The Graph is a decentralized protocol for indexing and querying data from blockchains. All the data that is collected is grouped into open APIs, or subgraphs, that anyone can query. The protocol was launched only recently but is already on its way to becoming one of the primary infrastructure providers supporting DeFi and the broader Web3 ecosystem.
What Is The Graph?
The protocol was co-founded by Yaniv Tal, Brandon Ramirez, and Jannis Pohlmann who have spent a significant part of their careers working to optimize API stacks for companies like Mulesoft, which was acquired by SalesForce. The team experienced firsthand that there was no decentralized indexing and querying software for blockchain yet, which means developers had to resort to their own methods to collect and process data from disparate sources. They started The Graph to help create applications that don’t require centralized servers using immutable APIs, making Web3 more accessible to builders and consumers alike.
Before we dig deeper into what The Graph offers, we need to unpack what APIs are exactly. The term stands for “application programming interface”, and simply put, an API is a workflow tool that automates what would otherwise be a manual process, which is of particular interest to developers that need input from other sources or applications. In The Graph dictionary, APIs are referred to as subgraphs, and many of your favourite applications already rely on subgraphs to pull data in from other sources.
For example, Synthetix uses a subgraph and that data is open to any developer to use in their own application, like a wallet that pulls data in from Uniswap. Before The Graph, developers would’ve had to set up centralized servers and databases in-house to index and query blockchain data which is time-consuming, expensive, and as a single point of failure creates additional risk. Today, however, applications only need to reference an API endpoint for a subgraph to receive data from an application like Synthetix for uses like querying trading volume.
Not only does this make the job easier for developers, but it also creates a better experience for users as the team building the application can spend more time on delivering a great user experience rather than spending resources on building custom back-end infrastructure. Today, already over 6,500 developers are using The Graph, with over 3,500 subgraphs for hundreds of decentralized applications.
Roles within the Graph Network
There are many different ways to participate in the network, classified as different roles which each require users to have varying technical knowledge. Besides developers who create or use existing subgraphs, the most important roles users can take on in The Graph network include Indexer, Curator, Delegator, and Consumer.
Indexers are node operators in The Graph Network that stake Graph Tokens (GRT) in order to provide indexing and query processing services. Indexers earn query fees and indexer rewards for their services.
Curators are subgraph developers, data consumers, or community members who signal to Indexers which APIs should be indexed by The Graph Network. Curators deposit GRT into a bonding curve to signal on a specific subgraph and earn a portion of query fees for the subgraphs they signal on, incentivizing the highest quality data sources.
Delegators are individuals who would like to contribute to securing the network but do not want to run a Graph Node themselves. Delegators contribute by delegating GRT to existing Indexers and they earn a portion of query fees and indexing rewards in return.
Consumers (Pay GRT)
Consumers are the end-users of The Graph that query subgraphs and pay query fees to the indexers, curators, and delegators. Consumers are likely to be developers of projects themselves that cover query fees for their applications as they would any cloud service costs or pass on query fees to users.
The GRT token
GRT is the native token of The Graph protocol and is used both as a medium of exchange as well as a rewards token for indexers, curators, and delegators. Conversely, the token is also used to implement penalties designed to disincentivize bad behaviour. For example, if indexers intentionally alter data, they will be punished by having their staked GRT tokens taken away.
Total GRT supply is capped at 10 billion, with just under 50% currently in circulation. The token first hit the markets at the very end of 2020, reaching its all-time high only 2 months later when it peaked at $2.88. It has since pulled back significantly, trading between $0.50 and $1.00 for the last 6 months.
During that time, the team has been busy further developing the protocol, going from testnet to mainnet. Currently, Ethereum is supported by The Graph, with additional support in beta for Polygon, Arbitrum, BSC, CELO, Avalanche, XDAI, POA, and Fantom.
The Graph already has broad support from the new decentralized economy and will likely continue expanding its reach, as the protocol relentlessly works towards its mission to provide easier access to all kinds of active participants in the Web3 space – keeping the power away from centralized monopolies.