‘Decentralized Infura’ may help prevent Ethereum app crashes: Interview
Infura is developing a decentralized marketplace of data providers that will help to prevent Web3 app crashes in the future, according to a Feb. 6 Cointelegraph interview with Infura researcher Patrick McCorry.
McCorry stated that the new “decentralized Infura” will help to ensure that blockchains remain decentralized by distributing data provider services among multiple providers in a marketplace. It will have “up to 10 providers initially” that will “work together to bootstrap the network and then […] Gradually iterate and get more players.” Some potential partners will meet at ETH Denver in late February or early March to discuss the project’s next steps.
The new project will not be a new blockchain. Instead, it will be a marketplace that matches consumers of blockchain data with data providers. The current centralized Infura will simply be one of the providers on the network, as McCorry explained:
“There’ll be a marketplace where basically the new providers will sign up […] They can place the resources that they have available, so they can say, ‘I can satisfy these requests at this price.’ Users could come along and then buy those resources and then it’s like a matchmaking service of users.”
McCorry believes this will make the Web3 ecosystem more resilient by allowing users to rapidly switch to a new provider if the one they are currently using experiences an outage. He also stated that the new decentralized Infura might be more censorship-resistant than the current service because providers will be spread out over many different geographical areas and operating under different jurisdictions.
“I think what’s important to highlight here is that the goal of decentralized Infura is not to fight against censorship, or to even enable that. The whole point of decentralized Infura is a reliability project, to guarantee that if we were to go offline another node will come along and pick up the traffic,” he said. However he added that the network would have providers in countries that are in different jurisdictions and subject to different rules.
“The way you get censorship resistance is geographical location. Now, if you’re in a country where you don’t have to abide by certain sanctions, you can facilitate the request. “
“It’s not the goal of decentralized infura to facilitate sanctioned transactions, but there will be nodes there who will be from different geographical location so they could potentially serve the request. Infura themselves as of course, an entity on that network will of course adhere to any sanctions or any requests in that regard.”
Related: Are we still mad at Metamask and Consensus for snooping on us?
Infura is a suite of APIs and developer tools that is used by Web3 app developers to pull data from blockchains. It is used by many different Web3 apps, including MetaMask, Gnosis, Aragon and others. It is also used by many centralized exchanges to track deposit and withdrawal transactions.
Although blockchain networks charge transaction fees to prevent too many transactions from overloading servers, these fees are only charged to users writing data to the blockchain. Infura has emerged as one way to charge developers or users for reading data, which does not usually incur a transaction fee on-chain.
As Infura has become increasingly used by developers, it has come under fire for allegedly being too centralized. In November 2020, the MetaMask wallet app stopped working for most users when Infura servers went down, and some centralized exchanges were prevented from getting accurate transaction data from it anymore. This led some critics to question whether Ethereum can be genuinely decentralized as long as developers depend on Infura to provide data for their users.
Parts of this article were based on an interview with Patrick McCorry conducted by Cointelegraph’s Andrew Fenton at Starkware Sessions 2023 in Tel Aviv.