Ever since the Shadowy Super Coder NFT mint on November 3rd, 2021 the GenesysGo team has been maintaining a decentralized free public RPC network for the Solana ecosystem. When created the RPC network provided unlimited requests per second with no throttling or bandwidth caps. As time has gone on the GenesysGo RPC network has allowed for the creation of hundreds of tools and analytics platforms to be built for the Solana ecosystem.
Our free RPC network was created as a thank you to the Solana ecosystem for their support and was our attempt to help show that an NFT collection could provide real meaningful value to the community beyond a nebulous roadmap and vague promises of value.
As such, our promise to the ecosystem was that the RPC network would remain open and free to all members of the Solana community for as long as the royalties from the Shadowy Super Coder NFT would support the cost of paying for the network.
Unfortunately, after nearly a year of providing high performance RPC access to all builders in the Solana ecosystem, the day has finally arrived where we must bring that to a close and instead transition back to providing paid RPC services.
Why is the public RPC network no longer being offered?
As we said from the beginning, providing the Solana ecosystem with a free high performance RPC network was meant to be a thank you for all the support we had received during the months leading up to the Shadowy Super Coder NFT mint. Of course, running a network of hundreds of servers is a very costly endeavor and would only be possible if able to be supported by the ongoing royalties.
There are specific things that attributed to the decline in ongoing royalties and we recently wrote a Twitter thread after a very ill-informed member of the Solana community decided to try to manufacture needless drama in an ill-fated attempt to engagement farm. So, rather than rehash all of that here is a link to the twitter thread that addresses the various reasons why the free public network is being brought to a close.
Inside of that thread is the link to our Discord server and, more specifically, to the full announcement.
With that context, let’s talk about the direction we’re headed with the Shadow RPC Network because we’re very excited about what’s coming!
The Shadow RPC Network — Decentralizing More Than Just Tech
Readers who have been following us since our beginning know that we always build towards decentralization. The free public RPC network is the highest performing decentralized RPC network on Solana. It provides performance equal or greater to centralized RPC platforms and it does so via the efforts of independent operators running Shadow RPC Nodes.
All of that said, we’re still not happy with how the current implementation of the Shadow Operator program and are excited to use this opportunity as a chance to approach it in a new way.
To that end the revamped RPC program will be doing something very novel. At the moment, Shadow Operators are provided with emissions in the SHDW token as a reward for providing compute to the network. This of course means that Shadow Operators must sell their SHDW tokens in the open market in order to recoup what it costs for them to maintain their server.
Now, that was all well and good when we were running a free and open RPC network as it was the only real way to provide rewards to Shadow Operators in exchange for providing compute. Obviously the downside to any kind of token emissions approach is that it is highly impacted by volatility. Unfortunately though a Shadow Operator’s server costs will always be a fixed expense.
The exciting thing is that as we bring back the paid RPC network this allows us to create mechanisms by which Shadow Operators receive meaningful incentives for providing compute and storage resources to the network! We’ve long thought that the token emissions model was not sustainable in the long term. In fact, the more we’ve explored other projects that host decentralized RPC networks the more this belief has been reinforced for us. Ultimately, emissions in tokens do not make sense.
The Shadow RPC Network is the first paid RPC network in which 100% of the payments received goes directly to the group of independent operators powering it!
You read it right. We’re doing away with SHDW emissions and instead Shadow Operators will be receiving 100% of all revenues generated by the network. So, what does that look like? Let’s walk through the flow of events!
- A developer decides to start building on Solana and is exploring RPC providers. They decide on GenesysGo’s Shadow RPC Network because, unlike other decentralized RPC networks, they won’t have to sacrifice performance to utilize a decentralized provider. Additionally, they don’t like the idea of their monthly payment going to line the pockets of centralized teams who have raised tens of millions in VC funding because they know that their monthly payment is really just going to end up in the hands of ultra-wealthy centralized investment groups.
- The GenesysGo RPC network is powered completely by smart contract. So the builder connects their wallet, selects the features they want (i.e. unlimited requests per second, access to historical transaction history beyond a few days, regional failover, etc.), and pays for a month of service. As different plans are launched the monthly costs can range from as low as $100 per month for the most basic of services to $1,500 per month or more for a dedicated node with all the bells and whistles.
- Users of the Shadow RPC Network can pay in any token they like (so long as it has liquidity enough to be swapped) and the smart contract will automatically convert all user payments directly into USDC. This USDC will be sent to the Shadow Operators. This allows Shadow Operators true choice in how they use the funds they’ve earned and doesn’t leave them at the mercy of market volatility.
- The traffic from that builder’s dapp is then programmatically assigned to a random Shadow Operator. As long as that Shadow Operator is serving that dapp’s traffic then that Shadow Operator will receive 100% of what the builder paid in order to access. The builder is assigned a custom endpoint and access credentials and starts to build!
