Let’s move our perspective back to two years ago. In that year, many blockchain projects were born. These projects raised funds in the form of 1CO, and then the team developed a unique chain, and then launched the corresponding chain based on this chain. Blockchain application, and try to further land, that is, the ideal “one chain one DApp” state.
But at that time, in addition to forking an existing chain (such as forking Ethereum), it was very difficult to expect a chain with stronger performance than Ethereum. This not only requires very senior professional talents, but also time-consuming and laborious research and development. Many teams have spent months or even a year or two in this step, and naturally there is no follow-up application and implementation process. .
And the Substrate framework behind Polkadot is the nemesis of this problem. Based on the Substrate framework, the chain can be issued with one click, which can greatly reduce the time and cost of the team to develop a chain. In this way, the development team can use more energy At the level of how to do a good job of blockchain applications.
This is not only vital to the Polkadot ecology, but also of great significance to the entire blockchain industry. It lowers the technical threshold of the blockchain industry and accelerates the development of the entire blockchain industry, which will inevitably promote more The birth of multi-blockchain projects.
It sounds like with the Substrate framework, you can sit back and relax in blockchain applications, but is this really the case?
If the goal of a blockchain project is to achieve one chain and one DApp, then the Substrate framework solves the problem of making a chain. In fact, making DApp also has some unique dilemmas. And how to clear the obstacles on the road of DApp development and make the production of DApp more convenient and faster, we have to mention the important Polkadot niche we have observed today-middleware.
“Middleware” may hide new giants
1. What is middleware?
The broad understanding of the so-called middleware is that it does not directly provide value to users, and applications between business-oriented application software and system software are called middleware. (Here we tend to understand the broad sense of middleware. We are more concerned with the niche of the entire broad sense of middleware, rather than limited to a certain subdivision of narrow sense of middleware)
The overall role is to provide an operating and development environment for the application software at its own upper level, and to help users develop and integrate complex application software flexibly and efficiently.
For example, the apps we use every day, today’s Toutiao, Alipay, WeChat and other applications are directly oriented to users. They are business-oriented applications. We will be more familiar with these daily contact applications. But there are still some applications that we hardly perceive, that is, applications specifically for developers or for the functions and services provided by official operating systems. Such applications are middleware, such as Kingdee Middleware or IBM Some of the application servers provided, or, with the migration of a large number of companies to the cloud, many cloud vendors are also providing cloud + middleware services, such as Alibaba Cloud or Amazon Cloud (AWS).
For most people, Amazon Cloud (AWS) may be unfamiliar compared to other familiar applications, because it is more for developers or enterprises. But just helping a certain developer or a certain company is not of much value, but gathering less makes more. When many applications are based on AWS, it naturally becomes a giant (a bit like the merchant platform provided by Taobao).
Today, AWS’s 2020 annual net sales have reached 45.37 billion U.S. dollars, unknowingly it has quietly become a behemoth with a volume of hundreds of billions of yuan. Obviously, this number will grow further with the advancement of digitalization. It can be said that this is a low-key giant field hidden behind many well-known software, which is why we are optimistic about this ecological position.
So what about switching to the blockchain field? How to understand the middleware in the blockchain, and what projects are worth paying attention to?
Traditional middleware is a large category of basic software and a concept of traditional distributed systems. It is not strictly defined, and there is no consensus on which middleware belongs to the blockchain. Here, we define the application that provides functions and services for the blockchain network itself or DApp as the middleware of the blockchain (this is defined by the Polkadot Ecological Research Institute, for reference only).
At present, there are already many well-known projects that actually belong to the middleware of the blockchain world, such as the oracle Chainlink (token name LINK) that helps on-chain applications and off-chain data to interact in multiple ways, which specializes in providing on-chain data. Indexing service, Google’s The Graph (token named GRT) that creates the blockchain world, and Infura, a partial centralized Ethereum’s largest node service provider that allows DApps to quickly access Ethereum, etc., we can follow these projects A glimpse of the meaning of middleware for blockchain.
2. Why does blockchain need middleware?
Although the Substrate framework solves the problem of the chain, doing DApp also has its own dilemma. Nowadays, many blockchain projects or DApps do not just develop the code. They also need some stable and efficient operating environment and some other data support. Without these foundations, many projects are difficult to run. The role of middleware for the blockchain is the same as it is for the Internet-helping blockchain developers to develop and integrate various functions flexibly and efficiently to ensure the safe and stable operation of the project.
At present, most DeFi applications are driven by data. DeFi developers may be good at developing DApps, but DeFi needs to introduce external data, which requires an oracle. However, there is a specialization in the technical industry, and it is very difficult to build an oracle. It is impossible for us to ask DeFi developers to be all-rounders to tackle all problems one by one.
The current situation is that professional people do professional things, and the team that is good at doing oracles has made projects like Chainlink. DeFi developers only need to directly access Chainlink to obtain the data support it provides. Currently, Chainlink has provided price-feeding services for many DeFis, which is the logic why LINK can reach new highs.
