A Rude Awakening - The Daily Gwei #451
We need to decentralize all the things.
Today, Infura began blocking user transactions that originated from certain regions due to what they are calling a “misconfiguration error” (which has now been resolved). For those of you who don’t know, Infura is a centralized infrastructure provider that people can use to relay their Ethereum transactions and Infura is the default ‘RPC’ for MetaMask. This means that Infura sees massive usage even though 99% of users are totally unaware that they are using it - but many had a rude awakening about all of this after the events of the last 24 hours.
I want to stress something extremely important here - centralized infrastructure providers like Infura are not the Ethereum network itself and these providers exercising their centralized controls does not make Ethereum centralized. The Ethereum network is run on thousands of full nodes around the world with a decentralized set of miners producing blocks for the network. Not to mention all the other ways Ethereum is decentralized - from its core development process to its community - taking down something like Infura would not effect the Ethereum protocol itself.
Now, in saying all of that, obviously if Infura was to go offline it would have a rather large impact on the wider ecosystem due to just how much it is used. The thing is that we’ve actually seen this before in November of 2020 and I wrote about that incident here and how it actually showed exactly what I’m talking about with how Infura going offline doesn’t mean the Ethereum network goes offline. On top of this, MetaMask also can’t block users from its app since it is client-side software - any blocking that happens will always be due to the RPC that a MetaMask client is utilizing.
Obviously all of this points to the fact that we need to start using alternatives to Infura (especially decentralized ones). Within MetaMask, users can easily change their RPC if they want to but even the ability to do this is mostly unknown and may seem scary to newer users - which is totally fine - though I hope that wallets at least begin randomizing which RPCs they use instead of just defaulting to a single centralized one. There’s also the option of using your own full node as your RPC endpoint but again, this is rather complex and most users will never do it - hopefully we can have a robust light client ecosystem in Ethereum eventually!
As the adoption of crypto progresses, we’re going to continue to see more of these centralized services being forced to comply with things like sanctions. The solution? Start using the decentralized alternatives today and support them in any way that you can. There’s no practical point to this entire industry if we just simply have a bunch of centralized services sitting on top of a decentralized blockchain - it’s not the vision for what we all want this industry to be.
Have a great weekend everyone,
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All information presented above is for educational purposes only and should not be taken as investment advice.