On 20 April 2023, Lucas Rosa, a Cardano Foundation initiate and one of the founders behind Aiken (named after Computing Pioneer Howard Aiken), published an article outlining the primary concepts of a new language and toolchain for writing smart contracts on Cardano. Then, the developer community had barely heard about Aiken, let alone use it for their dApp validators. Less than half a year later, TxPipe’s creation has made most major Cardano DeFi projects rethink their app concept and structure.
Projects like Lenfi, Indigo and Minswap have already acknowledged the merits of Aiken as a viable alternative to IOG’s Plutus-Tx. And for a reason — it introduces unparalleled efficiency and ease of use, making it attractive to developers of all levels of expertise.
Besides, Aiken’s game-changing properties have been further legitimized by appraisals from Solidity developers. Here’s how the programming language opened new prospects for projects like Lenfi:
Ideation and Beginning of the Aiken Project
As stated in Aiken: The Future of Smart Contracts, the original home of the project is TxPipe. The concept is an organic response to the dire need for a functional programming language for Cardano dApps. While the initial idea was started by Lucas Rosa, Kasey White, and Matthias Benkort, the list of contributors exceeds 20 developers. Despite failing to receive Catalyst funding in 2022, TxPipe went ahead with initializing the project. Later, the Cardano Foundation supported the project with engineering resources.
Surprisingly, it didn’t take long before developers started noticing the advantages the language named after Howard Aiken could offer. Some recent events that legitimize its significance include the Kucoin Aiken X Space, RareEvo 2023, Bitrue CF AMA X Space, and many other events and interviews. As the interest continues to grow exponentially, more developers compare Aiken to Solidity.
Top 3 Most Significant Improvements That Aiken Provides
Prompt from the Aiken “Hello World” Lib
Of course, the views upheld by Aiken’s most significant contributors have certainly influenced its course of development. Undoubtedly, merits like open-source and transparent code are must-have prerequisites for mass adoption, and the smart contract language does not disappoint. Still, it shows way more than that and excels in almost every aspect compared to Plutus-Tx. Here are its three most notable features:
- Easy to learn and use: Aiken leverages zero configuration with quick, user-friendly feedback. The built-in test framework simplifies writing and ensures proper and robust smart contract execution.
- Better performance and smaller scripts: The smart contract language enables cost-efficient smart contract development by allowing resource usage monitoring. Moreover, its low-level script argument injection provides control and flexibility in contract design.
3. Optimized tooling, Language Server Protocol (LSP), unit tests, and autogenerated documentation: The combination of LSP with auto-formatting and features like syntax highlighting significantly improve the coding experience. Moreover, the comprehensive library documentation makes the process intuitive and visually appealing, ensuring a consistent code style suitable for efficient collaboration.
Future outlook and development updates
Over the course of its existence, Aiken has undergone regular updates that further boost its intuitiveness and efficiency. Upcoming upgrades include LSP and tooling improvements in preparation for switching from alpha to beta release. With over 10 releases and multiple libraries supported by documentation, Aiken presents a promising environment for all Cardano developers. Of course, the proof is in the numbers, and it’s more than evident that many projects are switching or already switched to the programming language.
5 Notable Projects Building in Aiken
- Minswap — The popular Cardano DEX reinventing its code base using Aiken for its V2 release.
- Lenfi — Lenfi is the first Cardano lending protocol written in Aiken. Its V1 rework was open-sourced in March 2023. Its pooled lending version is already on testnet and awaiting imminent launch.
- Sundae — Sundae contributed to the cause with several reusable Aiken libraries called Aicone.
- Encoins — The first privacy-oriented protocol on Cardano.
- Mehen — The first fiat-backed stablecoin protocol on Cardano.
Honorable mention: Butane — Butane is a synthetics protocol that’s set to launch in Q1 2024. Its unique feature is atomic composability with multi-asset collateral, leveraging Aiken’s resource-conscious efficiency.
How Lenfi Benefits From Using Aiken
Apart from the aforementioned benefits, Lenfi takes advantage of the following Aiken features:
- Blueprint Stub Generation: This streamlines the integration process with off-chain components like Lucid. The blueprint generates a plutus.json file, which can then be used with Lucid’s type-generator, reducing human error and improving smart contracts’ security.
- Multi Validators — this allows a spending validator and minting validator to share the same script hash. This method enables the team at Lenfi to design our architectural solutions more efficiently.
About Lenfi’s Pooled Lending
Lenfi is a protocol enabling greater access to liquidity by locking Cardano native tokens as collateral. Its Aiken-built platform encompasses a multifaceted solution supporting both peer-to-peer and pooled lending. The latter will be the frontrunner, introducing brand-new features to Cardano DeFi. Some notable innovations include:
- Permissionless pool creation and tokenized pool ownership via Pool Manager NFTs;
- Algorithmic APR with fixed loan rates;
- Decentralized oracles and liquidations;
The upcoming pooled version of the Lenfi protocol is currently undergoing an audit by Anastasia Labs. Make sure you try it out on testnet here. You can read more information about its features in the Lenfi Lightpaper.
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