Ankr Doubles Down on Decentralization of Web3 Infrastructure

“I think what we’ve seen is there’s literally no vertical that doesn’t need this,” Ankr Head of Product Josh Neuroth said

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Blockworks exclusive art by axel rangel

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key takeaways

  • Infrastructure for developers and Web3 applications today are often too centralized, leading to common failures, experts say
  • Ankr plans to move part of its operations into a DAO over time

Web3 infrastructure provider Ankr is disrupting itself. What the team describes as a “shift from platform to protocol” is aimed at placing community-run nodes at the center of its strategy. 

That’s a stark contrast to the model pursued by rivals like Infura, Alchemy and Blockdaemon, according to Josh Neuroth, Ankr’s head of product. Institutions that want to get into the node business — to earn staking rewards for participating in blockchain security and transaction validating — don’t necessarily care much about the principles of decentralization.

But the idea of turning users into owners is integral to the Web3 ethos, and it forms a key part of Neuroth’s answer to the question, “What does mass adoption look like?”

“The analogy I like to use is, this is its own digital economy, and layer-1s are like the town square in the middle of the city,” Neuroth told Blockworks.

“Projects and protocols like Ankr are building all the infrastructure — we’re building the power, the pipes, the water, even the roads that connect all these things together and that enable the economic growth.”

Infrastructure for developers and Web3 applications today remains a relatively centralized point of failure. Much like when Amazon Web Services suffers an outage that impacts your Netflix and Spotify experience, when Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider Infura goes down, it can significantly impact blockchain performance or the ability to use the popular wallet software Metamask.

“Infrastructure companies in Web2 became the most powerful in the world because, at scale, they are unstoppable,” Neuroth said. “Without this move, we end up in the same space as Web2.”

“It’s a constantly evolving move towards decentralization,” added Greg Gopman, Ankr’s chief marketing and business development officer. “Ankr will not provide the only nodes; there will be a decentralized group of node providers, including other infrastructure companies in the space, providing nodes in this network.”

Gopman said that Alchemy is looking to be acquired by Microsoft. The Ankr team’s plan entails moving parts of the operation into a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) over time.

Ankr provides staking node infrastructure for multiple blockchains, including the Ethereum Beacon Chain, which is slated to merge with the Ethereum mainnet this summer. It was the first to offer a version of liquid staked ether, but at $168 million in total value locked (TVL), it’s a distant fifth to market-leader Lido’s $10 billion, according to DeFi Llama.

More recently, Ankr has helped Binance upgrade its BNB Chain, which includes a subnet-like concept dubbed BAS — for BNB Application Sidechains — part of Binance’s efforts to decentralize the BNB chain, according to Neuroth.

“This is being seen as a new phase of scaling in the space,” he said. “We’ve realized that across the space, the path of scaling is going to be these subnets.”


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