the browser.
By the time Hacka-Soroban-athon launched, Morgan was well on his way to knowing what he wanted to build and was hyper-focused on his goal. For the hackathon, he did an eight-hour stream where he started his project from scratch, and people could watch as he figured things out in real-time.
“I had nothing prepared, and you could see me meandering through every line of code wondering, ‘Why is this breaking’? It was a little slice of life.”
With a clear path in front of him, Morgan began to prepare his SCF application for useSoroban.app, an accessible browser-based playground for web developers to experiment with Soroban. He was inspired by how difficult it can be for web devs to onboard onto smart contract platforms. These types of developers are typically used to zero-setup tools that work in the browser, so reducing the time-to-interaction keeps them engaged and interested. Morgan hopes useSoroban.app will help anyone that’s fresh to the ecosystem get started with Soroban quickly and easily.
Morgan’s experience working with Soroban’s rapidly developing greenfield environment has been unique and exciting. Although none of the products he’s building work longer than a month without needing an update, he knows the changes improve the platform, and he’s enjoyed the pace of development and being able to contribute new and useful ideas.
“There are a lot of EVM-compatible platforms that seem to recycle the same ideas. But with Soroban, I can experiment and find new ways to contribute meaningfully to the ecosystem.”
Morgan is confident in his ability to make useSoroban.app the best smart contract playground experience out there. And these types of tools are vital for Soroban’s growing ecosystem, so we’re excited for this to become a reality!
That’s it, folks! These are just a few examples of the cool tools and projects being built either using Soroban or improving Soroban’s developer experience. If you’re interested in learning more about these projects or viewing others, check out the Stellar Community Fund project list or attend the SCF #12 project pitches happening live in the Stellar Developer Discord at 11 AM EDT this Friday.
If you’ve been contemplating a Soroban content idea, check out Sorobanathon: Equinox — the program is accepting submissions until April 1st. And for full-fledged project ideas, apply to the SCF Startup Camp before March 28th to accelerate your Stellar and Soroban project from idea to user-tested prototype in a matter of days with the support of members from SDF, the ecosystem, and beyond.
And as always, keep your eyes open for more Soroban Adoption Fund programs becoming available as we continue moving toward Soroban’s Mainnet launch later this year!