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Last updated: Oct 23, 2023
The Graph is a platform for collecting, processing, and storing data from various blockchains in order to facilitate information retrieval. The project helps developers in building and publishing various APIs named subgraphs which perform queries over the GraphQL – a query language for APIs, and a server-side runtime for executing queries using a type system defined for data.
The Graph aims to solve problems faced by many blockchain applications such as chain reorganization, query fulfillment security, and finality. Indexing blockchain data is nearly impossible, and many times users struggle with trivial actions such as filtering NFTs by owner, or one of its characteristics on marketplaces. The Graph utilizes a decentralized protocol that indexes and enables efficient querying of blockchain data. APIs can be then queried with a standard GraphQL API. The decentralized protocol and a hosted service both with the same capabilities are backed by the open-source implementation of Graph Node.
The platform indexes Ethereum data based on subgraph descriptions, referred to as “subgraph manifest”. The description of a subgraph defines smart contracts of interest for a subgraph, events in them to pay attention to, and how to map event data to the data which The Graph stores in its database. Once a subgraph manifest is written, the Graph command-line interface (CLI) is used to store the definition and instruct the indexer to start indexing data for that subgraph.
The Graph Node continually scans Ethereum for new blocks and data for subgraphs they may contain. Once a Dapp adds data to the blockchain through a transaction on a smart contract, it emits one or more events while processing the transaction. Thanks to this, The Graph Node can find Ethereum events in blocks and run mapping handlers provided. The mapping is a WebAssembly module that creates or updates data entities that Graph Node stores in response to Ethereum events. A Dapp queries the Graph Node for data indexed from the blockchain, via the node’s GraphQL endpoint, whose queries are then translated into queries for the Graph Node’s underlying data store, making use of the store’s indexing capabilities. This data is then displayed by the Dapp for end-users, which use it to issue new translations.
The Graph app consists of Indexers, Curators, and Delegators which provide services to the network and serve data to Web3 apps. In order to ensure the integrity of data queries, and the economic security of the network, its participants are required to stake and use Graph Tokens. GRT is used to allocate resources in the network and allows Indexers, Curators, and Delegators to provide services and earn income from the network, which is proportional to the amount of work performed by them and their GRT stake.
Indexers are node operators on the network which provide indexing and query processing services and are rewarded for that both by query fees and indexing rewards, and a Rebate Pool that is shared with all network contributors. The GRT staked in the protocol is subject to a thawing period and may be slashed if Indexers are malicious and serve incorrect data or index incorrectly. The minimum stake for the indexer is set to 100k GRT.
Curators are considered critical to the Graph decentralized economy, their knowledge of the Web3 ecosystem is used to assess and signal for subgraphs that should be indexed by the Graph Network. The platform rewards curators that signal on good quality subgraphs a share of the query fees generated by it. Curators can decide to signal on a specific version of the subgraph or to use “auto-migrate”, which will always upgrade the curator’s shares to the latest version published by the developers.
Delegators are charged a 0.5% The Graph fee each time they delegate and in order to undelegate, their tokens are subject to a 28-day unbounding period – during which they lose the opportunity to earn rewards. The deposit tax is made to disincentivize poor decisions making which could harm the integrity of the network since delegators cannot be slashed for bad behavior.
GRT is a work token locked up by Indexers, Curators, and Delegators to provide indexing and curating services to the network. Allocating resources to the network, allows its users to earn income from it, which is proportional to the amount of work they perform and their GRT stake. The total supply of GRT at the mainnet launch in late 2020 was 10 billion tokens, and new token issuance in the form of indexing rewards began at 3% annually, however it is subject to future “independent technical governance”.
1% of total protocol query fees is burned, along with the deposit tax incurred by Curators and Delegators withdrawing their GRT, as well as any unclaimed rebate rewards. Making the total supply of the coin 10B plus new issuance minus burning.
The Graph team consists of co-founder and CEO – Yaniv Tal, who has worked at MuleSoft making API developer tools for enterprises and started a React developer tools startup along with two co-founders. Tal says he was interested in Bitcoin and the idea of decentralization since college but got involved in the crypto world only once Ethereum started to take off. The two other co-founders of the project are Jannis Pohlmann and Brandon Ramirez. The three co-creators worked together on several startups before establishing The Graph in 2018.
Since 2019, the platform has raised a total of $19.5M in token sales, including $10M during a public sale in October 2020. At the time, roughly 21% of the 10B initial supply of tokens was sold to investors such as Multicoin Capital, Coinbase Ventures, and Digital Currency Group.
The Graph audits can be found in the protocol dashboard on this webpage.
The Graph established a Foundation aimed to distribute grants and funding to projects being built on the platform, coordinate the technical governance process, promote the project, and help in the further decentralization of the governance of the protocol. It is being controlled by the Graph Council which operates on a 6-of-10 multisig designed to look after the interest of the five core stakeholder groups – indexers, active token holders, the initial team, users, and technical domain experts.
The Foundation has recently awarded a $48M Grant to The Guild to join the platform as a Core Developer. Another $60M was awarded to Semiotic AI, to help utilize artificial intelligence to streamline and upgrade Web3 decentralized infrastructure, by becoming a Core Developer with The Graph platform.
The Graph has also integrated with the NEAR blockchain which became the first non-EVM compatible blockchain supported by Graph Node.
There is no definite roadmap announced by the project, however, they are working hard to “radically improve the Web3 stack” as well as developing new features aiming to make it easier for developers to build a better user experience on a fully decentralized stack.
Subgraph composition and data pipelines will be implemented in the near future to make it easier to build subgraphs that link and aggregate data across data sources. Another feature planned for release is Parallelization which will “significantly speed up indexing performance”. Updated GraphQL API will give developers more powerful ways to query relational data.
The project is also expanding in order to support indexing of multiple blockchains and Layer2s for scalability, with Solana, Cosmos, and Polkadot integrations on the way. The Graph’s team is working on bridging the off-chain and on-chain data worlds, in order to make full-featured APIs for NFTs, DAOs, Social, DeFi, and other future Web3 use cases available for building in the near future.
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