What are smart contracts?
One of the fundamental aspects of the Ethereum network is the ability to create smart contracts. These contracts are self executing, and work exactly as they are programmed to. Whatever you would use a traditional contract for, you could use a smart contract for. The only difference is the precision and efficiency smart contracts hold through programmable code.
As a classic example, lets take two friends who want to bet on a game. Rather than having the liabilities of a bookie who keeps track of the funds and allocates them with a fee. Users can program smart contracts that self execute once the terms are met. If they don't know how to code they can use Ethereum applications that will execute these smart contracts on their own. All of this happens without human interference, ensuring both parties are served and the funds are correctly distributed.
Smart contracts allow anonymous parties to enter into binding agreements, with each participant having full transparency on the deal being made. Value can be transferred between accounts or held in escrow inside the smart contract itself.
Bitcoin can be considered the first smart contract, since the network only validates transactions if certain conditions are met.
With their functionality, these contracts are able to form the foundation of decentralized applications (DApps), another essential element of the Ethereum network.
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