Apr 4, 2024

Unleashing Chronik: A Million Dollar Crypto-Infrastructure
Unleashing Chronik: A Million Dollar Crypto-Infrastructure
Unleashing Chronik: A Million Dollar Crypto-Infrastructure

Unleashing Chronik: A Million Dollar Crypto-Infrastructure

How the new eCash Indexer Empowers Devs and Transforms UX

The idea of integrating an efficient indexing solution directly into the node software has preoccupied developers’ minds within the Bitcoin space for quite some time. While a direct integration is still waiting to happen on Bitcoin, various third-party indexers have been built within the ecosystem all with their own quirks, strengths, and limitations.

Now, however, eCash is happy to announce that it has built the unthinkable: Chronik, a lightning-fast and reliable indexer built directly into the Bitcoin ABC node. Let’s dig into what that means.

How Chronik came to be

RaiPay Founder @TobiasRuck, a long-standing Bitcoin developer and someone who loves to tinker with low-level infrastructure as much as he loves to build apps, also decided to build an indexer to suit his business needs. Chronik was first applied as the backbone of Cashweb/Stamp, a decentralized web3 social media and messaging protocol developed by Shammah Chancellor, which unbeknownst to many, also partially inspired the Nostr protocol. The lightweight NNG (standalone) version of Chronik would be easy to operate and work reliably at scale with super speeds, which is exactly what is needed when building apps on a high-throughput network like eCash.

Soon thereafter, Cashtab lead dev @bytesofman would see the benefits of Chronik over outdated tools in the Bitcoin ecosystem and shift over his apps piece by piece to use it as well. The eCash block explorer, faucets, and Telegram bots like the Address Watcher, eCash Herald, or eCash Dice quickly emerged, highlighting the user-friendliness of the new indexer. With this well-functioning standalone version, Tobias proposed to further develop and optimize Chronik as the reference indexer for Bitcoin ABC, and engineers at eCash agreed under the condition that it has to be integrated directly into the node, committing to deliver a built-in indexing solution many developers were always longing for.

Recognizing the potential, the Global Network Council (GNC) greenlighted the Chronik project in 2022. Developments continued in close communications with the eCash team, fine-tuning the software according to their feedback and polishing it into excellence. Fast forward to today, we celebrate the full integration of Chronik into the Bitcoin ABC node software, marking a historic moment for eCash, and potentially the wider crypto-ecosystem.

Now, it didn’t make Tobias millions (yet), but if an equally complex software were built in the IT industry today, it would have cost around $1,000,000 under normal circumstances. And yet, we think that the potential value that Chronik brings to the space is even greater.

So what’s the big deal about it? Let's get an overview of its technology under the hood to learn more about the benefits of using Chronik and the exciting possibilities it unlocks.

What is Chronik?

Chronik is a powerful blockchain indexer specifically designed for eCash. It acts like a search engine for the eCash blockchain, making it easier and faster for applications to find specific information within the vast amount of data stored on the chain. An indexer is a critical piece of infrastructure that other services (such as wallets and explorers) are built on top of. Despite having eCash as its first-class citizen, Chronik can also easily work with other chains that are based on the original Bitcoin Satoshi client, such as BTC, LTC, BCH, DASH, or DOGE. This could potentially make Chronik a common standard for most UTXO chains. There have already been some promising experiments in this area.

In general, every project can benefit from integrating Chronik, and some desperately need it. Today, just because it is easy to use, efficient, fast, and robust. But even more so looking into the future, when now-established indexers won't be able to work at a larger scale. With Chronik going live, we see significant value delivered for eCash and also for the wider ecosystem if it establishes itself as a de-facto standard for all Bitcoin-like networks.

Technical Overview: How is Chronik better?

Previous third-party indexers used in the Bitcoin space were either hard to use, inefficient, or unreliable. While some may still hold up, most are unfit for the job. Chronik on the other hand is introducing simpler logic and reducing workload for a significantly more robust and easy-to-use service.

It operates at super speeds due to its efficient code written in Rust, utilization of a rapid key-value store called RocksDB, which is being developed by Facebook, and a smart architecture that fetches data directly from the node. This allows for a faster, cheaper, and more reliable indexing process, which also streamlines the developer experience. 

Another benefit of Chronik being written in Rust is that it’s a memory-safe language, which means developers can contribute to Chronik and add features/optimizations more easily, without the risk of introducing critical security vulnerabilities.

In addition, the Chronik indexer is designed to be forward-looking and upgradeable, making it well-suited to the long-term goals of building a reliable reference indexer, providing first-class Avalanche support, and making the integration of new protocols as easy as possible. Here are four major ways Chronik empowers developers:

  • Faster Development: With a clean and easy-to-use API and higher capacity, developers can focus on building apps, not working around indexer bugs and limitations.
  • Enhanced User Experience: Chronik facilitates smoother and faster access to information on the blockchain, leading to a more user-friendly experience for everyone interacting with eCash.
  • Improved Products: Chronik’s capacity, functionality, and efficiency pave the way for developing innovative new products and services on the eCash blockchain.
  • Efficient use of Storage Space: No need to store the same data twice, as Chronik can directly access the node’s block and transaction data.

The eCash Advantage: Node-Integration

More game-changing improvements come with Chronik's direct integration into the node software. A built-in indexing solution like this eliminates the following:

  • Handling separate software: Developers only need to manage the Bitcoin ABC node as one binary, simplifying processes, especially for DevOps.
  • Potential inconsistencies: Combining node and indexer functionalities synchronizes the system, reducing the risk of errors and version incompatibilities you would get running two distinct pieces of software.
  • Serialization/Deserialization process: There is no expensive serialization/deserialization of transactions necessary, as memory is shared between Chronik and the node.
  • Dependencies: No dependencies are needed, beyond installing Rust, making for an easy build.

Empowering the eCash Ecosystem: A Look at Chronik's Impact

By establishing a more efficient and user-friendly foundation, Chronik benefits the entire ecosystem:

  • Improved User Experience: Real-time search and retrieval capabilities translate to a smoother experience across all applications.
  • Enhanced Scalability: An efficient design allows the ecosystem to handle growing data volumes more effectively.
  • Built-in eToken support: eToken indexing is enabled in Chronik by default, making it easy for services like exchanges or wallets to integrate your favorite eTokens.

Chronik in Action: Real-World Benefits

Immediate Cashtab impact:

  • Instant Transaction Notifications: Chronik's WebSocket interface enables instant notifications, eliminating delays and uncertainty for users. Notifications can be enhanced to show message data, token type, and other chronik-indexed information.
  • Enhanced Transaction History: Faster load times and built-in pagination allow Cashtab to render more transactions and more information about each transaction, including Avalanche finalization status.
  • Efficient All-in-One Backend: Chronik’s improved token indexing allows Cashtab to support multiple token formats, including NFTs.

The Road to a Viable CBDC Alternative

The development of Chronik is a collaborative effort between Bitcoin ABC, the GNC, and the expert engineering of Tobias and his RaiPay team. This project aligns with eCash's ultimate goal of operating at a mass scale and providing a viable, decentralized alternative to Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs).

By fostering a robust development environment and facilitating the creation of user-centric applications, Chronik plays a crucial role in achieving this vision. With Chronik now fully integrated, the eCash ecosystem is poised for significant growth and innovation in the years to come.

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