New dev tools promise to make blockchain development open to more engineers, as well as faster and more efficient.
While it may be a long-standing joke in the developer community that any bug can be turned into a feature simply by documenting it, the fact is that blockchain deployment is often mission-critical. Whether it’s at the protocol level within a permissioned enterprise solution, on a public chain, or within an app that processes financial transactions, dependability is not optional.
And as DeFi soars, the importance of identifying systemic weaknesses in code has never been clearer.
Some blockchain companies offer major bug bounties to white hat hackers who seek flaws and exploits in their code; some delay launches for months as their developers track down possible attack vectors and frailties. And in the future, some will use Alchemy Build — a suite of developer tools designed to take some of the time, money, and uncertainty out of building blockchain applications.
“For the Ethereum ecosystem to thrive, developers need to spend less time fixing the same issues over and over, and more time building products that provide value to end users. Alchemy Build enables hundreds of teams to focus on building great blockchain products, helping push the ecosystem months or years ahead,” explained Joey Krug, co-founder of Augur and co-CIO of Pantera Capital.
Ethereum goes further mainstream
Nikil Viswanathan of Alchemy claims internal research has shown that blockchain engineers spend up to twelve hours every week on work related to debugging, customer issues and release cycles — work that is not only tedious and expensive, but that also diverts the creative brains of developers away from building solutions. It’s a situation Viswanathan describes as untenable in the long-term.
Blockchain development is “like asking someone to build a skyscraper with a shovel and a hammer,” he declares. “We want to make it fundamentally easier to actually do the job.”
“Web 2.0 has industry-standard tools such as DataDog, which accelerate prototyping and debugging,” added Paul Veradittakit of Pantera. “But within the blockchain industry, we’re still putting people to work on basic tasks such as decoding hexadecimal, instead of allowing them to focus on creating the next breakthrough app.”
Mike Garland, Product Lead at Alchemy, described the current situation as a “frustrating process full of complicated investigations and tribal knowledge.” He explained that when it comes to debugging on Ethereum, “whether it’s a nonce issue, Solidity bug, or otherwise — these kinds of bad experiences with debugging can exclude great developers from adopting new technologies, so we’re hoping to help fix them with Alchemy Build.”
Shipping products, not just ideas
Since the Alchemy team estimates that 70% of the top blockchain apps are using their developer tools, this could represent a major step forward in both quality and time-to-market for application developers.
The Build suite of tools is claimed to require “no code, no configuration” and “it works out of the box” according to an Alchemy spokesperson.
The tools include Explorer, which identifies bugs and optimization opportunities through searching through historical requests; Mempool Visualizer, which allows the developer to see the status of live transaction on-chain; Composer, for prototyping and modeling; and Debug Toolkit, which includes a real-time query visualizer.
At ShapeShift, Head of Research and Development Kent Barton noted that “’As we roll out Microtick, a new product on our own blockchain, it’s crucial that our attention is focused on the right areas. Alchemy Build helps us maintain that focus, thanks to extensive tooling that takes the hassle and guesswork out of crafting Web3 infrastructure.”
Sid Sethi, Founding Engineer at Audius, said that “Alchemy Build has been instrumental in letting us scale to 200,000+ listeners every month. Their suite of development tools has saved us countless sleepless nights of debugging and firefighting over the past year.”
Alchemy’s blockchain developer platform is currently employed by a wide variety of crypto-native applications, including Binance Wallet, CryptoKitties, OpenSea, Gods Unchained, and the Opera browser; and DeFi players such as Maker, Kyber and 0x. Its team has been sourced from tech-industry Goliaths such as Facebook, Google, and Microsoft, as well as academia including MIT and Stanford.