Marlowe In Brief

Cardano Explained

Marlowe In Brief

Jul 30, 2021, by Eric Hill

Marlowe is a Domain Specific coding language, but just as importantly it is a Suite of products aimed at three distinct sets of users.

    It is a normal part of our lives to enter into multiple types of common financial agreements in all aspects of our lives.  Some of these common financial agreements are: Escrow, Swaps, CFDs (Contracts for Difference), and Bonds. Additionally there are financial agreements in the form of Rents, Leases, Mortgages, Auto Loans, Employment Contracts, and Lines of Credit. in our current circumstances we are beholden to trusted third parties for the drafting and execution of these financial agreements.  Lawyers, agents, title search companies, brokers and other third parties are paid fees for their services or are rewarded with a commission as part of the deal.  This greatly increases the overall costs to both sides of the agreement as well as making the completion of the agreements very complicated. 

   Documentation is a lengthy and laborious process in most cases, and we are required to provide all kinds of identification, authentication, and proof of financial status. However, there is no guaranty that once signed and witnessed the agreements are secure or tamper proof. We rely upon banks and brokers whose systems are central points of control which are subject to invasive attacks as well as simple human error.  Just because a third party is “trusted”, doesn’t mean bad actors, aka hackers, will not infiltrate systems and databases.  Hard copies can be made and kept securely in various locations, but anything on paper can be lost or stolen, or destroyed by unforeseen events, or replaced with altered versions of the original documents.  Blockchain technology offers an immutable system for contractual agreements that is secure from all of the traditional forms of trickery, forgery, theft, loss, and substitution.  

   In a previous post I explained that the Alonzo hard fork will bring full smart contract capability to the Cardano ecosystem.  Through the cooperative efforts of the Cardano community Alonzo is being brought successfully through the three phases of test-net: Blue, White, and Purple,  culminating in the anticipated August launch.  Marlowe is the purpose built Domain Specific Language, (DSL), that has been developed to facilitate the deployment of smart contracts on the Cardano blockchain. This will be made possible by writing code in Javascript, Haskell, or the native Marlowe language itself.  However, one aspect of this huge new development will be the opportunity to create smart contracts if one has a secure grasp of finance terminology without necessarily knowing how to write the actual code itself. 

    Marlowe is a DSL coding language, but just as importantly it is a Suite of products too. The products are aimed at three distinct sets of users: developers,  everyday users, and enterprises.  The first manifestation of Marlowe will be a browser based application that will give access to the Marlow Suite which has five components: Build, Play, Library, Run, and Enterprise. Marlowe was created with accessibility in mind. As stated above, developers can build smart contracts using Javascript or Haskell or the native Marlowe language itself, but if you are new to coding you can use Blockly, the amazing innovative open source library that allows users to build contracts by dragging and dropping blocks of coding options into place. Consequently, people with extensive knowledge of coding can participate in the process, but also people with no coding ability who have a working knowledge of finance can participate as well. The era of democratization of finance through decentralization on the blockchain is upon us.

   As stated above, the five components of the Marlowe Suite serve different purposes for different constituencies of users. Library is a compilation of verified smart contracts designed for all of the common types of financial agreement mentioned above. Build and Play (also referred to as Marlowe Playground) are for developers who want to create and test smart contracts. Run will allow end users to securely execute off the shelf financial agreements with clients or friends via access to Library’s cache of customizable templates. Enterprise expands Defi beyond individual users with customizable capabilities and agreements built for commercial business applications.   

   Marlowe opens the door to vast possibilities of Defi applications on the Cardano network which will clearly be revolutionary for everyone, but in particular for those who do not have immediate access to the necessary tools or are able to engage the third parties on their behalf.  It will also be disruptive to the status quo system of contracts and financial agreements that we are so accustomed to.  Again, we come back to the stated mission of Cardano to enable documentation and identification to the unbanked and undocumented people of the world who are excluded from being able to perform tasks and to achieve goals that we take for granted.  

   Shruti Appiah, a product manager at IOHK, stated: “We seek to empower people to create their own financial instruments and set up agreements with anyone with whom they want to interact.”

   There is one more piece of this picture to consider.  Charles Hoskinson speaks often about the concept of Interoperability within the crypto currency space between different blockchains and tokens. This is a significant goal for him and for Cardano. Along with the statement above, Shruti Appiah also pointed out that: 

    “Marlowe will run first on the Cardano blockchain, but it is “blockchain-agnostic”, so it could run on other blockchains to reach a broader audience in the future.” 

   Therefore, not only does Marlowe open the door for multiple types of users to deploy smart contracts in the Cardano ecosystem, but it will eventually be a huge step towards  the goal of interoperability.  In simple terms Marlowe is the beginning of a potential almost too vast to imagine, and just like Atala Prism, it is not mere theory or yet another white paper. It is in full development right now and imminently close to being literally in our hands.

written by: Eric Hill     published at: Jul 30, 2021
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