Building Effective Smart Contracts on NEAR Protocol: A Step-by-Step Guide

Anton Ioffe - March 25th 2024 - 7 minutes read

Welcome to the frontier of decentralized application development, where the NEAR Protocol emerges as a beacon for those aspiring to craft sophisticated smart contracts. With this expert guide, developers are invited on a journey that begins with the foundational principles of smart contract integration within the dynamic NEAR ecosystem, extends through the intricacies of its development environment, and navigates the critical best practices and security measures imperative for success. Beyond the fundamentals, we delve into advanced techniques and features, equipping you with the knowledge to unleash the full potential of NEAR Protocol. Whether you're seeking efficiency, security, or scalability, this comprehensive guide is designed to transform your innovative concepts into reality, setting a new benchmark in the realm of decentralized applications. Prepare to be inspired and empowered to excel in the evolving world of blockchain technology.

Foundations of Smart Contracts on NEAR Protocol

Smart contracts within the NEAR Protocol act as self-executing agreements, with the terms of the contract being explicitly encapsulated within lines of code, embodying both the agreement and enforcement mechanism within the digital realm. This automates the execution of contracts, reducing the need for intermediaries and enhancing trust among parties. NEAR's approach to smart contracts emphasizes not just the functionality but also the strategic implementations that harness blockchain technology's full potential. This encompasses the utilization of secure, efficient, and scalable means to deploy, execute, and manage contracts, a vital consideration given the decentralized nature of applications and the real-world value they often encapsulate.

What sets NEAR Protocol apart in the bustling landscape of blockchain platforms is its robust infrastructure that prioritizes security, scalability, and developer accessibility. To achieve this, NEAR employs a range of advanced technological solutions. For instance, the use of sharding mechanisms helps in distributing data storage requirements efficiently across the network, significantly improving scalability and transaction processing speed. This is critical for smart contracts as it ensures that applications can scale to meet user demand without compromising on speed or security. Furthermore, NEAR provides a conducive environment for developers through comprehensive documentation, user-friendly tools, and supportive community resources, lowering entry barriers and fostering innovation in smart contract development.

Additionally, NEAR Protocol's commitment to security is evident through its rigorous approach to smart contract management. Given that smart contracts often deal with real money and sensitive data, NEAR's infrastructure is designed to mitigate vulnerabilities, thereby safeguarding the integrity of contracts and the assets they manage. This is complemented by NEAR's support for popular programming languages like JavaScript and Rust, which not only offers flexibility in development but also leverages the vast ecosystems of libraries and tools available in these languages for secure and effective smart contract creation. Together, these aspects underscore NEAR Protocol's dedication to providing a reliable, accessible, and scalable platform for the development and execution of smart contracts, paving the way for a more efficient and transparent digital economy.

Within the NEAR Protocol's development environment, developers encounter a supportive platform that caters to a broad spectrum of project needs and preferences. NEAR Protocol acknowledges the diversity in developer expertise and project requirements by offering support for two primary languages for smart contract creation: JavaScript and Rust. JavaScript's prevalence in web development positions it as a familiar choice for developers seeking a seamless transition into blockchain technology. Its advantages in rapid development cycles make JavaScript a conducive choice for projects with tight deadlines and a need for agility. On the other hand, Rust appeals to developers prioritizing performance and security. Its design inherently minimizes common security issues, making it ideal for building reliable and secure smart contracts on NEAR’s blockchain.

The NEAR Software Development Kit (SDK) plays a pivotal role in bridging the gap between smart contract coding and deployment. It encompasses specialized SDKs for both JavaScript and Rust, providing a toolkit equipped with libraries and APIs to simplify the development process. These SDKs facilitate various stages of the development cycle, from writing and testing to compiling and interacting with smart contracts on the NEAR blockchain. The inclusion of comprehensive documentation, sample code, and best practices within these SDKs significantly lowers the barrier to entry for newcomers and streamlines the workflow for seasoned developers. Moreover, the Command-Line Interface (CLI) complements the SDKs by offering a straightforward method for managing accounts, sending transactions, and deploying smart contracts, which is invaluable for scripting and automating tasks within the development process.

The benefits of utilizing NEAR’s development environment extend beyond the accessibility of its tools and languages. By leveraging these resources, developers are empowered to build high-performance applications that are secure, interoperable, and scalable. The smart contracts created can easily interact with other blockchains, thanks to NEAR's focus on interoperability, thereby broadening the potential reach and functionality of decentralized applications (dApps). This robust tooling, combined with an active community and ongoing updates, ensures that developers have what they need to innovate and push the boundaries of what's possible on NEAR’s blockchain, making it an attractive platform for a wide array of blockchain projects.