On the other hand, DApp needs a solution to obtain and transform data from the underlying data source, and blockchain data is stored in a format that is difficult to directly retrieve and use in the application. Like The Graph mentioned earlier, it processes more than 4 billion data query requests from well-known DeFi projects and data analysis companies such as Uniswap, CoinGecko, Synthetix, etc. regarding prices, historical transaction volumes, liquidity, etc. every month. Similarly, The Graph also solves the needs of various projects for on-chain data indexing.
If conditions permit, most developers will choose a safer and faster way of self-built nodes. However, the current Ethereum full node operation and maintenance costs are high, and many nodes are unwilling to make node services public, which is very important for DApp developers. It is very uncomfortable, and Infura has observed this demand. By providing DApp developers with general Ethereum node services and providing free entry services, it has attracted many developers. Infura has quickly become the world’s largest Ethereum node. Service providers, and made great contributions to the prosperity of the Ethereum ecosystem.
Therefore, middleware is a necessary and important infrastructure between the blockchain and DApp. Then, some middleware projects are already hot and shiny. What about the middleware in the Polkadot ecology?
Middleware in the Polkadot ecosystem
Recently, the official list of the 8th Grant has been announced. Among them, a project called Apron is aimed at the niche of middleware. We might as well take a look at the significance of middleware to the Polkadot ecology from the perspective of Apron.
1. Why is Apron targeting Polkadot’s middleware?
Apron is a decentralized platform that provides infrastructure services for DApp developers, DApp users, and operators. It wants to become a decentralized Amazon Cloud (AWS), providing decentralized node services, oracles, and on-chain data. The infrastructure of various middleware such as indexes and random numbers.
The Apron team was originally a DApp developer on Ethereum, but there was a major accident in Infura last year. At that time, because many blockchain application developers relied on Infura’s services, Infura became more centralized, so the accident The impact is great. Cryptocurrency exchanges such as Binance and Bithumb have all suspended the withdrawal of ETH and ERC-20 tokens. The well-known wallet Metamask also has some problems. So although Infura has made great contributions to developers and Ethereum, its centralized nature still becomes a hidden danger.
This painful lesson made the Apron team determined to change the status quo of the Web3.0 world that relies heavily on centralized services. On the other hand, various middleware projects in the blockchain are focused on their own subdivisions, but there is still a lack of a general technical solution to link various subdivisions. Therefore, Apron decided to change the status quo by creating a decentralized infrastructure service network based on Polkadot.
2. Take Apron as an example, what can middleware bring to Polkadot?
1) DApp version “Substrate Framework”: accelerate the development of Polkadot ecological DApp
Earlier we mentioned that Substrate provides an important function of “one-click chain”, and as the Polkadot ecology also requires products that are easy for developers to use, such as middleware. Therefore, the birth of Apron just made up for this gap, and in the short term Looking at Apron greatly facilitates developers to build DApp products in the Polkadot ecology. In the long run, the existence of Apron is to provide a new platform for the rapid expansion of the Polkadot ecology to a certain level of DApp. After all, the number of DApps in the Ethereum next door has Thousands.
Specifically, Apron has built a “Service Marketplace” that can match the services provided by infrastructure service providers with the needs of DApp developers, and infrastructure service providers can implement infrastructure services through one-click deployment of Apron Node On the chain. On the other hand, through the matching of the market, the demand side and the supply side can be quickly matched. This is like building a distributed infrastructure version of “Filecoin” for DApp developers to choose infrastructure service providers.
At the same time, the Apron SDK allows application developers to quickly implement data access to the application network after integrating this function, and allows the information between communications to be encrypted, reducing the threshold for DApp developers to build data communications by themselves. Of course, these applications or functions are only part of Apron’s rapid expansion of the DApp ecosystem, and the final effect is to allow the development of DApp in the Polkadot ecosystem to be freely modularized like a puzzle, without worrying about API interface issues. , The use of data, or the problem of information interaction, when the infrastructure provided by Apron can solve various DApp development problems and improve the ease of development, DApp projects in the ecology will inevitably usher in a flourishing situation . Therefore, we believe that Apron has built a DApp version of “Substrate” for application developers, which will surely provide a good foundation for the DApp outbreak in Polkadot.
2) More diverse infrastructures make the project more decentralized
The seemingly decentralized Ethereum, due to too many projects relying on a centralized node service provider Infura, makes Ethereum less decentralized, and Infura has the risk of becoming a single point of failure affecting Ethereum. Last year, Infura made mistakes, which affected many well-known exchanges and wallets in the circle. On the other hand, most of Infura’s servers are hosted on another centralized giant-Amazon Cloud (AWS), which means that if there is something wrong with Amazon’s servers any day, it will also affect the operation of Ethereum nodes.
