Reflecting on Infura’s four year journey to expand access to Ethereum

This past July, we celebrated two birthdays: Ethereum turned five and Infura turned four. In the wake of these milestones, I want to take some time to reflect on why Infura came to be, how our service has evolved over the last four years, and talk about what excites us as we look towards the future.

Block0: bootstrapping Ethereum

Ethereum was created to be an open source programmable network, built by developers for developers. Like any open source platform, it offered builders the opportunity to create and maintain all the infrastructure components that keep the network up and running. Ethereum quickly became the number one, smart contract based blockchain and its growth would be critical to the expansion of the broader blockchain market. That saddled Ethereum developers with an enormous responsibility.

There was a need for utilities that provided simplified access to Ethereum data and lowered the barrier to entry for developers to get more people building on the network.

We publicly launched Infura in 2016 at Devcon2 in Shanghai. Funded by Joseph Lubin and ConsenSys, our mission was to take up the Ethereum infrastructure challenge: to remove the burden of running and maintaining Ethereum nodes by providing free, public APIs. We also perceived the potential for future integration between Ethereum and the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) and set about providing a simplified access path to IPFS alongside.

Supporting the largest dApps in the Ethereum Ecosystem

Traffic through the Infura APIs has consistently increased quarter over quarter, year over year for the last four years, thanks to strong developer adoption. Our earliest adopters were the MetaMask development team, who have used Infura to scale their application from zero to +1.2 million installs, making it the world’s most popular Ethereum wallet.

During the crypto collectibles craze of 2017, we also played a key role in scaling one of the most viral dApps in Ethereum’s history. As the network swelled with users wanting to create and trade digital kittens, the Cryptokitties app went viral and grew so fast, it clogged up the Ethereum network. This arguably led to one of the biggest spikes in the value of Ethereum and catapulted Ethereum into the public scene. Infura joined other Ethereum OG development teams to help Cryptokitties optimize their infrastructure to handle the unprecedented wave in traffic and maintain uptime, at no cost.

These early episodes truly battle-tested our product and pushed our engineering team. As a result, Infura engineers have earned a reputation for building the most reliable tools in the industry. Today, our service supports a rich and varied universe of decentralized projects and some of the largest consumer apps in the ecosystem.

A more recent example is Uniswap, and their rapid rise to DeFi dominance. We’ve been supporting Uniswap as their infrastructure partner since they first deployed to mainnet, back in 2018. By offering simplified integration and the ability to confidently handle high request volumes, Infura has helped Uniswap in becoming one of the most active protocols in DeFi and service unprecedented consumer demand in record time; scaling their platform from +$285K in Total Locked Transaction Value in August 2020, to  over 1.8B USD at its peak in September.

The Uniswap team is working incredibly hard to add more liquidity to the DeFi ecosystem - and more liquidity means more users and integrations. Our goal has always been to empower developers building meaningful apps utilizing the power of Ethereum and IPFS and Uniswap is a perfect example of that coming to fruition.

"Infura is a great solution for us. It’s easy to integrate, can handle our requests, and has really helpful and thorough documentation. If we were to run and manage our own infrastructure, we would need at least one full time engineer to monitor that on a consistent basis. Infura helps us improve the reliability and performance of our service and saves us developer time and resources so we can focus instead on accelerating core product development."
Ian Lapham, Software Engineer, Uniswap.

Creating New Markets

After three years of providing Ethereum and IPFS infrastructure, we observed the number of developers with high volume, production-grade applications growing and growing. We knew it was time to formally release our flagship Ethereum product, to give developers confidence that Infura was going to grow with them. In July 2019, we launched Infura+, our premium Ethereum API product. This introduced clear scaling access to our Ethereum infrastructure and advanced support solutions. Maintaining free access to the API was extremely important to us because we knew that Ethereum and IPFS were both still in their experimentation phases. The importance of keeping access easy and free remains critical to enabling the continued growth of these technologies. We have a ton of new features on the horizon, both free and paid, and we are thrilled to talk more about those later this year!

While we started Infura to connect more developers to Ethereum, we’ve ended up creating an entirely new sub-industry: Blockchain Infrastructure-As-A-Service. Our viability and continued growth has enabled other development teams to enter the Web3 market and spin up their own Infrastructure service to help scale Ethereum and other chains. In 2016, there was only Infura. Today, there are dozens of blockchain infrastructure service providers, making this emerging market strong and diverse.