Best Practices and Security Measures for NEAR Smart Contracts

In the realm of NEAR Protocol smart contract development, optimizing code for gas efficiency is not just a best practice but a necessity. Efficient gas usage ensures that smart contracts are not only cost-effective for users but also reduces the overall load on the network, leading to a more scalable ecosystem. Developers are advised to minimize storage operations, which tend to be gas-intensive, and cleverly structure their contracts to perform calculations and data processing off-chain whenever possible. Moreover, utilizing the AssemblyScript and Rust programming languages' features can greatly aid in writing optimized code. These languages offer control over memory and storage that, when harnessed correctly, can significantly dial down the gas costs associated with smart contract execution.

Security patterns play a pivotal role in safeguarding smart contracts from common vulnerabilities. Developers should adhere to established security practices such as employing reentrancy guards, which prevent malicious entities from hijacking control flow during external calls. Moreover, the use of established design patterns like checks-effects-interactions can mitigate risks associated with contract interactions. Regular security audits and peer reviews are indispensable, as they help identify and rectify potential security flaws pre-deployment. Importantly, understanding and mitigating against the unique asynchronous nature of cross-contract calls in NEAR is critical to ensuring that smart contracts behave as intended without unintended openings for exploits.

Rigorous testing strategies form the third cornerstone of developing secure and efficient smart contracts on NEAR. Emphasis should be placed on writing comprehensive unit and integration tests that cover a wide array of scenarios, including edge cases that may not be immediately obvious. Leveraging the NEAR testnet allows developers to simulate how smart contracts will perform under real-world conditions without risking actual funds. Additionally, it is crucial to stay informed about the latest security advisories and updates within the NEAR ecosystem to adapt and update smart contracts as needed. By marrying efficient coding practices, secure design patterns, and thorough testing, developers can forge smart contracts that stand robust against challenges, fulfilling the promise of decentralized solutions on the NEAR Protocol.

Advanced Features and Techniques in Smart Contract Development

Cross-contract calls on the NEAR Protocol allow smart contracts to interact with each other, simulating complex business logic that mimics real-world interactions. This mechanism enables a contract to invoke methods in another contract, thereby expanding its capabilities beyond its native codebase. For developers looking to create interconnected applications or decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs), mastering cross-contract calls is essential. However, it's crucial to manage these calls efficiently to prevent excessive gas consumption and ensure seamless execution. Developers need to anticipate the asynchronous nature of these calls, which may not complete instantly, requiring thoughtful design to handle potential delays or failures.

Managing state across contracts presents another layer of complexity but also opportunity. The ability to share or synchronize data between contracts without compromising the decentralized integrity of the application is a powerful feature. This can be facilitated through carefully designed access control mechanisms that allow contracts to either share a common state or update each other's state in a controlled manner. Developers must consider the implications of shared state, such as increased vulnerability to attacks if not properly secured and the potential for creating bottlenecks or points of failure. Utilizing decentralized storage solutions can alleviate some of these concerns by distributing data across multiple nodes, therefore enhancing security and resilience.

Utilizing asynchronous calls in smart contracts opens up a realm of possibilities for enhancing functionality and user experience. These calls allow a contract to perform operations without needing to wait for other actions to complete, thereby increasing the responsiveness and efficiency of applications. For instance, a smart contract could initiate a transaction, such as a token transfer, and proceed with other operations without waiting for the transfer to be confirmed. Asynchronous calls require a solid understanding of event-driven programming and promise-like structures to manage the outcomes and states of these operations effectively. By harnessing the power of asynchronous calls, developers can create more dynamic, responsive, and sophisticated applications on the NEAR Protocol, pushing the boundaries of what's possible in decentralized applications.


The article "Building Effective Smart Contracts on NEAR Protocol: A Step-by-Step Guide" explores the foundations, development environment, best practices, security measures, and advanced features of building smart contracts on the NEAR Protocol. Key takeaways include NEAR Protocol's emphasis on security, scalability, and developer accessibility, the availability of JavaScript and Rust for smart contract creation, the NEAR Software Development Kit (SDK) and Command-Line Interface (CLI) for streamlined development, the importance of optimizing code for gas efficiency and implementing security patterns, the significance of rigorous testing, the benefits of cross-contract calls and managing state across contracts, and the opportunities provided by utilizing asynchronous calls in smart contracts.