WTF is The Graph?
Access to data has been a central feature of Web 2.0. also known as participatory or social web, the defining character of the current Web 2.0 is an emphasis on making user-generated content participatory, interoperable (regardless of end-user device), and easy to use. These core tenets are central user experience of the web today.
In this regard, access to data through Web 2.0 has been particularly effective. The data access technology, including search engines, query APIs, and databases, has become ubiquitous that few software engineers think about when developing their software solutions. However, as we move forward to Web 3.0, where decentralization is a crucial component and feature of how we will use the web, solving data access is essential.
The vast majority of data access technologies have proven impractical when using blockchain. The decentralized nature of data in blockchain networks, the opacity of the data (where the data is subjected to different obfuscation and encryption levels in the network), and the sequential nature of storing blockchain data makes applying traditional data access technologies impractical, if not impossible.
That being said, creating data access technology is a fundamental component to developing Web3. Additionally, solving the problem of data access is a taxing endeavor. Some developers using blockchain technology have resulted to spending countless hours writing infrastructure code.
This is where The Graph comes in!
What is The Graph?
The Graph (GRT) is designed to make querying of networks such as Ethereum, PoA, and InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) and fast, secure, and reliable. In effect, it is a decentralized indexing protocol for blockchain data that is open source. The protocol allows developers to create and publish application programming interfaces (APIs) called subgraphs that execute queries over GraphQL.
Subgraphs define the standard means of indexing data derived in the Ethereum network and its storage system. It specifies the type and variety of data (data regarding smart contracts, blockchain events, and event data processing event) to listen to, how to process and transform the data, and, crucially, the GraphQL schema to apply during querying.
After developing the subgraph, it is compiled to a Graph Node. The next step in the process is to sync the data in the network. After that, you generate a GraphQL endpoint that supports sorting, filtering, pagination, and other functions.
And this is what makes Graph unique. Developers can create APIs that allow Ethereum users to search for data in the networks through simple queries akin to traditional search engines. By providing this solution, The Graph addresses a common problem that exists in blockchain indexing platforms.
Blockchain applications cannot inherently adhere to properties such as chain reorganization, finality, and query fulfillment security. These are some of the problems Graph aims to remedy, among other issues.
Using subgraphs, The Graph indexes data created in a blockchain network and avail it to users through GraphQL API. While The Graph is not entirely decentralized as it currently stands, the team behind this querying technology plans to make it fully decentralized in the future. To this end, they will avail more nodes, who will be responsible for maintaining the index.
In the meantime, the platform continues to thrive, with interest in its solution continuing to grow. The Graph reached over 1 billion queries in June 2020. This is around the same time when institutions developed an interest and started to pay attention to decentralized finance.
What Makes The Graph Exciting?
For starters, The Graph lets users create, use, and publish their own APIs. This has garnered interest from many players in the industry, with over 2,300 subgraphs created and deployed. For instance, the marketplaces such as Synthetix Exchange and Decentraland are have developed their own subgraphs. Additionally, in the decentralized market, Uniswap has its own subgraph. Other notable subgraphs include DAOstack, AAVE, Balancer, and Aragon.
Graph has also garnered substantial institutional support as it solves fundamental issues many blockchain network users encounter – difficulty accessing a network’s historical data. As Uniswap’s Hayden Adam noted, Graph has helped meet their organization’s analytical needs. Moreover, he notes that his company did not easily analyze the Ethereum blockchain historical data.
The Graph is also exciting to ordinary blockchain users owing to the barrier it breaks. Before Graph came live in 2020, one had to be technically inclined to access data from the Ethereum blockchain. Typically, you had to build a Dapp to access data on Ethereum. To this end, developers had to create their own strategy regarding data gathering.
Additionally, you had to come up with ways of analyzing and transforming the data into useful information. All these endeavors were substantial technical challenges that few Ethereum users could surmount. In place of the described process, Graph has a robust set of tools that simplify the entire process for non-technically inclined users.
