The Graph has launched its Mainnet yesterday. This is a huge achievement for a project which has been working in the background for more than 3 years.
Now that The Graph is live, I would like to step back a bit and see how The Graph protocol and subgraphs could evolve in the future.
We can’t talk about the future of The Graph without looking at what the Web 3 revolution is bringing.
Web 3 is not about technology, or performance at this point. If you compare Web 3 applications today with Web 2, you will find them slower and more complex to use than the existing Web 2 applications.
Web 3 instead is about identity and control. Our identity as users and the data behind and how we decide to use it. It is about power and who has control over the technologies, applications, and content we use every day. Google today control over 70% of all web search traffic and Facebook control (and own) the online identities of billions of people. Web 3 rejects this statement completely.
The Graph and Web 3
The Graph is an indexing protocol for querying networks like Ethereum and IPFS. Developers can build open APIs called subgraphs to access specific data in the blockchain in a more convenient way. The Graph uses GraphQL to query data in the blockchain. So, anybody can use it.
Web 3 is building its promises around 5 key elements:
1. Identity control: Own your identity, data, and reputation
2. Interoperability: seamless integration between different dApps built on different chains
3. Reliability: A running public infrastructure with a close 100% availability
4. Trust: Built on smart contracts and digital agreement
5. Security: Safe secure and private
The Graph as it is today is building the first steps by querying and indexing blockchain data to actually fulfill Web 3 promises. It would need to develop further its ability by adding a reliability and security layers to the indexed data from the blockchain.
The way Web 3 stack looks like today, The Graph is part of the protocol layer and help index and query valuable data from the blockchain.
The objective of this blog post is not to detail the Web 3 stack but go from it and see how The Graph could evolve in the coming future.
Everything we do in the modern world relies on data and getting solid data. In the Web 2 world, if you have data quality issues you can find a workaround as you are in a centralized organization. In the blockchain/Web 3 environment, with the growing data usage, this is even more important, because if your data is wrong, the smart contract execution will be wrong. You need to have reliable data in the smart contract to build the digital agreement. Current smart contract-enabled blockchain technology exhibits limited support for data quality assessment of transaction payloads. This is critical because blockchain aims at removing intermediaries, which, however, often play an important role in guaranteeing a certain level of the quality of data used by a system. Moreover, owing to the immutability typical of blockchain, poor quality data are bound to remain stored in a blockchain possibly forever.
Data usage: are you ready ?
The Graph is a data indexing protocol, it could evolve in the future to be a sort of data indexing and quality control protocol.
In Web 2 world data quality is performed using big data third parties like Master Data Management (MDM) which store what we call a ‘Golden Record’ and share it with all the parties in the system which need it. The ‘Golden Record’ is generally built with the help of external and internal referentials. This is certainly not the model to be applied for Web3 as an MDM is a pure centralized tool, but this should give some ideas/hints on where we can go from here to build the data quality protocol in a decentralized way.
One other dimension The Graph could look at to evolve in the future is the diversification of supported networks and blockchain. Of course today Ethereum is the king and it makes total sense to build the first steps of The Graph with ETH. Nevertheless, I do not believe in the ‘Winner Takes All’, and tomorrow, we will have a multichain ecosystem with different dominant Layer 1 blockchains.
DeFI is an example of successful decentralized applications on Ehereum, but there are more to come. A bridge is already being deployed between DeFi and privacy blockchain features such as Oasis. More dApps are even built on Oasis such as Insure.Network in the Insurance field.
The next big wave in terms of data usage might come from digital arts with Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT) and gaming (actually gaming has the potential to bring billions of users on the blockchain, and it might be just bigger than DeFi). In this area Flow blockchain has built a solid basis as a layer 1 protocol to handle this type of activity on the blockchain. The team behind Flow is the creator of CryptoKitties, which is well known for being the first dApp responsible for the Ethereum congestion network back in 2017. Ubisoft which is one of the worldwide leaders in the gaming industry is currently running a node on the Flow blockchain. This might tell you that the gaming industry is coming faster than you think.
We can even think about different scenarios for the long term, and one of them could be as we can hear today from some people: ‘The Graph is the Google for the blockchain’. At this stage, this is just not true. In order for this to happen, there is still a lot (I mean a lot …) needed to be done. Why ? Because Google today is the reference for the general public (companies and people). The picture below shows the phased short / mid and long term views
So we are still far away from this vision, and the competition can surge any time.
The future is bright for The Graph, even if we are just starting our Web3 journey. Blockchain data usage is just starting to take off. Data quality and control will be a key topic in the coming years, and a lot of things still need to be defined. As a central part in manipulating blockchain data, The Graph has all the keys to play a major role.