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Create your first Substrate blockchain

Blockchain software enables individual computers—called nodes—to communicate with each other to form a decentralized peer-to-peer (P2P) network. To ensure the security of the data on the chain and the ongoing progress of the chain, the nodes use some form of consensus to agree on the state of data in each block of data and the order in which the blocks are processed.

What is a blockchain node?

At a high level, a blockchain node consists of the following key components:

Because of the complexity involved in building these components, most blockchain projects are forked from an existing blockchain project. For example, the Bitcoin repository was forked to create: Litecoin, ZCash, Namecoin, and Bitcoin Cash. Similarly, the Ethereum repository was forked to create Quorum, POA Network, KodakCoin, and Musicoin.

Blockchain Forks

However, the existing blockchain platforms were not designed to allow for modification. As a result, building a new blockchain by forking has serious limitations.

What is Substrate?

Substrate is an open source, modular, and extensible framework for building blockchains.

Substrate has been designed from the ground up to be flexible and allow innovators to design and build a blockchain network that meets their needs. It provides all the core components you need to build a customized blockchain node.

To get you started, the Substrate Developer Hub provides an out-of-the-box working Substrate-based node template. Without making any changes, you can use this node template to create a working blockchain network with some predefined user accounts and funds.

Get started

The first step in becoming a blockchain developer is to learn how to compile and launch a single local blockchain node. In this tutorial, you build and start a single node blockchain using a node template. After you start your new blockchain, you can use the Substrate Developer Hub front-end template to view information about blockchain activity and submit a transaction.

Who is this tutorial for?

This tutorial provides a basic introduction to Substrate and prepares a minimal working development environment that you can use to explore further in additional tutorials. It is intended for anyone interested in learning about Substrate and blockchain development. The tutorial assumes you have no prior experience or knowledge of Substrate. You don't need any programming or blockchain experience to complete this tutorial. This is just the first step, but hopefully, it inspires you to continue your journey.

How much time do you need to complete this tutorial?

This tutorial requires compiling Rust code and takes approximately one to two hours to complete.

Before you begin

For this tutorial, you download and use working code. Before you begin, verify the following:

  • You have good internet connection and access to a shell terminal on your local computer.

  • You are generally familiar with software development and use command-line interfaces.

  • You are generally familiar with blockchains and smart contract platforms.

  • You want to learn about the bleeding edge of blockchain development.

By completing this tutorial, you will accomplish the following objectives:

1. Set up a Substrate development environment on your computer.

2. Use a node template project to run a Substrate-based blockchain.

3. Use a front-end template project to interact with the template node.

Install required packages

Substrate development is easiest on UNIX-based operating systems like macOS or Linux. If you are using Microsoft Windows, refer to the Windows installation page.

To install required packages on macOS or Linux:

  1. Open a terminal shell on your computer.

  2. Locate your operating system in the following table and run the appropriate commands for your development environment.

OSInstallation commands
Ubuntu or Debiansudo apt update && sudo apt install -y git clang curl libssl-dev llvm libudev-dev
Arch Linuxpacman -Syu --needed --noconfirm curl git clang
Fedorasudo dnf update sudo dnf install clang curl git openssl-devel
OpenSUSEsudo zypper install clang curl git openssl-devel llvm-devel libudev-devel
macOSbrew update && brew install openssl
WindowsRefer to this installation guide.

If you are using macOS and do not have Homebrew installed, run the following command to install Homebrew:

/bin/bash -c "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/master/install.sh)"

After installing Homebrew, run brew install openssl.

Install Rust and the Rust toolchain

To install and configure Rust manually:

  1. Install rustup by running the following command:

    curl https://sh.rustup.rs -sSf | sh
    
  2. Configure your current shell to reload your PATH environment variable so that it includes the Cargo bin directory by running the following command:

    source ~/.cargo/env
    
  3. Configure the Rust toolchain to default to the latest stable version by running the following commands:

    rustup default stable
    rustup update
    
  4. Add the nightly release and the nightly WebAssembly (wasm) targets by running the following commands:

    rustup update nightly
    rustup target add wasm32-unknown-unknown --toolchain nightly
    
  5. Verify your installation by running the following commands:

    rustc --version
    rustup show
    

    The previous steps walked you through the installation and configuration of Rust and the Rust toolchain so that you could see the full process for yourself.

