Polkadot Ecological Observation is a column that we observe and analyze from the different perspectives of ecological niches for projects in the Polkadot ecology. Polkadot is a highly scalable project that can accommodate a large number of ecological niches. Through the observation of ecological niches, we can not only perceive the overallsituation and clearly understand the entire development of Polkadot; but also observe the details and discover which ecological niches are in fierce competition or the blue ocean. Only by having a clearer understanding of the ecological development of Polkadot, can we better grasp the dividends of the ecological development of Polkadot as investors, participants, or developers.
Polkadot Ecological Observation is a column that we observe and analyze from the different perspectives of ecological niches for projects in the Polkadot ecology. Polkadot is a highly scalable project that can accommodate a large number of ecological niches. Through the observation of ecological niches, we can not only perceive the overallsituation and clearly understand the entire development of Polkadot; but also observe the details and discover which ecological niches are in fierce
competition or the blue ocean. Only by having a clearer understanding of the ecological development of Polkadot, can we better grasp the dividends of the ecological development of Polkadot as investors, participants, or developers.
Let's trace back to two years ago when many blockchain projects were born at that time. These projects raised funds in the form of 1CO, and then the team developed a unique chain. After that, the team launched the corresponding blockchain based on this chain and tried to reach the ideal "one chain one DApp" state. But at that time, in addition to forking an existing chain (for example, Ethereum), it was very difficult to design a chain with stronger performance than Ethereum. This not only requires advanced professional talents but also time-consuming laborious research.
There might be new giants hidden in the Middleware
1. What is Middleware?
The broad interpretation of the so-called middleware is those applications that do not directly provide value to the users and are located between business-oriented application software and system software. (Here we tend to understand the concept of middleware in a broad sense. We are more concerned with the niche of the generalized middleware, rather than a certain subdivision of middleware in a narrow sense)
The overall role is to provide an environment for the operation and development of the application software at its upper level and to help users develop and integrate complex application software flexibly and efficiently.
For example, the apps we use daily such as Alipay, WeChat, and other applications are directly oriented to users are business-oriented applications. We are more familiar with these daily contact applications. However, there are still some applications that we hardly perceive, that is, applications specifically designed for developers or various functions and services provided by official operating systems. Such applications are middlewares, such as Kingdee Middleware or some of the applications provided by IBM. Besides, with the large number of companies migrating to the cloud, many cloud vendors such as Alibaba Cloud or Amazon Cloud (AWS) are also providing cloud + middleware services.
For most people, Amazon Cloud (AWS) may be unfamiliar compared to other applications, because it is more oriented towards developers or enterprises. But its main value does not lie in simply helping a certain developer or a certain company. Instead, many a little makes a mickle.
While 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, becoming a behemoth with a volume of hundreds of billions of yuan. This number will continue to grow with the advancement of digitalization. It can be said that this is a low-key giant hidden behind much well-known software, which is why we are optimistic about this ecological position.
So what about switching to the blockchain field? How should we understand the middleware in the blockchain, and what projects are worth paying attention to?
Traditional middleware is a large category in basic software and a concept of traditional distributed systems. It is not strictly defined, and there is no consensus reached on which middleware belongs to the blockchain. Therefore, we define the application that provides functions and services for the blockchain network or DApp as the middleware of the blockchain (this is defined by the Polkadot Ecological Research Institute, for
At present, there are already many well-known projects that 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. It also specializes in providing on-chain data indexing service, Google’s The Graph (token named GRT) that creates the blockchain world, and Infura, a partially centralized Ethereum's largest node service provider that allows DApps to quickly access Ethereum, etc. By following these projects, we can get a glimpse of the meaning of middleware for blockchain.
2. Why does blockchain need middleware?
Although the Substrate framework solves the problem of chain development, DApp also has its dilemmas. Nowadays, what many
blockchain projects or DApps need to do is not just developing the code. They also need some stable and efficient operating environments 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 safety 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. We can't ask DeFi developers to solve all the problems. Many teams have spent months or even a year or two at this stage, and naturally, there is no room for follow-up application and implementation. The Substrate framework behind Polkadot is the nemesis to this problem. Based on the Substrate framework, the chain can be issued with one click, which can greatly reduce the time and cost of developing a chain for a team. In this way, the development team can spend more effort on how to better design the 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 the birth of more multi-blockchain projects.