In the blockchain field, there are many incidents of centralization risks. For example, the oracle is provided with price-feeding services in DeFi, and this price will directly affect the funds, so once the oracle has a problem, it often brings What comes is huge asset losses. There are two main types of oracle events. One is the error in the data source, which causes the wrong price to be fed to the DeFi application on the chain, which is discovered by the trading robot and quickly arbitrage, and the other is hacked and manipulated. The price is profitable. These events clearly tell us that the decentralization of the infrastructure in the blockchain is very necessary. And Apron provides a wealth of infrastructure, which allows DApp developers to have more choices when it comes to infrastructure, which not only makes projects using these infrastructures more decentralized, and will not repeat the mistakes of Infura, but also can do Confirm with multiple parties to prevent being affected by a single source of information. As an important concept of Web3.0, Polkadot naturally needs a role like this. Only when the infrastructure is decentralized can the real Web3.0 be realized.
3) Become another infrastructure “hub” of Pokawan chain interconnection
Although we have always believed that Polkadot will bring real 10,000-chain interconnection, the road is still full of ruggedness and many elements are needed. This is why there are many new projects that receive the official Grant from the Web3 Foundation every quarter. It is precisely because of the imperfection and lack of infrastructure that more high-quality projects and teams are needed to enter the Polkadot ecosystem. And platforms like Apron, which originally provided infrastructure services for the ecology, will inevitably receive focus and support. Of course, if Apron can complete the functions we mentioned above, then its status in the Polkadot ecosystem will become nothing more than The “hub” of another type of infrastructure.
It is a middleware platform that integrates DApp ecological development, data indexing, node services, and quotation services. It is also a decentralized platform. You don’t even need to worry about the interference caused by the collapse of the system. Projects that access the Polkadot ecosystem can also Enjoying the functions and convenience brought by Apron is the special meaning of the middleware platform. Polkadot’s own architecture can be cross-chain, but on the other hand, the middleware benefits from its unique ecological niche, it can also provide infrastructure services for each chain, and use another idea to realize the interconnection of all chains as a hub .
From this we can also see that the future ecology of Polkadot will never be a simple parallel chain (or transit bridge) and relay chain architecture, but more possibilities, more three-dimensional and diverse. Connection method. Of course, we also know that the right time, the right place, and the right people are needed to become a “hub”. Apron still needs to make more efforts on this road, but from the perspective of niche, Polkadot does need one like this. Location, and Apron happened to be standing there.
Imagine the future of middleware: accelerate the arrival of Web3.0
In the previous article, we have discussed the future of Web3.0, and among them we focused on describing the application platform of Web3.0, and along with the development of Polkadot middleware, we seem to be able to see the embryonic form of Web3.0.
The imagination of middleware can already be seen through Amazon Cloud, but as a decentralized infrastructure middleware platform, there seems to be more room for imagination.
At present, the Apron network is currently mainly building a series of functions and ecological camps around the Polkadot ecology, but if a decentralized middleware platform only serves the Polkadot ecology, it does not seem to be “decentralized” enough, so the Apron network will see Looking towards a greater future.
According to the official Apron, in the future, Apron can also connect to Ethereum, BSC, Filecoin, Helium, including Layer 2 and other projects, in order to build more types of service providers to meet the use of the entire blockchain network, and use Apron Developers of can use multiple blockchain ecosystems for cross-chain innovation at a lower cost, and this is the interesting chemical reaction brought by Apron API Marketing.
Of course, if it can be satisfied with most of the blockchain applications and networks on the market, then the next step for Apron will be possible to complete its definition of “decentralized infrastructure service network”, and to move from blockchain to Web3. 0 concept, and this is what all the development teams and founding teams that are currently imagining future applications hope for, and Apron is no exception.
Therefore, in the future, Apron hopes to use the decentralized power of the blockchain network to gradually transition the current more centralized infrastructure platform to decentralization, so that various developers do not need to invest a lot of cost and energy to maintain the infrastructure, and there is no need to It takes a lot of manpower and material resources to do market development, and most of the functions can be completed in the Apron network.
This will also allow developers and consumers to build a good communication environment and communication platform, and further improve information security. Both parties can benefit from cost reduction, and it also makes it possible for anyone to quickly build their own applications. , And this is the face of Web3.0.
Although the Polkadot ecological middleware is still promising from the perspective of Apron, it should be noted that some projects are still in a relatively early stage and need to be continuously implemented to verify themselves.
However, from the perspective of Apron’s planning direction, we can continue to observe its progress from several aspects. The first is whether it can smoothly access the node services of the mainstream public chain; the second is how many people use the various middleware services it provides, and the data progress in this area can be observed later; the third is how many DApps can be supported by Apron in the future .
The current blockchain projects are gradually transitioning to the level of landing. We can basically intuitively feel the development of the project through some on-chain data, such as some DeFi or data like The Graph. We also look forward to Apron in the future. After all, it can help the DApp to be better implemented. Such ease of use is a good catalyst for the ecology. We are happy to see the results of this kind of projects that are helpful to the entire ecology.
Of course, the niche of middleware is very large, and Apron is just a typical project at present. This niche is worthy of our attention, because the lack of niche will inevitably be filled with players. It’s like many people look at Pinduoduo, but we believe that even without Pinduoduo, there will be the next giant to occupy the sinking market niche of the e-commerce industry. This is the logic of the niche and the direction that Apron is aiming for.