Architecture for a Decentralized Internet

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The Blocknet unveils its “blockchain router,” a fundamental component for the inter-blockchain era and the future of decentralized internet services.

New York, 31 May The Blocknet has made public a component with far-reaching implications for the blockchain industry: XRouter, an inter-blockchain SPV client (or “light wallet”) backend, enabling the verification of blockchain records from theoretically any blockchain without requiring users to download the blockchain in question. This empowers lightweight dapps to harness contracts and protocols from other blockchains, laying a foundation-stone for the decentralization of the API ecosystem.

As the inter-blockchain era emerges, dapps, smart contracts, and protocols will increasingly consume services on other blockchains, due to the overwhelming advantages of orchestrating services over hand-coding them. The Blocknet supports this development by enabling the technologies on any blockchain to become available via decentralized APIs, creating a paradigm shift from monolithic architecture to microservice architecture. XRouter plays a critical role in enabling the secure consumption of this new generation of digital services – that of enabling consumers to verify the truthfulness of the data provided to them independently of the claims of the service provider.

Verify records on any blockchain

With XRouter, it is now possible to verify blockchain records on theoretically any blockchain without downloading even a single chain. Blockchains tend to be large: Bitcoin’s, for example, is well over 100GB in size, and few users have the capacity to download and maintain a blockchain on their PC’s, let alone on mobile devices. However, Satoshi Nakomoto, in the original Bitcoin whitepaper, describes “simplified payment verification,” or “SPV,” by which a dapp may ascertain the truth of a record on a blockchain using only the transaction of interest, a merkle branch, and the block headers (~1/500th of the size of a blockchain). The result is wallets that can be mobile-friendly, fast to set up, and vastly reduce the burden upon users of maintaining an entire blockchain.

Yet an SPV wallet on its own would not enable the inter-chain verification of blockchain records. What is required in addition is an inter-chain peer-to-peer network for nodes on different blockchains to communicate, and a community of users running nodes on very many blockchains in order to achieve workable liveness. The Blocknet provides both: XBridge (its inter-chain network overlay) and its Service Nodes are the required infrastructure to support SPV proofs for an arbitrary number of blockchains.

Dapps running XRouter: a trader on a decentralized exchange, and a user of a “light” multiwallet, use XRouter to route requests to Service Nodes running full nodes on the blockchains of interest.

Build upon the API

XRouter is inter-chain infrastructure. Naturally, it is available via API, enabling developers to harness its power to build next-generation dapps. To give a typical example of its usefulness, a dapp for decentralized file storage would likely involve at least three services: payment in multiple coins, the authentication of its users without resorting to any central solution for managing personal information, and the storage of encrypted fragments of files across a peer-to-peer network. If this dapp were to be built the way mobile apps or websites are built today, development would essentially be a simple matter of coding the business logic to orchestrate pre-existing APIs for the above three services, making development fast and cheap. Yet, at present, dapps are coded from scratch, adding vastly to cost and time of development, and significantly increasing the risk of security issues. XRouter changes this game.

Over and above getting data from other blockchains, to decentralize a service requires consumers to verify the truthfulness of the data provided to them independently of the claims of the service provider. On a public peer-to-peer network, this is essential, since no peer may safely be assumed to act honestly. Such proofs preserve the “trustless” property of crypto, from which much of its disruptive power is derived: for example, if you can safely do business with a counterparty regardless of their intentions, then radical new business opportunities arise. Thus XRouter, together with the Blocknet’s core services, are infrastructure for a “token ecosystem” poised to revolutionize dapp development in the manner that the API ecosystem did for websites and apps.

Being decentralized, there are no servers to be trusted; instead it should be integrated into a dapp and invoked over localhost. The API calls supported upon initial release are listed here.

Developers wanted

XRouter and the rest of the Blocknet’s technology stack is in continuous development, and the project has a high demand for talented developers. Other methods of blockchain-free proof remain to be implemented, components are yet to mature and be abstracted optimally, several new blockchains’ APIs remain to be integrated too, and many novel features are in the pipeline. Developers are invited to contact the blocknet and to contribute to its open source repositories.

Find inter-chain services with “blockchain DNS”

XRouter enables a protocol analogous to DNS (the internet’s domain name service), the efficient routing of data between peers. In itself though, it functions rather like the layer-2 Border Gateway Protocol (BGP), upon which “blockchain DNS” may be built (at layer 4 in the TCP/IP paradigm). Just as BGP provides ISPs with an up-to-date list of peers to connect to, XRouter provides a list of currently connected blockchains the protocol for which may usefully be named “Blocknet XRouter Protocol” (BXP) in future internet standards. Yet XRouter employs a decentralized design pattern, replacing a hub-and-spoke model with a peer-to-peer network.

XRouter is intended to open up a marketplace for registry services, that is, repositories of data about inter-chain services and the blockchains upon which they are built. As such, XRouter will make provision for the invoking of any number of registry services, which may compete on a cost basis and on the degree of truthfulness of the data they offer. Registry service design is documented in the Blocknet whitepaper, and in fact empowers not just registry services but potentially any blockchain service to scale its reach across blockchains. The result will be a new and decentralized API ecosystem with a “trustless” security model and the ability to intrinsically monetise APIs using the tokens native to any blockchain. XRouter may be found on GitHub here, and will be usable initially as part of the Blocknet wallet here.

Live reveal from the Blocknet team

Short demo of XRouter

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