The Blocknet Protocol : This Is What A Decentralized Infura Looks Like
With XRouter and the Blocknet Protocol, Blocknet has laid the foundation for a “decentralized Infura”. But why does this matter and why is it so important? Over the last few years Infura has played a pivotal role providing the majority of the Ethereum DApp community a centralized service to connect to the Ethereum blockchain without the need to run a full node locally. This has allowed developers to quickly and easily interface with the Ethereum network, usually via Metamask, to ensure their dApps have minimal down time and are reliable. However, although the Ethereum network is decentralized, an ever growing part of it is reliant on Infura to keep things running smoothly. In a decentralized network, this is far from ideal. So how did this situation come about and what is the solution?
The Importance Of Remaining Decentralized
Infura quickly became an integral part of the Ethereum ecosystem due to the fact that previous to its existence, a great deal of time, money and resources were required to download and operate a full Ethereum node via a client such as Parity. A full Ethereum archive node in 2019 required well over 2.5 TB of space (over 3TB at present) and as a result, operating an Ethereum node became prohibitive on a number of fronts. Infura was the remedy to these issues. Run by Consensys, Infura allowed developers the freedom to run a node without needing to worry about its maintenance and upkeep. Infura proved to be very reliable and its popularity soared. Because of this reliability, a large amount of traffic was filtered through its nodes, re-centralizing a large part of the Ethereum network which was not ideal. During the height of the CryptoKitties craze in 2017 this problem was compounded further when the majority of traffic was funneled to Infura via Metamask causing more problems and clogging up the network. More recently the amount of nodes mantained by individuals has fallen by 25% in the last 9 months as an increasing number of node operators gave up maintaining their own nodes and instead began relying on Infura. If this trend continues then Infura will go from operating a small percentage of Ethereum nodes to a much greater percentage, creating an ever more centralized system in the process which in turn increases the potential for collusion. What was supposed to be a decentralized system could then be in danger of becoming the very thing it set out to avoid as the network influence will eventually become unbalanced. Another danger for the Ethereum ecosystem is that Infura relies on Amazon Cloud Servers. This represents a potential central point of failure. Should something happen to those servers or Amazon decide they no longer want to deal with Infura, the whole Ethereum ecosystem could fall apart as others have observed with Ethereum dApps being rendered useless. These problems could be mitigated if something like a decentralized Infura existed. The good news is that such a system does indeed already exist in the form of the Blocknet Protocol.
The Blocknet Protocol: A Decentralized Infura
Decentralized applications should be censorship resistant, trustless and without a central point of failure — all principles that the Blocknet Protocol was founded on. The Blocknet Protocol consists of 2 components:
- XRouter is an inter-blockchain SPV client backend, enabling the verification of blockchain records without requiring users to download the full blockchain. This empowers development of lightweight microservice architectures that harness contracts, protocols, and services from other blockchains, laying a foundation for a decentralized API ecosystem. Because XRouter functions on the TCP/IP level, it is compatible with any and all blockchains and networks. This includes public and private DLT’s from Bitcoin, to IOTA, to Hyperledger.
- XBridge provides the ability to perform true trustless and decentralized exchanges between any digital asset that is supported by the Blocknet Protocol via APIs (view list). When paired with XRouter, any application can perform exchanges between any compatible blockchains using a decentralized SPV implementation. Unlike every other “decentralized” exchange protocol, XBridge doesn’t use derivatives (proxy tokens or colored coins). The entire process is done in a trustless manner decentralizing the four components of an exchange.
Together XBridge and XRouter provide decentralized, total blockchain interoperability across ALL blockchains, creating an Infura-like, but completely decentralized API ecosystem for hundreds of blockchains.
The Incentives Of Running A Blocknet Service Node
The Blocknet Protocol allows for the monetisation of inter-chain and multi-chain services and for interactions between any smart contract platform and any other blockchain, even those that do not have smart contract capabilities. (e.g non Ethereum chains.) XRouter was designed from the ground up to provide interoperability with ANY and ALL blockchains, including all DTL’s (such as IOTA and Hashgraph.) and private chains (such as Hyperledger or R3.) There is no limit on the data XRouter can consume and verify. It is not limited to blockchain data only. XRouter can also verify external data sources such as those used in Oraclize. (In this example, a non-blockchain weather data call can be utilized.) The Blocknet Protocol is supported by a network of Service Nodes, which are similar to Masternodes but with an increased level of participation. Service Nodes host full nodes of the supported blockchains, host microservices, verify UTXOs, route communication between blockchains, and perform anti-spam and anti-DOS measures for the network. BLOCK is the utility token of the Blocknet blockchain and is used to pay fees for the network’s services, such as those provided by XBridge and XRouter. Through these fees, BLOCK is used as compensation to participating Service Nodes to incentivize support. In addition to receiving fees for supporting the network, operators of Services Nodes also receive 100% of fees generated from use of the network’s services (XBridge, XRouter, XCloud). Blocknet Service Node owners therefore have a great incentive to maintain their nodes. This is a marked difference to operating a normal Ethereum node where there is a lack of an economic model to encourage operators to continue to run Ethereum nodes. (Rewarding full Ethereum nodes isn’t part of the base layer). This may be a contributing factor to the decline in the number of Ethereum nodes. There are currently approximately 450 Blocknet Service Nodes spread across the planet providing a stable decentralized network with access to over 100 blockchains. Because of this, the network is not susceptible to centralized failure or censorship and the potential for node collusion is very small when compared with a centralized collection of servers where it would be easier to game the system. Moreover, running a Blocknet node means that node operators will be providing the framework for a brand new API ecosystem where 100% of provider fees go to Service Nodes.