Does it sound like you can sit back and relax in the industry of blockchain applications with the Substrate framework, but is this the case? If the goal of a blockchain project is to achieve one chain and one DApp, then what the Substrate framework solves in the problem of making a chain. Making DApp also has some unique dilemmas. How to clear the obstacles on the road of DApp development and make DApp production faster and more convenient is the real issue, and here is where Middleware, the Polkadot niche we observe today comes in.
The current situation is that professional people are in charge of professional matters. Teams that are good at oracles have designed projects like Chainlink. DeFi developers only need to directly access Chainlink to obtain the data support it provides. At present, Chainlink has provided price-feeding services for many DeFis, which is why LINK can reach new heights.
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. Just like The Graph, which as mentioned earlier, processes more than 4 billion data query requests from well-known DeFi projects and data analysis companies such as Uniswap, CoinGecko, Synthetix, etc. on prices, historical transaction volumes, liquidity, etc. monthly. Meanwhile, 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 makes it very difficult for DApp developers. Infura has observed this demand and has attracted many developers by providing DApp developers with general Ethereum node services and free entry services. Infura has quickly become the world's largest Ethereum node service provider and has made great contributions to the prosperity of the Ethereum ecosystem.
Therefore, middleware is a necessary and important infrastructure between the blockchain and DApp. However, why do we need the middleware in the Polkadot ecology while some middleware projects are
Middleware in the Polkadot ecosystem
The official list of the 8th Grant has been announced recently. There is a project in the list called Apron which aims at the middleware niche. We might as well 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, on-chain data index, and the infrastructure of various types of middleware such as random numbers.
The Apron team was originally a DApp developer on Ethereum. However, there was a major accident in Infura last year. As many blockchain application developers relied on Infura's services at that time, Infura became increasingly centralized, so the impact of the accident was quite severe. Cryptocurrency exchanges such as Binance and Bithumb have all suspended the withdrawal of ETH and ERC-20 tokens. The well-known wallet Metamask also encountered some problems. Therefore, despite that Infura has made great contributions to developers and Ethereum, its centralized nature is still a hidden danger.
This painful lesson made Apron's team determined to change the status quo of the Web3.0 world that relies heavily on centralized services. On the other hand, though various middleware projects in the blockchain focus on their subdivisions, 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 the Polkadot ecological DApp
Earlier we mentioned that Substrate provides an important function of "one-click chain". Meanwhile, the Polkadot ecology also requires products like middleware that are easy for developers to use. Therefore, the birth of Apron made up for this gap. Apron greatly facilitates developers to build DApp products in the Polkadot ecology in a short term. In the long run, the existence of Apron provides a new platform for the DApp that rapidly expanded to a certain level. After all, there are thousands of DApps in the Ethereum next door.
Specifically speaking, Apron has built a "Service Marketplace" that can match the services provided by infrastructure service providers with the needs of the DApp developers, and infrastructure service providers can implement on-chain infrastructure services through one-click deployment of Apron Node.
On the other hand, the demand and the supply can be quickly matched through the market. 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. Moreover, the information between communications is encrypted, reducing the threshold for DApp developers to build data communications by themselves. Of course, these applications or functions only serve as part of Apron's rapid expansion of the DApp ecosystem, and the final aim 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 all kinds of DApp development problems and improve the ease of development, DApp projects in the ecology will inevitably flourish.
Therefore, we believe that Apron builds 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 becomes less decentralized since too many projects relying on a centralized node service provider Infura. Moreover, Infura has the risk of becoming a single point of failure affecting Ethereum. There was indeed an error in Infura last year, 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, it will also affect the operation of Ethereum nodes.
There are many incidents of centralization risks in the blockchain field. The oracle, for instance, provides price-feeding services in DeFi. As the price will directly affect the funds, it often brings huge asset losses once the oracle has a problem. 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. This will be discovered by the trading robot and quickly arbitrage. The other event is being attacked by hackers and they will gain profit by manipulating the price.