The Graph Token & Governance Model
GRT is the main governance and utility token for the Graph protocol. GRT's maximum supply is 10,000,000,000 GRT coins. Participants in the network, who include contributors, indexers, curators, delegators, are awarded or paid in GRT. Crucially, GRT holders gain other rights in the network. It’s an ERC-20 token that holders can use to transfer value globally.
The current priority for the team behind Graph is to transfer the ownership of the platform to the community. While Graph is open source, a lot of its functions are still centralized. As such, the team wants to shift to an entirely decentralized governance model while also adding support for other networks.
To decentralize the management of the protocol, Graph plans to set up a Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO), similar to Compound and MakerDAO. Once the protocol is the DAO, which will be called The Graph Council, is up and running, it will allow stakeholders to make key decisions regarding the protocol.
The Graph Council will be the governing body for the technical parameters of the protocol. The Graph Council will determine how on all matters, protocol upgrades, protocol parameters, among other decisions. Importantly, The Graph Council votes on funding allocation, giving priority to programs with future growth potential.
The Graph Network is officially live! People all over the world are coming together to build a vibrant decentralized future on top of crypto networks.— The Graph (@graphprotocol) December 17, 2020
Join the movement and come build the future you want to live in 👩🚀🌍https://t.co/3YVpq4HrFt pic.twitter.com/63rc2z90ac
Who Is On The The Graph Team?
The Graph was co-founded by Yaniv Tal, project lead and CEO, Jannis Pohlmann as the tech lead, and Jannis Pohlmann as the tech lead. All the co-founding members had previously worked on Ethereum and understood the complexity of working with such a network.
They soon realized that there was no open-source decentralized indexing and querying software, and developer had to develop their own custom proprietary software for this function. As such, they set out to create a protocol, applications, and standards to make Web3 data available to everyone.
The project has grown immensely and now has professionals drawn from Puppet, Ethereum Foundation, Barclays, and Redhat on Graph’s board.
What Funds The Graph?
The Graph derives its funding from 1% of its query fees it charges. Contributors to The Graph can apply for funding through funding from their Grants Program (https://www.notion.so/The-Graph-Foundation-Grants-445138b51ce144689495cb5e37be0ef7). The Grant Program is always open and Individuals or institutions interested in contributing the protocol for further development can apply for the Grant Program anytime.
Recent report indicate The Graph Council has allocated over $5 million to grants, bounties, and ecosystem contributors to grow the ecosystem (https://thegraph.com/blog/wave-one-funding). Moreover, the approximately $2.6M has been awarded in grants in the Wave 1 grants (https://www.notion.so/Graph-Grants-Wave-1-9b6cb88855a240ce80f969092548655e). the funds are distributed monthly or quarterly based on contributors meeting milestones.
How To Participate In The The Graph Network
There many ways you can participating The Graph Network. For the technically inclined, you can contribute to the growth of the network by advancing the Tooling, Protocol Infrastructure, DAPPs And Subgraphs, and Community building.
#1. Indexers – Indexers are nodes that maintain the indexing function on Graph. Indexers use their recourses to collect and store all the information the network.
#2. Curators - Curators identify the various subgraphs that contain relevant information to the network’s index.
#3. Delegators And Stakers – These are GRT users who stake their tokens with indexers and earn a passive income. In some regard, being a delegator is akin to purchasing a piece of the indexing node. As such, the income generated for delegators is determine by their investment.
#4. Fishermen – Fishermen nodes are unique to Graph. These are network participants who confirm the accuracy of the responses to quarries.
#5. Arbitrators – The work of arbitrators is to determine whether Indexers are malicious. When an arbitrator determine an indexer is malicious, the arbitrator will remove it from The Graph network.
An example of a malicious indexer is one who deliberately alters their data. As punishment the arbitrator may, in this case, opt to take away the staked GRT tokens. Alternatively, they may opt to remove the node from the network.
The Graph Foundation is looking into building and launching a ready-to-use Graph Explorer dAPP. This app will give the network users the right and ability to use and help the network grow right from their devices.
Additionally, Graph still remains open to receiving any help to grow the network. Their Grants Program remains open for community members to apply and third-party organizations to apply.