Permissionless Web3 Infrastructure

We’re excited to announce our expedited integration with Pocket Network.

Permissionless Web3 Infrastructure

We’re excited to announce our expedited integration with Pocket Network.

Why, you ask? The events of March 3 were a major wake-up call. For anyone who missed them, a now-infamous Infura error prevented all MetaMask users in Venezuela (among other countries) from accessing Ethereum.

Our Pocket integration will help ensure Tally Ho users never have their lifeline to web3 yanked away.

Here are the details...

MetaMask Relies on Infura

For context: Infura is a ConsenSys portfolio company that operates high-availability Ethereum nodes. dApps and service providers can connect to Infura’s Ethereum API instead of operating their own Ethereum nodes. And MetaMask, another ConsenSys portfolio company, uses Infura by default.

In practice, this means that most dApps today rely on the built-in Infura provider from MetaMask to connect to Ethereum.

This poses a few risks:

🙈 Infura can become a regulatory chokepoint. Just like we saw last week. FWIW in August 2021, we pointed out a July 2021 commit on MetaMask’s GitHub that seemed to hint at upcoming Infura blocklists. You can read that post here.

🙉 Infura can magnify technical disruptions. In November 2020, Infura played a central role in a network disruption because it didn’t update its Geth nodes. For full info, check out these post-mortems from the Ethereum Foundatoin, Infura, and Péter Szilágyi. Infura was by no means the only (or chief) party at fault here, but because so many projects were reliant on Infura, the knock-on effects were massive. MetaMask, Maker, Uniswap, Compound, and MyCrypto were all disrupted. And Binance and Coinbase had to halt ETH and ERC20 withdrawals.

🙊 It’s antithetical for Ethereum to have a ‘master switch.’ The issue here isn’t Infura per se. It's overreliance on a single infrastructure provider. If we have diversity of clients but not diversity of infrastructure providers, then what’s the point?

What happened on March 3

Back to last week. On March 3, MetaMask users in Venezuela began reporting on Twitter that they received the following error message:

Here’s one of the first tweets we saw:

Shortly after, Infura clarified that geo-blocks were in fact enacted in response to US sanctions. They’d mistakenly blocked a handful of extra countries—including Venezuela. Evidently, only users in Iran, Cuba, North Korea, Syria, and the Crimea, Donetsk, and Luhansk regions of Ukraine were meant to be blocked.

In fairness, service was restored quickly. (And yes, users could subvert the block by switching RPC or using a VPN.)

But the lesson is clear: We’re beginning to see the outlines of a future where the open internet may no longer be open to everyone. Projects that aren’t sufficiently decentralized can and will be pressured to conduct surveillance on their users and close their doors to anyone with the wrong IP address or passport. This is already a reality.

And it’s not just Infura! OpenSea geo-blocked users the same day. And some of our favorite AMMs have already been forced to remove tokens from their UI. If we want to prevent web3 from becoming enclosed, it’s important to return to the ethos of early Ethereum and pursue censorship-resistance as a first priority now. For that, we need community-owned infrastructure.

POKT Network

Enter Pocket. This project first came onto our radar last year. We met with their leadership in the summer and invited them to a Community Call in November. Last week, we realized we had to expedite our integration.

What’s POKT Network?

TL;DR you can think of Pocket as a decentralized multi-chain alternative to Infura. It's a decentralized blockchain API built for web3 apps, relaying data to and from any blockchain through a network of thousands of nodes. Pocket Network uses a native cryptocurrency (POKT) to create a permissionless, two-sided market between full node providers and developers that want to query data from a blockchain for their application/service.

Check out POKT’s docs here.

How is it different from Infura?

Pocket Network's node infrastructure does not rely on a single, centralized service provider. It's built for 100% uptime and the core Pocket development or ops team is simply unable to pull the plug or act as a single point of failure for the overall network.

How can it prevent geo-blocking?

Currently, there are 34,000+ Pocket nodes running in 6 continents and 30+ countries, with no more than 30% of their nodes running in any single country— effectively reducing the possibility and/or impact of any government coercion.

What this means:

No single solution offers total resilience against every conceivable attack or outage, but Pocket is off to a strong start. We hope to see them and others iterate on their approach. And as they do, our community will be there to support them.

It's impossible to guarantee no Tally Ho user will ever lose access to web3! But we can declare that providing everyone with durable, permission access to web3 is a top priority for our community—regardless of where they live. This is important, because it means we can be held to account if we fall short. That's what we're doing today.

Wen POKT?

We have expedited our integration with Pocket from SOON™ to immediately after the DAO launch.

If you’d like to help, let us know! We’ve got a pokt-network room in the our Discord server and expect it to become very active quite soon.

We should also mention that we've partnered with Alchemy as our default infrastructure provider and we’re proud to be working with them going forward! Alchemy provides the most reliable default connection to Ethereum, and partnering with them is an important step in supporting healthier infrastructure on Ethereum. Our POKT integration is an addition, not a replacement.

Tally Ho!

What else can we do to support permissionless infrastructure? Let us know on Discord.

If you’re relentless in your dedication to open source and decentralization, apply to become a Delegate before the DAO launches! There’s precious little time before the DAO launch.