As we build the new decentralized infrastructure protocol, we reflect on progressive decentralization and provide an update on our advancements to the network.

Progressive decentralization is a term used in web3 that describes the path we find ourselves on in the pursuit of making decentralized technology mainstream. Progressive decentralization recognizes the step-by-step process builders across web3 are taking everyday to create a technology stack that ensures each layer —from storage, indexing, querying, and verification— is decentralized.

As an infrastructure provider, Infura’s focus has always been to provide developers with a suite of reliable and resilient APIs for blockchain connectivity to ensure their dapps run smoothly on mainnet. This is our contribution to web3: easy access to multiple networks with 99.99% uptime. We take care of blockchain infrastructure so builders can focus on shipping the next wave of disruptive dapps.

With the announcement of Infura’s plans to create a decentralized infrastructure network, we have been reflecting on what progressive decentralization means and would like to update the community on our advancements to the network to date.

Defining progressive decentralization

The term progressive decentralization is constantly evolving. In an essay published by Variant partner, Jesse Walden, he defines it as, “a process in which founding teams relinquish control by degrees, over time. Doing so step-by-step allows teams to focus and creates a path toward regulatory compliance, including issuing tokens that hopefully will not run afoul of securities regulations.”

In another article published on freeCodeCamp author, Arthur Camara explores progressive decentralization as a means to achieve product-market fit and defines it as:

“Simply put, progressive decentralization advocates easing into decentralization in stages rather than diving in headfirst. What that looks like is building mechanisms into smart contracts that confer special powers to the creators up front, then incrementally lock those powers away in a transparent and systematic way.”

Based on these definitions it’s clear that progressive decentralization happens in developmental stages and not all at once.

In many ways, Ethereum itself is a product of progressive decentralization. What started as a project created by a small group of people has evolved into both a technologically decentralized network and protocol with changes decided by an increasingly large community of participants.

This means, in addition to building products people want to use, web3 founders and developers have another unique challenge. They must also consider how products can successfully function in a decentralized manner: as a protocol owned and operated by a community of users. Infura’s plan to create a new decentralized protocol is precisely this.

Creating a decentralized infrastructure network

Aligned with how Walden and Camara describe the stages to ease into decentralization, Infura has been planning ways to decentralize, step-by-step. This doesn’t mean that the Infura service as it is today will be decentralizing.

It means that Infura, alongside a consortium of other web3 infrastructure providers, will form the decentralized network that will coexist alongside Infura’s business today. The decentralized network will enable multiple infrastructure providers to provide RPC services so there is never a single point of failure. This is the power of decentralized infrastructure.

Since making the announcement at ETHBerlin in September 2022, Infura’s Co-Founder, E.G. Galano has continued to discuss Infura’s path to decentralization. Here’s his keynote from Devcon Bogota 2022, where he outlines why this matters now, as well as some of the technical details related to network operator roles.

Decentralizing Infura Keynote, Devcon Bogotá 2022

Launching the decentralized infrastructure network matters now, because six years ago the web3 ecosystem was very different than it is today. In the early days of crypto, Infura decided to make access to Ethereum easier for developers by providing a high-availability API to read and write data from the Ethereum blockchain. The benefit of this access meant that developers and the ecosystem at large could grow, at scale.

From the 2016 ICO bubble, the 2019 crypto winter, to the DeFi summer of 2020, and the most recent NFT boom in 2022, Infura has been part of it all. Decentralization was always part of the plan, just not the first step. That step is happening now.

Decentralized Infrastructure Network Design

The network design is still in its initial stages and we want to share our progress thus far. First are the network roles: Infrastructure Providers, Watchers, and Ingress Operators, as well as a potential network architecture as these roles are finalized.  

Roles on the network

The role of the Infrastructure Provider is to provide network capacity for specific capabilities like traffic throughput. Next, are the Watchers who periodically test Infrastructure Providers with a small volume of requests, measure performance and correctness, and report their results to a federated status page. Provably incorrect responses found by Watchers will be used to inform penalties. Lastly, the Ingress Operators serve as an intermediary between end-users and the Infrastructure Provider. An end-user will send their JSON RPC request to the Ingress Node, which distributes the request across the network.

Potential network architecture

The user experience is intended to stay true to Infura’s initial goal of making it as easy as possible for developers to build on web3, now with the added benefit of decentralizing the RPC layer. Decentralizing the RPC layer means a more resilient network as more providers can process more requests simultaneously, while decreasing the chance of mass outages that arise through centralized providers.

Infura’s path to decentralization

We’re calling on the best blockchain infrastructure providers to help us build the decentralized future. Since September, we have received over 4,000 submissions to the early access program to be part of the new network. Keep an eye out for updates as we form the core devs team to develop and launch the testnet.

It may seem like Infura’s path to decentralization has just begun, but as we learned in defining progressive decentralization — a step-by-step process to create an application that functions in a decentralized manner — we’ve been working on this since day one.

We hope you will join us on our path to decentralization to strengthen the foundation of web3 around the world.

Join our early access program and be the change toward progressive decentralization of web3 infrastructure.