Developers, DeFi, DApps And Use Cases
The Blocknet Protocol enables the separation of the underlying framework of the services the protocol provides from that of the development layer, freeing up developers to focus on what they are good at without the need to worry about laborious maintenance of the infrastructure they are building on. This separation of dApp development from infrastructure is essential to the growth of a decentralized ecosystem.
The Blocknet Protocol makes development blockchain-agnostic. This means development can occur on any chain and the features needed can be pulled in from other blockchains. The protocol enables the use of services from other chains similar to the way libraries are used in traditional software development, allowing developers to focus on the business logic of the application. What this means is that if developers want to utilize smart contracts from different chains, they can now do so, mixing and matching any blockchain they choose, to build whatever they want. There is no need to rewrite contracts from scratch. Because Blocknet uses the Bitcoin codebase, this benefits XRouter, XCloud and XBridge improving network security and scalability. DNS support has also been integrated which will support the forthcoming XRouter proxy (currently in closed beta) allowing Service Nodes to give enterprise clients and developers direct access to RPC frameworks across any blockchain, Ethereum included. The proxy will also enable support for millions of requests per second and all without requiring the Blocknet wallet to be installed. The Blocknet XRouter network is designed with consensus in mind, meaning that developers can access a variety of Service Nodes that are running the same jobs, picking and choosing which nodes they would like to use to achieve network consensus. There is also the capability to create custom microservices in Docker containers that act as plugins for XRouter. This is the foundation for Blocknet’s XCloud platform. XCloud can be used to monetize any service with crypto payments without having to re-code or change anything about those existing applications. Existing containers on Docker Hub, including Enterprise applications, can also be monetized and served through Blocknet’s XRouter making XCloud yet another incentive to run a Blocknet Service Node. A good way to think of XCloud is like a decentralized AWS. Therefore, Ethereum could be hosted on a Blocknet Service node which could be accessed via XRouter / XCloud plugins, giving access to Ethereum API’s, just like Infura offers. The difference being that with Blocknet, it is all completely decentralized! The beauty of the protocol is that is does not depend on unnecessary complications such wrapped Bictoin, pegged derivatives and so on. Because the routing of XRouter packets occurs on the TCP/IP level, it is compatible with any network and is simplicity itself providing an elegant solution for blockchain interoperability:
You can read more about XRouter here and checkout the API documents for XCloud, XRouter and XBridge here. The Blocknet Protocol also allows for individual libraries via XRouter and XBridge which enables dApps to be compiled outside of the main wallet. These dApps could then be utilized via Metamask which will result in true decentralised finance (DeFi). This is important because the growth of the DeFi ecosystem could stall and end up fighting with itself if developers have to continue to rely on large companies running collections of centralized servers. This is why the Blocknet Protocol and Service Nodes are so crucial. A Blocknet Service Node hosting ETH or EOS for example can offer services via XCloud plugins, allowing developers to build a true DeFi ecosystem where the ETH or EOS node operators would receive fees from developers and businesses utilizing their Service Node. You can read the EOS node set up guide here and the ETH set up guide here. Already, CloudChains Inc., a Blocknet partner, is about to launch a development environment based off Kubernetes that will allow developers backend access to full-nodes for XBridge, XRouter, and XCloud.
Currently there is a constant back and forth battle with regards to keeping things decentralized as illustrated above and the DeFi space is but a single manifestation of this. The challenges presented by blockchain decentralization are many but Blocknet is making strides to ensure that it stays true to the original vision of decentralization. At present there is already a long list of XRouter calls for off-chain oracle data services, games, messaging apps and more including over 32 live Ethereum calls (as listed under “ETHEREUM JSON-RP” on the Infura website) that developers can begin to utilize with the knowledge that the infrastructure they will be using is truly decentralized. Blocknet nodes currently support over 100 Blockchains including BTC, LTC, ETH, EOS, DGB, DASH, DOGE, SIA, SYS and many more. Many detailed use cases can be viewed in the Blocknet whitepaper.
Developers Wanted For The Beginning Of A New Ecosystem
Blocknet enables the creation of a multitude of cross-chain dApps and multichain architectures only limited by developers imaginations. If you want to build for XRouter, set up a Service Node or have any questions, please join our Discord or Telegram. You can download the latest Blocknet wallet, Blocknet Comet with XRouter here. (The forthcoming XRouter proxy — currently in closed beta — will allow developers access to the XRouter network without requiring the Blocknet wallet to be installed). By building on the Blocknet Protocol and joining the “Internet of Blockchains,” developers will help to evolve a decentralized crypto-ecosystem. In addition, the Blocknet Protocol allows over 100 digital assets to be traded on Block DX, a 100% trustless and decentralized exchange dApp built on the protocol where native assets are traded, funds are in your control throughout the entire trade process, the ability to list an asset is open and free, there are no accounts, and no KYC is required. CloudChains Inc. is currently implementing a fully decentralized lite (thin) multi-wallet utilizing Blocknet’s XRouter protocol. To learn more about Blocknet, check out our website, API, documentation, and Discord. You can also check out the full 2020 roadmap here.
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