    It is also possible to automate the steps using a script. If you want to try installing and configuring Rust using a script, see the getsubstrate automation script.

Set up a development environment

After you install the required packages and the Rust compiler and toolchain, you are ready to set up a development environment on your local computer. You could build a development environment manually using the tools of your choice, but the Substrate Developer Hub has templates to get you started. After you set up the development environment, you can use it in subsequent tutorials as you learn more about building on Substrate.

Prepare a Substrate node using the node template

The Substrate node template provides a working development environment so that you can start building on Substrate right away.

To compile the Substrate node template:

  1. Clone the node template repository using the version latest branch by running the following command:

    git clone https://github.com/substrate-developer-hub/substrate-node-template
    
  2. Change to the root of the node template directory by running the following command:

    cd substrate-node-template
    # We want to use the `latest` tag throughout all of this tutorial
    git checkout latest
    
  3. Compile the node template by running the following command:

    cargo build --release
    

    You should always use the --release flag to build optimized artifacts.

Install the front-end template

The front-end template uses ReactJS to render a web browser interface that enables you to interact with the Substrate-based blockchain node. You can use this front-end template as a starting point for creating user interfaces for your own projects in future.

The front-end template requires Yarn and Node.js. If you don't have these tools, install them first.

To install the front-end template:

  1. Check whether node is installed on your local computer by running the following command:

    node --version
    

    If the command doesn’t return a version number, download and install node by following the instructions for the operating system you use on the Node.js website. Node version should be at least v14 to run the front-end template.

  2. Check whether yarn is installed on your local computer by running the following command:

    yarn --version
    

    If the command doesn’t return a version number, download and install yarn by running the following command:

    npm install -g yarn
    
  3. Clone the front-end template repository by running the following command:

    git clone https://github.com/substrate-developer-hub/substrate-front-end-template
    
  4. Change to the root of the front-end template directory by running the following command:

    cd substrate-front-end-template
    # We want to use the `latest` tag throughout all of this tutorial
    git checkout latest
    
  5. Install the dependencies for the front-end template by running the following command:

    yarn install
    

Start the blockchain node and explore

After your node compiles, you are ready to start exploring what it does using the front-end template.

Start the local Substrate node

To start the local Substrate node:

  1. Open a terminal shell.

  2. Change to the root directory where you compiled the Substrate node template.

  3. Start the node in development mode by running the following command:

    ./target/release/node-template --dev
    

    The node-template command-line options specify how you want the running node to operate. In this case, the --dev option specifies that the node runs in developer mode using the predefined development chain specification. By default, this option also deletes all active data—such as keys, the blockchain database, and networking information when you stop the node by pressing Control-c. Using the --dev option ensures that you have a clean working state any time you stop and restart the node.

  4. Verify your node is up and running successfully by reviewing the output displayed in the terminal.

    The terminal should display output similar to this:

    2021-11-24 15:36:35 Running in --dev mode, RPC CORS has been disabled.
    2021-11-24 15:36:35 Substrate Node
    2021-11-24 15:36:35 ✌️  version 4.0.0-dev-82b7c2c-aarch64-macos
    2021-11-24 15:36:35 ❤️  by Substrate DevHub <https://github.com/substrate-developer-hub>, 2017-2021
    2021-11-24 15:36:35 📋 Chain specification: Development
    2021-11-24 15:36:35 🏷 Node name: six-wash-9274
    2021-11-24 15:36:35 👤 Role: AUTHORITY
    2021-11-24 15:36:35 💾 Database: RocksDb at /tmp/substrateP1jD7H/chains/dev/db
    2021-11-24 15:36:35 ⛓  Native runtime: node-template-100 (node-template-1.tx1.au1)
    2021-11-24 15:36:35 🔨 Initializing Genesis block/state (state: 0xa59b…5331, header-hash: 0xc5d2…37f3)
    2021-11-24 15:36:35 👴 Loading GRANDPA authority set from genesis on what appears to be first startup.
    2021-11-24 15:36:35 ⏱  Loaded block-time = 6s from block 0xc5d2fdad35e14684753f087c1a20f022274e154d39add4f7efe34e95476a37f3
    2021-11-24 15:36:35 Using default protocol ID "sup" because none is configured in the chain specs
    2021-11-24 15:36:35 🏷 Local node identity is: 12D3KooWG5niQF5bjsFao3D8DZRpUUB6uWZC2pK8hCDZ94zsr8Sc
    2021-11-24 15:36:35 📦 Highest known block at #0
    ...
    ...
    ...
    2021-11-24 15:36:40 💤 Idle (0 peers), best: #1 (0xd2b5…d03f), finalized #0 (0xc5d2…37f3), ⬇ 0 ⬆ 0
    