Helping the Ethereum Community Build Better Architecture

We strive to give back to developers as much as we can to help foster better, more varied applications on Ethereum and IPFS. Our engineers regularly take components critical to our infrastructure and share them with the wider community to help enable better tools and infrastructure. This includes up-streaming into the Go-Ethereum and Go-IPFS clients, while also maintaining fully open source tooling for both Ethereum and IPFS infrastructure.

Our Open Architecture Initiative is an effort to consolidate the knowledge and experience we’ve accumulated over the years and provide visibility into Infura’s architecture.

You can find some of our open-sourced tools here. They range from IPFS monitoring plugins to analyzers of the Ethereum P2P layer. You can directly test our service against local nodes and other providers using our comparison tool called Versus. In July this year, we released eth2-comply: an open source Apache 2.0-licensed tool for testing client API conformance. This tool supports Ethereum 2.0 client teams working towards compatibility with the Ethereum 2.0 API specification.

Empowering Builders to Reinvent Old Systems

Developers are smart, creative and energized by problems. It’s incredibly heartening to see how devs are using Ethereum to reimagine different industries, and scaling those projects with Infura; from the future of work to marketing analytics, developer tools and gaming.

Undeniably DeFi (Decentralized Finance) is having its moment right now, as dApps and protocols proliferate across Ethereum. In addition to Uniswap, I want to highlight a few other Infura users driving great adoption in the DeFi space:

  • Compound provides interest rate markets on Ethereum, enabling any crypto user to deposit to the lending pool and accrue interest on that contribution. Compound enables anyone to save and earn against their savings.
  • Monerium aims to revolutionize the cost of doing business by using Ethereum to achieve instant invoice settlement at a fraction of the cost of traditional methods.
  • Gnosis has built interoperable market mechanisms and protocols that allow DeFi users to securely generate, exchange, and hold digital assets. The platform connects users to Ethereum through the Gnosis multisig wallet and displays token balances via the Gnosis mobile app.
  • MakerDAO is one of the most well known projects on Ethereum, with one of the most widely adopted stable coins (DAI). A big part of Maker’s appeal is its collection of developer tools. We work very closely with the Maker team to help developers utilizing their components get up and running as fast as possible. The Maker team and Infura share the goal of giving developers the tools to use this powerful technology, check out their developer documentation.

You can check out how other projects use Infura on our Customer Stories page.

Supporting the Creation of New Business Models

As we expand the Infura suite, we want to ensure that we remain true to our mission: to provide developers with everything they need to build next-generation software and support the creation of all new types of businesses and applications. That’s one of the reasons we’re excited to support Eth2.

Ethereum 2.0 (Eth2) is an approaching Ethereum network upgrade. Like all upgrades, it’s designed to improve network performance—but the most interesting aspect of Eth2 is its Proof of Stake (PoS) enhancement.

If you’re not familiar with Eth2, this explainer should help.

Eth2 incentivizes ETH holders to become a validator and help maintain the Ethereum network. By staking (depositing) 32 ETH, one can download and run Eth2 client software and be rewarded for correctly validating blocks. Think of it as a mechanism for earning interest on your ETH, while incentivizing a faster, more secure network.

Our Eth2 service launched in June 2020 supporting the Beacon Chain layer of the network. This is a critical piece of the network that validators depend on to maintain their view of the overall state of the network. We are eagerly awaiting the mainnet launch of Eth2 and will be working closely with the ecosystem to provide developers and validators with the tools they need to immediately start using Eth2.

You can preview the product by becoming an Infura Beacon Chain API tester. Just drop us a message to let us know you’re interested.

It’s Not Just What You Build That Matters, But Who You Build it With

The only thing better than tinkering at the bleeding edge of tech, is doing it with a team of passionate and dedicated builders. Our team members come to Infura from Google, Electronic Arts, Activision, Rockstar Games, Sony, Facebook, Disney, and Bank of America to create a place that prioritizes team health and happiness, with a burning passion to advance the adoption of Web3.

One of the most powerful things you can do for any business is to actively promote conditions that make your people feel supported, heard and empowered. I’m very lucky to be building Infura with a team that values curiosity, quality, openness, and collaboration, and strives to stoke that culture every day. The potential of this team, and the technology we are providing access to, is truly astonishing.

If these values matter to you, you can rest assured that your project will always be supported by a team of expertly talented and genuinely awesome people.  

Whether you're here for our APIs, technical tutorials or you’re just Web3 curious, thanks for considering Infura. Here’s to the next four years 🍻