- 4 days ago
Can a decentralized notification system continue to further the massive success of the blockchain?
One of the great concepts behind blockchain is that all information is available to anyone. Anyone can audit the chain of blocks and query the ledger to see all historical transactions. A financial system where every user has full access to all data is a marvelous thing.
The big issue with this wealth of information is that it isn’t straightforward for a user to actually use. The blockchain industry is still maturing, and making this data easily accessible is still a big challenge the industry is working on.
Finding the tree through the forest
Let’s use a concrete example from the NFT space. Consider a user trying to participate in an NFT auction. After placing a bid, how can the user tell if they’re currently in the lead? This is important because if somebody else outbids the user, they will lose the NFT unless they increase their bid. Bidding is a competition, and without access to the latest data, you may lose your edge.
Traditionally, the only way to receive updates on the blockchain state is to perform a query to the chain. Therefore, a user participating in an on-chain NFT auction platform would have to constantly refresh the app in their wallet to see whether they’re still in the lead. If the auction takes place over several hours, this manual refresh will naturally not suffice.
How do the most popular auction platforms in the consumer world (the ones not related to blockchain or NFT’s) handle this issue? One of the biggest auction platforms in the world is eBay. If you’ve ever participated in an eBay auction, you know that push notifications straight to your mobile phone are probably the best user experience you can achieve. Whenever someone else outbids you, you immediately receive a notification and can decide to increase your bid if you won’t stay in the game. Lack of data would never be a reason to lose on eBay.
Asking the right question
The big question is whether we can do the same with NFT auction platforms that are based on blockchain?
You may be familiar with NFT platforms like OpenSea. Those often send emails during live auctions held on their platform to keep you in the loop. This isn’t as good of an experience as dedicated mobile push notifications, but it’s definitely better than manual refresh. The big issue with these platforms is that the notification service is a completely centralized system.
The major disruption in the heart of blockchain technology is decentralization. No longer locked are our assets on a single corporate platform like Facebook. Instead, we are free to hold our assets ourselves and take our services to any app implemented on-chain. The blockchain is the ultimate open garden without any lock-in or restrictions. You can even hold your assets directly yourself without relying on anyone.
The issue with centralized auction platforms, like some parts of OpenSea, is that they go against this principle. There isn’t much difference between them and eBay if you’re entirely dependent on a single provider who owns all data and has a closed garden that doesn’t actually run on-chain. OpenSea isn’t trying to go against the ideals of blockchain. It is forced to make some parts of its platform centralized because there currently is no other choice.
Finding a solution
So the question remains. Can we do better and provide a user experience on par with the best centralized auction platforms like eBay, yet remain completely decentralized and celebrate the open nature of the blockchain?
The answer is definitely yes. We can enjoy both worlds, but this requires some new construction of infrastructure .
Orbs Network is one of the earliest blockchain infrastructure providers, launched at 2017. Orbs is a decentralized network based on Proof-of-Stake where independent validators execute blockchain applications for users. A decentralized notification protocol is one of the exciting new applications in development on Orbs.
How would such a protocol work?
The protocol consists of four different parts. The first one is the user app, where users can subscribe to get notifications about on-chain events such as new bidding for listed NFT, sell and buy order and even newly anticipated minted NFT collection. The second one is the notification server which is in charge of sending push notifications, telegram messages and even phone calls when needed. The third one is the projects github repository, where projects such as opensea, rarible, nftkey etc can configure what they want to allow their users to monitor and get notifications for. The last part and the most important one is Orbs validators which are running the project’s monitoring in a decentralized manner to make sure no one can temper with the monitoring and users never miss crucial alerts.