    If the number after finalized is increasing, your blockchain is producing new blocks and reaching consensus about the state they describe.

    We'll look into the details of what's reported in the log output in a later tutorial. For now, it's only important to know that your node is running and producing blocks.

  5. Keep the terminal that displays the node output open to continue.

Start the front-end template

The Substrate front-end template consists of user interface components to enable you to interact with the Substrate node and perform a few common tasks.

To use the front-end template:

  1. Open a new terminal shell on your computer, change to the root directory where you installed the front-end template.

  2. Start the Front-end template by running the following command:

    yarn start
    
  3. Open http://localhost:8000 in a browser to view the front-end template.

    The top section has an Account selection list for selecting the account to work with when you want to perform on-chain operations. The top section of the template also displays information about the chain to which you're connected.

    Front-end template top section

    You might also notice that the front-end template displays a Balances table with some predefined accounts and that a few of those accounts are preconfigured with funds. You can use this sample data to try out operations like transferring funds.

    Predefined accounts and balances

Transfer funds from one account to another

Now that you have a blockchain node running on your local computer and you have a front-end template available for performing on-chain operations, you are ready to explore different ways to interact with the blockchain.

By default, the front-end template includes several components that allow you to try different common tasks. For this tutorial, you can perform a simple transfer operation that moves funds from one account to another.

To transfer funds to an account:

  1. In the Balances table, notice the predefined accounts—such as dave—that have no funds associated with them.

    Locate an account with zero funds

    Under the Balances table, the front-end template also displays a Transfer component. You use this component to transfer funds from one account to another.

  2. Copy and paste the address for the dave account to specify the address to which you are transferring funds.

  3. Specify at least 1000000000000 as the amount to transfer, then click Submit.

    Transfer funds to an account

  4. Notice that the values in Balances table is updated with the transfer.

    Updated balance displayed

  5. Check the Events component to see events related to the transfer you just completed.

    The Substrate blockchain reports the result of asynchronous operations as events, so you can use the Events components to see details about each operation performed as part of the transfer. For example:

    Events recorded as results from asynchronous operations

  6. When the transaction has been completed and included in a block, you see a confirmation message similar to the following:

    😉 Finalized. Block hash: 0xda7e9e935abf5a3a2fdb0a27d67cd7a69e628165b5827255af2635ba226411a4

Stop the local node

After a successful transfer, you can continue to explore the front-end template components or stop the local Substrate node. Because you specified the --dev option when you started the node, stopping the local node stops the blockchain and purges all persistent block data so that you can start with a clean state next time you start the node.

To stop the local Substrate node:

  1. Return to the terminal shell where the node output is displayed.

  2. Press Control-c to terminate the running process.

  3. Verify your terminal returns to the terminal prompt in the substrate-node-template directory.

Next steps

🎉Congratulations!🎉

In this tutorial, you learned:

  • How to start a working Substrate-based blockchain node using the substrate-node-template.

  • How to view and interact with the blockchain node using a front-end user interface.

  • How to make a simple transfer from one account to another.

The front-end template includes several additional components for you to experiment with while you're connected to a local development node.

You can explore these components on your own or you may be interested to learn more about the following:

If you've experienced any issues with this tutorial or wanted to provide feedback:

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