Stellar for Practical Blockchain Applications

The Blockchain. I ignored it for so long. Too much hype. Too many stories of fraud. Those things are enough, but I absolutely hated that I had to read white papers or have some kind of esoteric knowledge to even begin.

Last year I started to crack a little. I stepped my toes into the world. I bought some ether in Coinbase and I took a couple of classes online to learn about Ethereum development. Things started to click just a little bit. But still, Ethereum development felt challenging for implementation in our everyday lives.

Then, I heard about Stellar.

Why does that name sound so familar? Oh that’s right, I signed up for that when Stripe blogged about investing in them years ago. I started digging deeper and liked what I saw. Their documentation showed how to do so many things. And the examples worked! I was up and running in seconds!

There are many blockchain technologies out there today, but in my opinion, none of them are as practical as Stellar.

The Stellar Network

Besides friendly documentation and ease of getting started, what does Stellar offer? It offers the ability to send assets across their network at high speeds and low cost. The network is its big advantage. An asset can be anything. Stellar makes it dead simple to create your own token. There is even a built-in distributed exchange for putting out offers for those assets (check out Stellar’s own StellarX for an example at scale). How about smart contracts? Well, if you are looking for Turing complete smart contracts, it’s best to look elsewhere.

Developer Support for Blockchain Applications

OK, so, how do you interact with Stellar from a developer’s perspective? Stellar takes the approach of interacting with its network through a REST API. This allows for libraries to be built in various languages.

At Revelry we use the JavaScript SDK, and we’ve built a Stellar client in Elixir.

The developer documentation Stellar gives is phenomenal! It explains the concepts of the network in plain English. The code examples are very practical. They are easy to follow and most are probably what you will need in real applications.

Create an account for users?  Stellar provides an example.

Need to make transactions? There’s an example for that.

Issuing assets or creating your own token? Yes, there’s an example for that too.

The blockchain is not your application.

In the same way a database is not your application, neither is the blockchain. The blockchain is a tool your app uses to achieve parts of its intended functionality. Stellar is a healthy choice to put in your application if you need a blockchain technology.

Revelry is building Incentivize using Stellar.

While Stellar is a big part of how it works, the actual code is small compared to other parts. For instance, most of the integration code happens to be around the GitHub API. Take a look at our open source version and judge for yourself!

One final thought…

There’s always room for improvement, and I’ve only had one complaint with Stellar. It’s one I think other blockchain technologies share.

There could be more help with creating an account from a non-technical perspective. Yes, you can go to the Stellar Account Viewer to generate a public key and secret. But to actually create an account, you need to have at least one lumen sent to you. Needing a minimum balance is fine, but it would be nice to have a more intuitive setup process.

In your application, you can make the process simpler for users if you need to. Just like everything else, creating an account is an API call. However, someone will still need to seed the account with the minimum XLM balance. You can learn more about Stellar’s fees here.

If you are selecting a blockchain technology, give Stellar a serious look.

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