What is The Graph and Why You Should Care
We are entering a new age on the web. Welcome to the age of web3, the age of decentralized applications (dApps). What does that mean, you ask? Well, imagine that every time you visit a web page, you receive some information — data. That data lives on another computer, a server (a fancy name for a computer that serves data). Usually, this server belongs to one entity. In case of a simple informative site, like a blog, accessing the blog data is not a big deal. The information belongs to the blog owner who has a full right to it. However, the moment you start sharing information about yourself, for example, after signing up on that blog, that entity now owns not only their data but also yours having full control over your account. In the world of dApps, the information lives on a blockchain (think database anyone can access) that anybody can store across the globe. No one owns that data and no one controls it either. More so, you have full control over your account on a decentralized blockchain.
Now imagine you visit some dApp. Every time you do that, you receive specific data, be that information about current cryptocurrency prices or some other information. In the case of a dApp, that data comes from a blockchain. However, receiving it is a difficult task for a dApp developer. First of all, you need to connect directly to the blockchain. That means you either have to become part of the network, spinning up your computer that connects to the blockchain or connect to someone else. In both cases, not only it costs resources but also means maintenance on your part. Yet, accessing the blockchain is just the beginning of a story. A blockchain can be a store of a whole variety of data. Imagine not just one blog that you would usually visit but a collection of blogs, like what Medium is. So if you want to represent only a part of that collection of blogs, for instance, only blogs about the technology, you would have to go through a selection process on the entire blockchain. That too is not only hard to implement but also costs computational resources on your the application side. But all you need is the data, so is there an easier way?
Enter The Graph. The Graph is a decentralized web project with a working product that has been in development for a while. Essentially, what The Graph provides is the development of so-called subgraphs. Anyone on their network can become an indexer who can choose what data to extract from a blockchain. This collection of data is the subgraph. Now, when you are developing a dApp, you no longer have to connect to a blockchain node and parse the data yourself. All you have to do is pick the right subgraph and query it using GraphQL query language. Subgraph querying makes dApp development so much easier. A simple interface and access to blockchain data will help with the development of the web3 ecosystem driving the adaption faster.
Furthermore, The Graph token introduces a whole economy to incentivize its usage. Indexers are going to receive a fee for each query. That enables further development of subgraphs — if users need some data from a blockchain, there will be an indexer who would want to provide that data because they will be getting paid for it. Furthermore, each query costs a fee too. Meaning either the dApp or end-user will have to be paying for it. But you might say end-users don’t want to pay for the data if they are getting it free elsewhere. However, keep in mind, end users always pay for data, regardless of whether it comes from a blockchain or conventional databases. Right now, that cost is present as monthly subscription fees for app usage. However, that charge includes not only the expense for the data but also app expenses and profits. The Graph subgraph data transitions the cost directly end to end. It’s hard to predict The Graph query cost at the moment. However, in theory, these fees should be much less than the price of traditional APIs (data queries and responses).
In all, The Graph is a promising project that might help drive the adoption of blockchain and dApp use. It introduces a possibility of much easier access to data from the blockchain. That alone is very valuable for blockchain application developers. And for end-users, on top of a blockchain promise of keeping control and transparency over data, there’s a potential to see an increased selection of dApps, along with reduced data fees. Overall, The Graph has a lot of potential in crypto space. Last but not least, if you would like to get involved or find out more about the project, either check out The Graph website or joint their discord community.