The Defiant

Arbitrum to Let Devs Work in Traditional Programming Languages

Stylus Initiative Enables Devs to Deploy Apps on Leading Layer 2

By: Owen Fernau

Arbitrum to Let Devs Work in Traditional Programming Languages

Developers often need to learn a new programming language to break into crypto, but the company behind Arbitrum, the top Layer 2 network for Ethereum, is trying to change that picture.

On Tuesday, Offchain Labs, the firm that launched Arbitrum in 2021, introduced Stylus, an initiative designed to let developers deploy programs written in popular computer languages such as C, C++, and Rust.

More Applications

Arbitrum is the largest Layer 2 with $2.88B on the blockchain, according to L2BEAT. By expanding its offerings to more developers it may enable the scaling solution to support more social networks, games, and machine learning applications.

Stylus uses WebAssembly, a software standard that compiles programming languages into a web-compatible format. This in turn enables programs to run on Arbitrum.

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The initiative is expected to increase computing speed by 10 times, according to Offchain Labs.

Steven Goldfeder, CEO and co-founder of Offchain Labs, told The Defiant that he hopes Stylus will broaden Arbitrum’s appeal to developers.

“The key word for us is inclusion,” Goldfeder said. He wants to make Arbitrum a platform that doesn’t drive off developers who may balk at learning a new programming language.

Composability

Programmers proficient in languages like C or Rust can bring their skills to a computing environment that offers new blockchain-enabled features like permissionless composability.

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Rachel Bousfield, Stylus’ tech lead, told The Defiant that computationally intensive applications like social media and games wouldn’t be out of reach. “It’s not just that you can write in more languages,” she said. “Things are actually faster and cheaper now, too.”

Stylus started as a weekend project, but turned into a “full team effort,” the tech lead added.

Programs on Ethereum, the blockchain which Arbitrum relies on for its security, typically run on Solidity, a programming language which was developed for the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM). The EVM is the programming environment, or the set of rules which dictates how Ethereum and other EVM-compatible blockchains change based on their inputs.

EVM Support

Goldfeder emphasized the Sylus wouldn’t reduce any compatibility with the EVM. The co-founder is pushing the idea of a supercharged EVM, which is able to use code which has already been written in more established languages.

“EVM support isn’t getting any worse, it’s actually going to get better,” he said.

Goldfeder suggested that managers who may not know how to hire a large team of Solidity engineers, who can be eye-poppingly expensive, may understand how to assemble a team of C or C++ developers.

Broad Adoption

Goldfeder shook up the crypto community last week when he tweeted a long thread with the thesis Optimistic Rollups, the technology that Arbitrum and Optimism, another Layer 2, use, will outcompete zero-knowledge rollups,

The Offchain Labs co-founder said he wasn’t fond of announcements of products which have a low probability of actually going live. Goldfeder said he expects OffChain Labs will release Stylus in 2023.

He also added that he sees developers, and the applications they make, as upstream of broad adoption of blockchain-enabled technologies.

“Everyone wants to get to the next billion users,” Goldfeder said.