What does a decentralized database mean for Web3?
What is the impact of a decentralized database on Web3?
1. Why is a decentralized database needed?
There are two basic ways to store data for Web2 applications: file systems and databases. Because Web3 lacks database products, most DApps still use centralized databases to store structured data, except for a small amount of important data stored in expensive smart contracts. With the gradual adoption of decentralized file systems such as IPFS to store NFT data for Web3 applications, decentralized file systems have been recognized and accepted by Web3, and decentralized database technology has undergone a round of iteration, resulting in the development of new products.
Compared with traditional centralized databases, decentralized databases have unique advantages. They can reduce the risk of single-point failure for Web3 projects and make DApps completely decentralized.
Decentralized databases are suitable for storing frequently accessed hot data for DApps, such as:
- NFT metadata
- DAO voting data
- DEX order book
- Decentralized social, blog, and email data.
- Complex relational database data required by DApps.
2. What types of decentralized database storage systems are available?
Many decentralized database projects have emerged in recent years, and some innovative projects have received widespread attention.
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- Ceramic: Ceramic is a project that started in 2019. Data is stored and managed as streams, with formatted event logs added to the streams. The logs are made into files and uploaded to IPFS. It provides GraphQL API queries. Ceramic does not have an incentive model like IPFS and supports data creation, reading, and updating (CRU).
- OrbitDB: OrbitDB is an earlier project compared to Ceramic and also uses the IPFS file system for file storage. It supports NoSQL database and file storage.
- Tableland: This project was launched in 2022 and is currently in public testing. The production version of Tableland will be released in 2023. Data storage requires the use of smart contracts, which define SQL statements and set usage permissions. Data reading is done off-chain and does not require payment. Currently, the contract has been deployed on L2 such as ETH and OP.
- Polybase: This project is now running on the test network. It is a NoSQL database that supports CRUD operations, and each operation requires payment. In addition, Polybase supports various file systems for storing database files, including local disks, IPFS, Filecoin, Polystore, and even AWS S3. Polybase also uses payment channels for data query payments, reducing the frequency of on-chain transactions and avoiding query delays caused by payments.
- Web3Q: The project was launched in 2022, and the test network is now online. It proposes a new URL scheme Web//access protocol for accessing data. Its charging model is special, and deletion of data can be refunded.
- Kwill: Kwill is an SQL database system based on Arweave, which uses smart contracts for payment.
- KYVE: KYVE is a database system based on Arwave.
- SQL and NoSQL can both be used as databases, with SQL being more mature and efficient and NoSQL being more diverse and flexible. SQL requires a high degree of consistency in its data structures and has stronger capabilities for joint queries, making it more mature and efficient; NoSQL’s KV format is more in line with Ethereum’s design pattern and can support rich data types, making it more flexible and easily scalable.
- In terms of functionality, supporting CRUD is best, but supporting UD can add complexity to the system. If the system uses local storage, it may not support historical value queries. If using IPFS and Arweave, the database needs to be append-only, otherwise a piece of data will have multiple versions, doubling the storage cost.
- There are two choices for the underlying file system.
- Local file storage is more flexible, with customizable retrieval logic, higher efficiency, and avoids the unreliability and complexity associated with decentralized file systems such as Arweave. For example, if a user pays TokenA to the database miner, the miner needs to pay Arweave coin to store the data, adding complexity to the two-layer network.
- The database files are stored in decentralized file systems such as IPFS and Arweave;
- Stored locally on nodes or in the S3 cloud.
- Similar to decentralized storage, improving data retrieval speed, incentive models and token economics, and guarantee algorithms for data availability are key factors in determining whether a protocol will be widely used.
- A good incentive model and token model can not only motivate nodes to participate actively, but also motivate nodes to do the right thing. For example, providing effective retrieval functions rather than just storing data to receive storage rewards.
- The data availability guarantee algorithm checks the node’s storage of data at regular intervals and requires the node to provide data availability proof, which is complementary to the node’s incentives to prevent data loss.
- Data retrieval affects user experience and is crucial for the convenience and fluency of Dapp usage.
- Decentralized databases are highly valued and urgently needed, but currently there are no widely accepted and used products.
- The maturity of decentralized database technology is lower than that of decentralized file storage systems. This is because decentralized database technology is based on distributed file systems. Many projects were launched in 2022.
- Improving data retrieval speed, incentive models and token economics, and guarantee algorithms for data availability are key factors in determining whether a protocol will be widely used. The focus of the protocol will be to reduce retrieval time, which is crucial for the convenience and fluency of Dapp usage.
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