API, Dapps, Web 3.0, The Graph

Analytics blockchain The Graph is now live on the Ethereum mainnet, according to the developer team. The project’s Thursday launch follows three years of work including a testnet and centralized mainnet.

The Graph seeks to create usable decentralized indexes and API feeds for blockchain-based projects through its own blockchain and native token GRT, project lead and co-founder Yaniv Tal said in a Zoom interview. The project is seeking to be a key infrastructural piece of Web 3.0.

Put simply, The Graph is a middle layer between decentralized applications (dapps) and various blockchains, enabling them to interact more fluidly; It’s the PB&J in between the blockchain and dapp bread.

Top decentralized finance (DeFi) projects Synthetix, Uniswap and Balancer, among others, currently operate on a hosted version of The Graph.

“The funny thing about blockchain data is that even though in theory everything is transparent and accessible, in practice it has historically been very opaque,†Uniswap founder Hayden Adams said in a statement. “The Graph has done great work so far in making smart contract data easy to monitor and use. Once we know more, we can build better.â€

Big data, decentralized

While running an Ethereum node may only take up a few hundred gigabytes of data on a node, smart contracts nestled in Ethereum hold untold thousands more, necessitating aggressive API management, DeFi startup advisor Ric Burton told CoinDesk in a phone interview. (Burton holds an allocation of GRT tokens and is an adviser to the project).

Querying these smart contracts often requires proprietary software which translates to higher costs and more man hours for blockchain startups, he said. Indeed, his former startup wallet, Balance, ran into numerous issues due to reliance on an unreliable third party.

The need for such a middleware platform is to account-balance styled blockchains such as Ethereum. Burton said it can be difficult for blockchain-based applications to run cleanly because smart contracts can create arbitrary amounts of information in a variety of manners. For example, Ethereum has dozens of ERC token styles each requiring custom setups on a dapp-by-dapp basis.

The Graph’s overarching purpose is to create not only an alternative for projects, but to decentralize the API middle-layer, Tal said. The Graph proposes a tri-part solution to the centralized data conundrum: indexers who run nodes and process queries, delegators who stake GRT and secure the network and curators who appraise feeds and signal to indexers which queries to run. 

Indexers, delegators and curators are incentivized to build better APIs through the network’s native token, which is paid out depending on the performance of indexes called subgraphs.

The Graph saw traction on its self-hosted version, Tal said, with some 10 billion queries last month alone, up tenfold since June.

The project closed two token sales in 2020 including a $5 million “simple agreement for future tokens†(SAFT) involving Coinbase Ventures and a $12 million sale from some 4,500 individual investors.

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