It’s time to formally face the centralization problem that Infura brings

On March 4th, a user stated on social media that he could not use the MetaMask wallet in Venezuela. The reason was found out and it was found that there was a problem with the API service provider Infura.

Infura responded by misconfiguring a few settings while changing some configurations in line with new sanctions in the U.S. and other jurisdictions, causing service outages in some regions. And MetaMask, which is Infura’s home and uses Infura’s services, also had problems with this error. As a result, users in some regions cannot access MetaMask for a short time.

This is the Nth time Infura has had a problem that has affected the Ethereum ecosystem. Although this issue has been discussed many years ago, some issues should be brought back to attention in the face of Ethereum’s incomparable super ecology. Especially during the period of turmoil, the Web3.0 world, which is advertised as “decentralized”, has also begun to have access barriers due to problems between countries, which is really embarrassing.

We’re not denying the great value of Infura, but if we could try other ways, wouldn’t this problem be alleviated?

What is Infura?

Professionally speaking, Infura is an IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) product, which aims to lower the threshold for accessing Ethereum data. In layman’s terms, Infura is a platform that allows your DApp to quickly access Ethereum without running an Ethereum node locally.

From a programmer’s point of view, Infura is a Web3 provider with a load-balanced cluster of API nodes behind it.

To put it simply, Infura is a public Ethereum node that can see all the data on the entire Ethereum chain. The advantage of this node is that Infura is an external service, and the project party or trading platform can actually deploy the node by itself. The functions are exactly the same as Infura, but it is very troublesome and expensive. So there is a market for Infura’s services.

Across the Ethereum network, there is a need for a utility that lowers barriers to entry and simplifies access to Ethereum data. Foremost among them are Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) offerings, and leading the pack is Infura, which provides developers, DApp teams and enterprises across industries with a set of tools to connect their applications to Ethereum network and other decentralized platforms.

Infura is an Ethereum infrastructure developed by developer Michael Wuehler and started as an independent operation. It was wholly acquired by ConsenSys in 2019 and became its sub-business unit. Infura was free to use when it launched. Subsequent subscription services, ranging from $50 to $1,000 per month. However, Infura is still very friendly for developers or projects with smaller needs. Developers can create 3 projects in Infura for free and submit 100,000 requests per day using Infura’s API service.

What is Infura for?

“Our mission is to facilitate access to Ethereum and the opportunities it offers,” said Nicola Cocchiaro, Principal Systems Engineer at Infura. They have indeed achieved that mission, far exceeding expectations.

It's time to formally face the centralization problem that Infura brings

Many of Ethereum’s well-known projects (MetaMask, Aragon, Gnosis, OpenZeppelin, etc.) utilize Infura’s API to connect their applications to the Ethereum network. As the largest API provider in the Ethereum ecosystem, the existence of Infura has indeed brought a lot of convenience to developers.

The best-known part of Infura’s infrastructure is the managed Ethereum client network, supporting mainnet and testnet over HTTPS and WSS via client-compatible JSON-RPC. Ethereum nodes are only part of the Infura stack, and they also have IPFS services, but the ecology is very different from that of Ethereum, and the attention is naturally not that great.

Projects and companies using Infura

On Infura’s official website, Rhythm found that there are many well-known companies and projects that utilize Infura’s services. For example, the Ethereum light wallet MetaMask uses Infura’s zero client approach to connect to Infura’s remote infrastructure to serve more than millions of users. (Rhythm Note: MetaMask runs its own node in addition to using the Infura service)

For projects that place a greater emphasis on scalability, like Mystery, Infura works with developers across the ecosystem to keep the network running smoothly.

Of course, there are many trading platforms that also use Infura’s services, such as Upbit, Bithumb, etc. There are also some decentralized protocols, such as 0x and MyCrypto, which rely on Infura to broadcast transaction data and smart contracts to the Ethereum mainnet.

It's time to formally face the centralization problem that Infura brings

Some customer cases listed on the Infura website

Concerns over reliance on Infura

It's time to formally face the centralization problem that Infura brings

At present, there are 6,300 nodes in the entire Ethereum network. Infura once stated in 2018 that the number of nodes connected to the Ethereum network through Infura accounts for 5-10% of the total number of nodes. With the increasing cost of maintaining nodes, this ratio will only increase now.

This is not the first time Infura has had problems. In November 2020, Infura was not running the latest version of the Geth client, and some special transactions triggered a bug in this version of the client, and then Infura went down.

This is considered to be the most serious Ethereum accident after The DAO. Although it is not a problem of the Ethereum network, the chain reaction caused by the downtime of Infura at that time can almost be regarded as a short-term paralysis of the Ethereum network: mainstream trading platforms cannot deposit and withdraw ERC- 20 tokens, MetaMask cannot be used, etc.

Small problems continued. In February of this year, platforms such as OpenSea and Uniswap had problems again, because Infura’s traffic surged and went down. Infura has apparently become the foundation of the $320 billion tower.

As early as 2018, developers have expressed concerns about Infura. Afri Schoedon, an ethereum developer at Parity Technologies, said the ethereum network cannot rely on Infura to handle 10 billion requests per day. Schoedon believes that over-reliance on Infura will increase the centralization of the protocol.

In addition to the project party or users building their own nodes, we have many other projects to choose from, such as Alchemy, or the highly popular Pocket Network, etc. Although the impact of Infura’s failure will not completely disappear, it can at least be reduced.

We are not denying the value of Infura. Infura is very important to Ethereum, but if there are more node incentive schemes or solutions to reduce node operating costs, Ethereum will be more perfect, even better than ETH2.0.

Posted by:CoinYuppie,Reprinted with attribution to:
Coinyuppie is an open information publishing platform, all information provided is not related to the views and positions of coinyuppie, and does not constitute any investment and financial advice. Users are expected to carefully screen and prevent risks.

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