These events clearly indicate that the decentralization of the infrastructure in the blockchain is highly necessary. Apron provides a wealth of infrastructure, which allows DApp developers to have more choices when it comes to infrastructures.
This not only decentralizes the projects that use these infrastructures, avoiding the mistakes of Infura but also confirms with multiple parties to prevent the possibility of 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. Becoming another infrastructure "hub" of Polkawan chain interconnection
Although we have always believed that Polkadot will bring real 10,000-chain interconnection, the road is still full of obstacles and many elements are needed. This is why many new projects receive the official Grant from the Web3 Foundation every quarter. It is precise because of the imperfection and lack of infrastructure that more high-quality projects and teams are needed in the Polkadot ecosystem.
And platforms like Apron, which originally provided infrastructure services for the ecology, will inevitably receive attention and support. The truth is, if Apron can complete the functions we mentioned above, then its status in the Polkadot ecosystem will become nothing more than the "hub" of a different type of infrastructure.
It is a middleware platform that integrates DApp ecological development, data indexing, node services, and quotation services. Even the decentralized platform doesn’t need to worry about the interference caused by the collapse of the system. Projects that access the Polkadot ecosystem can also enjoy the functionality and convenience brought by Apron, which makes the aim of the middleware platform.
Polkadot's architecture can be cross-chain, but on the other hand, middleware benefits from its unique ecological niche, it can also provide infrastructure services for each chain, using another way to realize the interconnection of Wanchain as a hub. We can also see in this way that Polkadot’s future ecology will never be a simple parachain (or transitbridge) and relay chain architecture, but the connection methods will more
likely be three-dimensional and multiple.
Of course, we also know that the right time, the right place, and the right people are required to become a "hub". Apron still needs to make more efforts in this path, but Polkadot does need such a location from the perspective of niche, and Apron happens to be standing there.
Imagine the future of middleware: accelerate the arrival of Web3.0
We have discussed the future of Web3.0, and among that, we focused on describing the application platform of Web3.0. Along with the development of Polkadot middleware, we seem to be able to see the embryonic form of Web3.0.
The room for 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 ecosystem. However, if a decentralized middleware platform only serves the Polkadot eco, it does not seem to be "decentralized" enough. Therefore, the Apron network will direct its vision towards a greater future.
According to Apron official, Apron can also connect to Ethereum, BSC, Filecoin, Helium, including Layer 2, and other projects in the future to build more varieties of service providers to meet the demand of the entire blockchain network. Developers who use Apron 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, Apron will be possible to accomplish its definition of "decentralized infrastructure service network" and to move from blockchain to Web3.0 concept if people are satisfied with most of the blockchain applications and networks on the market. This is what all development teams' and founding teams' current envision of the future applications, and Apron makes no exception.
Therefore, Apron hopes to use the decentralized power of the blockchain network to gradually transfer the current more centralized infrastructure platform to decentralization in the future. In this way, developers won’t need to invest a lot of cost and energy to maintain the infrastructure, and there is no need to consume a lot of manpower and material resources for market development as 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, further
improving information security at the same time. Both parties can also benefit from cost reduction, making it possible for anyone to quickly build their own applications. And this is the main feature of Web3.0.
Although the Polkadot Ecological middleware is still promising from Apron's point of view, it should be noted that some projects are still in a relatively early stage and need to be continuously implemented to prove their values.
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 the number of people using the various middleware services it provides, and the data progress in this area can be observed later; the third is the number of DApps that can be supported by Apron in the future.
The current blockchain projects are gradually ready to launch. We can 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 the launch of Apron in the future. After all, it can help the DApp to be better implemented.
Such usability serves as a good catalyst for ecology. We are happy to see the results of this kind of project that are helpful to the entire ecology.
Of course, the niche of middleware is large, and Apron is just one of the typical projects at present. This niche is worthy of our attention as the lack of niche will inevitably be filled by other players. 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 aims at.
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