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A smart contract is a computer program or a transaction protocol that is intended to automatically execute, control or document events and actions according to the terms of a contract or an agreement. The objectives of smart contracts are the reduction of need for trusted intermediators, arbitration costs, and fraud losses, as well as the reduction of malicious and accidental exceptions. Smart contracts are commonly associated with cryptocurrencies, and the smart contracts introduced by Ethereum are generally considered a fundamental building block for decentralized finance (DeFi) and NFT applications.
Vending machines are mentioned as the oldest piece of technology equivalent to smart contract implementation. The original Ethereum white paper by Vitalik Buterin in 2014 describes the Bitcoin protocol as a weak version of the smart contract concept as originally defined by Nick Szabo, and proposed a stronger version based on the Solidity language, which is Turing complete. Since Bitcoin,[clarification needed] various cryptocurrencies have supported programming languages which allow for more advanced smart contracts between untrusted parties.
A smart contract should not be confused with a smart legal contract, which refers to a traditional, natural-language, legally-binding agreement that has selected terms expressed and implemented in machine-readable code.