- Each Shadow Operator is still required to stake SHDW in order to provide compute to the network and earn revenue from their machine. This staked SHDW acts as collateral to ensure that Shadow Operators are disincentivized from doing a poor job of keeping their node healthy and well maintained. This means that SHDW no longer has the function of being “an emissions token” and instead now has the sole purpose of being used to cryptographically manage the state of the machine (i.e. does it meet the requirements of being able to contribute to the network) and verify the identity of the owner of the machine (via the transaction signed by the Shadow Operator’s wallet when the SHDW is first staked). Shadow Operators now serve as a pure lock-up mechanic for SHDW. As the amount of Shadow Operators grows, SHDW’s circulating supply will be reduced and Shadow Operators will no longer be forced to sell SHDW emissions to cover the operational expenses of running a server. To those of you who are actually reading this article as opposed to skimming through, this particular paragraph is one to pay attention to… Shadow.Cloud is being designed to take these methodologies and apply them to a network powered by thousands of Shadow Operators. Go do some digging for the little bits of info we’ve let leak around Shadow.Cloud if you need help seeing why this is significant. Enjoy the scavenger hunt!
- In the event that a Shadow Operator’s machine goes down that Shadow Operator will have their collateral slashed (this slashing mechanic is already live in our current network and is nothing new) and will be ineligible to earn revenue until they have topped off their collateral. During that time, the users traffic would failover to another Shadow Operator’s node and revenues would then be split between those two operators. This means that multiple Shadow Operators could potentially be sharing the revenue from one project in order to ensure the highest levels of stability and performance for the dapps being powered by the Shadow RPC Network. These transitions all happen seamlessly and on-chain smart contract events capture these failover events to ensure trustlessness.
Why is revenue programmatically assigned?
Revenue is assigned to Shadow Operators on a random round robin basis with no Shadow Operator being assigned new revenue until a new round has begun. A new round begins once the smart contract has flagged each Shadow Operator as having received new revenues for that round. The order is then randomized and a new round begins. This random round robin schedule is done in order to ensure no one can game the system. Shadow Operators should feel incentivized to actively work together to onboard new projects to the network because “a rising tide raises all ships” and the smart contract is built to ensure that if the network is succeeding then all operators will succeed.
The architecture is deliberately designed to avoid becoming a “marketplace” where builders “shop” for Shadow Operators. One reason for this is to ensure a streamlined user experience. Builders should be able to gain access to a decentralized network with just a few clicks of a button and they shouldn’t be expected to research the various pros and cons of going with one specific Shadow Operator over another. Another reason for this is that any platform utilizing “marketplace” mechanics is exposing themselves to serious regulatory risk and will likely be required to create anti-money laundering frameworks given that a bad actor can launder money simply by choosing nodes that they control and passing payments through. By utilizing a random round robin structure, no one (not even the core team) has the ability to direct payments which makes the Shadow RPC Network not viable for users who are looking for ways to exchange illicit funds.
When does all of this take place and what does the transition from the free public RPC network to the paid Shadow RPC Network look like?
We’re planning to start the transition in the next two to three weeks. Don’t worry builders, you will have plenty of time to transition either to the Shadow RPC Network or to a different provider.
We are currently in the process of making sure we have support assets in place and dev resources at the ready to make sure your transition is smooth. The overall UX of the Shadow RPC Platform has been center stage for us and we are going to great lengths to make sure that the process for utilizing the Shadow RPC Network is an easy one.
We are not accepting new Shadow Operators at this time.
There is a core group of Shadow Operators who have stuck with operating Shadow Nodes despite hiccups along the way and it is very important that Shadow Operators know that loyalty is a two way street. We’ve routinely said that Shadow Operators are the most important element of our entire roadmap and onboarding new Shadow Operators will be, in the near future, the KPI best suited for tracking the growth and success of the Shadow Platform.
Therefore, we will be waiting to open up the pool to new Shadow Operators until there is enough user traffic to ensure that node costs are being covered for the dedicated crew who has continued to help us as we expand and grow. If you’re still reading this, we will be debuting new tech at BreakPoint in Lisbon that will be instrumental in the launch of Shadow.Cloud and will massively streamline the process of becoming a Shadow Operator. The Shadow Operator UX should be as easy and user-friendly to non-tech people as it is to the highly technical. As I said, Shadow Operators are our most valuable resource and we’re going to great lengths to make sure that anyone can learn to run a Shadow Node quickly and easily. You’ll have to wait till Lisbon to see the new tech we’ve built that makes this easy, fast, and completely trustless. That said, we don’t anticipate this to take very long based on the inquiries we’ve received over the past few days and the sheer number of projects interested in transitioning to the Shadow RPC Network.
Oh ya… it’s all coming together.
We hope you’re as excited for these upcoming changes as we are. We’ve known for a long time that this was an eventuality and that knowledge has helped to inform a lot of our build direction. Over the months leading up to BreakPoint and beyond the community will see some huge activity from the GenesysGo team and everyone’s patience will begin to be rewarded as we debut our new platform.
I can promise you that there does not exist anything to date that does what Shadow will be doing. We’ve been working closely with data center providers, hardware vendors, and a select group of trusted builders in the Solana ecosystem to launch a platform that will change the way we all think about web3.
This isn’t us being hyperbolic either… we truly believe (and continue to receive the feedback from those who have seen the architecture) that Shadow will usher in a new age of network infrastructure that empowers independent operators in ways that will hopefully alter the course of their lives for the better. The Shadow RPC Network is the first step towards the realization of a much larger vision that the GenesysGo team has been working tirelessly to realize. We’re so excited to share it with all of you!
Thank you for taking the to read this article and thank you for the love and support we continue to feel from the community. Your support is the reason this team has continued to push the limits of what they thought possible and your support will be the reason why Shadow’s upcoming platform will change the way we think about network infrastructure forever.