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The Gno Language

Gno (Gnolang) is an interpretation of the widely-used Go (Golang) programming language for blockchain created by Cosmos co-founder Jae Kwon in 2021 to mark a new era in smart contracting. Gno is almost identical to Go, so Go developers can quickly start using it, with minimal effort. For example, Gno comes with blockchain-specific standard libraries, but any code that doesn’t use blockchain-specific logic can run in Go with minimal processing. Libraries that could lead to non-deterministic behaviour when executed by thousands of validators are not available in Gno, such as network access, or determining system time. Otherwise, Gno loads and uses many standard libraries that power Go, so the experience writing code feels very similar to Go's.

Under the hood, the Gno code is parsed into an abstract syntax tree (AST) and the AST itself is used in the interpreter, rather than bytecode as in many virtual machines such as Java, Python, or Wasm. The design aims to make reading & understanding the source code of the GnoVM accessible to any Go programmer. The novel design of the intuitive GnoVM interpreter allows Gno to freeze and resume the program by persisting and loading the memory state automatically. Gno is deterministic, auto-persisted, and auto-Merkle-ized, allowing programs to be succinct, as the programmer doesn’t have to serialize and deserialize objects to persist them into a database (unlike programming applications with the Cosmos SDK).

How Gno Differs from Go

The composable nature of Go/Gno allows for type-checked interactions between contracts, making safer and more powerful, as well as operationally cheaper and faster. Smart contracts on are light, simple, more focused, and easily interoperable - they represent a network of interconnected contracts rather than siloed monoliths that limit interactions with other contracts.

Gno Inherits Go’s Built-in Security Features

Go supports secure programming through exported/non-exported fields, enabling a “least-authority” design. It is easy to create objects and APIs that expose only what should be accessible to callers while hiding what should not be simply by the capitalization of letters, thus allowing a succinct representation of secure logic that can be called by multiple users.

Another major advantage of Go is that the language comes with an ecosystem of great tooling, like the compiler and third-party tools that statically analyze code. Gno inherits these advantages from Go directly to create a smart contract programming language that provides embedding, composability, type-check safety, and garbage collection, helping developers to write secure code relying on the compiler, parser, and interpreter to give warning alerts for common mistakes.

Gno vs Solidity

The most widely-adopted smart contract language today is Ethereum’s EVM-compatible Solidity. With bytecode built from the ground up and Turing complete, Solidity opened up a world of possibilities for decentralized applications (dApps) and there are currently more than 10 million contracts deployed on Ethereum. However, Solidity provides limited tooling and its EVM has a stack limit and computational inefficiencies.

Solidity is designed for one purpose only (writing smart contracts) and is bound by the limitations of the EVM. In addition, developers have to learn several languages if they want to understand the whole stack or work across different ecosystems. Gno aspires to exceed Solidity on multiple fronts (and other smart contract languages like CosmWasm or Substrate) as every part of the stack is written in Go (or Gno!). It’s easy for developers to understand the entire system just by studying a relatively small code base.

Gno Is Essential for the Wider Adoption of Web3

Gno makes imports as easy as they are in web2 with runtime-based imports for seamless dependency flow comprehension, and support for complex structs, beyond primitive types. Gno is ultimately cost-effective as dependencies are loaded once, enabling remote function calls as local, and providing automatic and independent per-realm state persistence.

Using Gno, developers can rapidly accelerate application development and adopt a modular structure by reusing and reassembling existing modules without building from scratch. They can embed one structure inside another in an intuitive way while preserving localism, and the language specification is simple, successfully balancing practicality and minimalism.

Building on top of the excellent design of Go, the aim for Gno programming is to become the new gold standard for smart contract development, not just in our ecosystem but blockchain as a whole. Combining Go's large success, together with type safety and composability, Gno aims to kickstart a broader adoption of Web3 and its growth.