update 19 August 2021

A Guide to Digital Asset Modelling Language (DAML) Opensource

The invention of blockchain technology has led to smart contracts, which are machine-encoded self-executing contracts. The terms of the contract between the participating parties are written into code. And with the rapid growth of smart contracts, various smart contract languages have been launched in the crypto space.

Digital Asset Modelling Language (DAML) is a smart contract language developed by Digital Asset Holdings (DA). It was explicitly designed for distributed ledgers to enable safe, real-time, definite, and high-level specific business environments. 

This article seeks to explore DAML in greater lengths, looking at its open-source step, benefits, properties, and how it’s different from other smart contract languages and prospects. 

DAML Goes Open Source

On April 4, 2019, Digital Asset announced that the DAML smart contract language was going open source. Following the announcement, the source code for the software would be available to all developers for free. 

The announcement stated that developers and other interested parties would access the DAML language, source code, Software Development Kit (SDK), and runtime. They would only need an Apache 2.0 license. With the license, developers and third parties can modify DAML and integrate it with other platforms. Additionally, the DAML SDK Developer Preview was made available to all developers after being released in private beta in 2018.

Commenting on the decisions to open source DAML, Shaul Kfir, Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at Digital Asset, said: “By open-sourcing DAML, our goal is to enable rapid innovation across the industry by allowing users to focus on developing value for their business and leveraging a variety of deployment options.”  

The decision to open-source DAML was a lifesaving step for Digital Asset. The company had been experiencing a bad run following the exit of CEO Blythe Masters. Since going open source, the platform has already garnered plenty of developers and third parties thanks to its compatibility with distributed ledgers, blockchains, cloud service, and even a traditional database. 

DAML allows anyone to modify, extend, fork, or even integrate DAML to their platform. Thanks to DAML open-source smart contract programming language, Digital Asset has made several lucrative partnerships with organizations such as WeBank, Dell Computer, VMware, and Hyperledger consortium, which consists of close to 200 members.        

DAML Explained

As mentioned earlier, DAML is a functional smart contract language. It is used to create digital assets such as smart contracts for distributed ledger or blockchain networks. DAML is Haskell inspired and specifically designed for distributed business environments or workflows. It enables a safe and real-time application logic regarding distributed ledger, cloud server, blockchain, or database. 

When using DAML to develop a smart contract, developers specify how the contracts should be formed. They also specify what parties to authorize the arrangements and those delegated with rights. DAML then expresses the rights, obligations, and authorization as per the contract and the necessary integrations and infrastructure. In doing so, DAML allows investors to focus on their core businesses rather than how to encode the agreement.    

How DAML Works

DAML works just like any other smart contract language. The language constitutes two significant subsets – runtime and the language itself, which makes up a more substantial portion of the technology. It enables developers to specify all the contract agreements as well as facilitate the transactions. 

APIs link the runtime to the language and integrate it to DLT, blockchain, and other platforms to execute the language. The runtime functions to confer versatility allowing DAML applications to be deployed across various platforms. 

Properties of DAML

DAML features several properties, as outlined below. 

  • DAML is a Contract Language

DAML is a smart contract language meaning that it provides developers a platform to write smart contracts. Through DAML, programmers describe the contract process, and the language will consequently handle the subsections of the agreement, such as contracts, rights, parties, authorization, obligations, and others. 

  • DAML is Open Source 

DAML went open source on April 4, 2019, allowing developers to modify or customize the source code to meet their needs. Today, DAML allows retailers, financial institutions, and the healthcare sector, among other third parties, to create and execute smart contracts on the platforms without the problem of vendor lock-in. 

  • DAML is a Private Language 

DAML achieves privacy by automatically tracking parties that are authorized to view the details of each contract. The DAML system ensures that parties authorized to see a particular data receive only the specified data via their physical node on a blockchain network. This provides a solution to the enormous problem of privacy in public distributed ledgers where all nodes can view data present in the smart contracts.  

  • DAML is a Functional Language 

DAML allows programmers to put business logic in mathematical functions. The language combines a well-specified ledger model with functional design patterns. Thus, programmers have a firm grip on their program by understanding how each code would affect the blockchain network or distributed platform.     

Benefits of DAML

  • Open Source – The platform allows developers to customize the DAML code to match their needs. Programmers can eventually use the language to develop innovative solutions for various challenges facing smart contracts and distributed ledgers in general. 
  • Allow private transactions – The best thing about DAML is that it can make agreements in a smart contract private. Only authorized parties can access specific information in the contract, thanks to an extra layer of security. This is not possible with other smart contract languages such as Solidity.  
  • Broad Integration – DAML contracts can be integrated into a wide range of platforms. It is not limited to blockchain platforms. This is made possible by its runtime, which is linked to the language via the API. 
  • In-built Support – DAML employs in-built support. Thanks to this feature, programmers receive real-time assistance when they need it. This automates the validation of the correctness of the models. 

DAML Vs. Other Smart Contract Languages

DAML is quite different from other traditional smart contracts in regards to several aspects. The significant difference between DAML and Solidity is that the latter doesn’t allow for private transactions. All transactions or contract agreements are shared publicly throughout the blockchain network. 

DAML is also different from Actulus Modelling Language (AML) and BOscoin Trust Contracts. AML is domain-specific, and BOScoin Trust Contracts employs a more contained ontology language. Here is a table highlighting the difference between DAML and other traditional smart contract languages. 

  DAML  Solidity  AML BOScoin 
Nature of language  Domain-specific  Domain-specific Domain-specific Domain-specific
Influence  Haskell  C++, Python, PowerShell Python JavaScript and C++
License  Open-source  Licensed Licensed  Licensed 
Contract type Private Public Public Public 
Network  Private  Ethereum  Private BOScoin

DAML – Future Prospects

The crypto space, precisely the smart contracts field, is full of different smart contract languages. Different languages bring about interoperability, which is a significant challenge in the mass adoption of blockchain technology.

Nonetheless, DAML seems to have the edge over other smart contract languages attributed to its properties and benefits. The DAML runtime solves the problem of interoperability. Additionally, the language is private, restricting contract data to only those authorized to access it. In the future, the chances are high that DAML will become a standard smart contract language and accelerate blockchain adoption. 

Author’s Note

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Smart contract languages are employed by blockchain developers to come up with smart contracts. DAML is one such smart contract language that is quickly gaining preference among developers, thanks to its properties. It accords new dimensions to writing smart contracts. The language ensures the terms of the agreements can be kept private between the concerned parties. And with the language taking an open-source approach, it’s highly likely to be the standard language for writing a smart contract. 

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