*This article is a serises contributed by MassBit community members. MassBit does not hold any copyright to this article “MassBit 101 Centralized API Service Redundancy”.
“Everything is about servers. All the network schematics are of servers, the trust model is between servers. “
Infura service outage
This past April, crypto wallet Metamask again suffered a service outage. This was the second major outage in the past year for Infura, MetaMask’s default RPC provider. In addition to the Metamask service outage, a wide array of dApps suffered outages related to Infura’s technical issues. Infura also had issues last November in an even more serious outage that caused services outages, so much so that many crypto exchanges were forced to pause ether withdrawals.
The ongoing issues focus a spotlight on the need for future DeFi products to be independent of single point centralized API systems. RPC providers like Infura serve as the interface by which Metamask is able to interact with the blockchain, in this instance the Ethereum blockchain. Ultimately the ability for DeFi and Web3 to truly be decentralized and different from centralized API Service will heavily rely on what type of API system the blockchain system uses to connect to the network.
Full Node API services dominate the market
Certainly, in the current environment, Full Node API services like Infura, Alchemy and others provide valuable services, but do we really want a world where only a handful of businesses operate full nodes? Where decentralization is sacrificed for convenience? Currently, you get access to fewer API functions on Infura compared to running a full Node yourself, but the challenges of running a full node remain complex, with the potential to be expensive in terms of storage.
A crypto wallet like MetaMask is “non-custodial”, meaning the keys are kept on the client side. Yet, it has one large problem, a wallet has to run on a mobile device or in your browser. Ethereum and other blockchains have been designed with the idea that it’s a network of peers, but not designed such that it’s really possible for your mobile device or your browser to be one of those peers.
MetaMask needs to do basic things like display your balance, your transactions, and your NFTs, as well as more complicated things like constructing transactions, interacting with smart contracts, and more. In simple terms, MetaMask needs to interact with the blockchain, but the blockchain has been built such that clients like MetaMask can’t interact with it. MetaMask is able to do this by making API calls to three companies that have consolidated in this space. This isn’t a problem specific to MetaMask, as they don’t have many options in a monopolized API market, including centralized API service.
Solutions for web3 infrastructure going forward
The cryptocurrency world still lacks much attention to the client-server interface. When people talk about blockchain technology, they talk about distributed trust, but often forget the reality that clients ultimately can’t participate in some aspects of the network. Everything is about servers. All the network schematics are of servers, the trust model is between servers. Blockchains are designed to be a network of decentralized peers, but not designed such that it’s really possible for your mobile device or browser to be one of those peers.
Infura is web2, using cloud services like AWS. The main advantage of web3 is that the network is decentralized, meaning there is no single point of failure. A large enough decentralized network, therefore, becomes impervious to network failures since thousands of computers work independently in many global locations to provide the backend for the network. The MetaMask outage clearly showed even the most decentralized networks can fail when it must interact with a centralized API system.
MassBit Route Decentralized API
So much work, time, and energy has gone into creating decentralized systems, but every client that wishes to access it does so by simply trusting the outputs from these two or three main players dominating the API-network relationship. It also doesn’t seem like the best privacy situation. Imagine if every time you interacted with a website in Chrome, your request first went to Google before being routed to the destination and back. That’s the situation with Ethereum today. All write traffic is obviously already public on the blockchain, but these companies also have visibility into almost all read requests from almost all users in almost all dApps.
API are a type of software interface that allows two applications to talk to each other, and become increasingly important as different blockchain ecosystems develop and need to communicate with each other. MBR is a decentralized API for blockchain networks, which not only supports Infura, Quicknode, and Getblock, but allows for community providers as well. This creates a reliable network by creating multiple API sources.
The MassBit Verification Protocol
MassBit Route is powered by the MassBit Verification Protocol, a decentralized proof of stake system that ensures all workers execute their tasks correctly, while also checking on each other’s work to verify that everyone is acting properly. MBR offers reliable and stable service, at a fraction of the cost of centralized API, while also being open to everyone, with the ability to stake and receive rewards for completed work.
This current outage showed the complications in transitioning from the established web2 world into web3. The dream of true decentralization can easily exist within a well-established and programmed network, but until these systems can communicate and interact with each other via true decentralized API, there will always be points of failure within the larger system, and the ubiquitous web3 future we dream of cannot exist.
For more articles: MassBit 101 — Web3 Single Point Of Failure
About the Author
Hi, my Name is C. I have been following blockchain technology since the early days of Bitcoin, but got really interested in it the last few years as the technology evolved, which has ushered in greater worldwide adoption. I’m not your typical Crypto bro, I hate meme coins and celebrity shills. At the heart of any good crypto is the tech, and I think anyone who understands the fundamental technology in some of the crypto projects can’t ignore the ways in which Crypto will shape and change many key industries from entertainment, commerce, manufacturing, tracking, to authentication systems. I don’t know if I’d go far as to say Crypto will change the future, but I truly believe Crypto will be a big part of the future.