Better UX: Gas Station Network Arrives to Turn Ethereum dApps Into Apps

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While the Ethereum ecosystem is still fledgling, one common complaint against its decentralized apps, or dapps, is that they’ve proven to be unfamiliar to mainstream users accustomed to regular apps not underpinned by blockchain tech.

Unveiled on August 6th, the new Gas Station Network (GSN) aims to cut out complexity from dapps in becoming the “ultimate Ethereum onboarding solution.”

How? The new network is an open-source solution designed to help dapps become “indistinguishable from your favorite Web 2.0 apps.” This figurative sleight of hand occurs as dapps that leverage GSN “can now assume the transaction costs of their users” according to a given project’s particular customer acquisition costs (CAC).

This dynamic makes it so that dapp users don’t have to deal with gas fees for transactions because a GSN-based dapp covers these costs right out of the gate. Of course, such a system is contingent on a dapp being able to sustainably afford these costs.

Really excited to announce Gas Station Network.

The ultimate onboarding solution for #Ethereum.

Transform dapps into normal apps.

Remove the technical burden from your users.

Hide transactions.https://t.co/qANJCA3RVR

cc @meta_cartel @b_asselstine @TabooKeyNet @portis_io pic.twitter.com/v425d84xpK

— Ramon Recuero (@ramonrecuero) August 6, 2019

GSN is not only a must for onboarding, but it is also the key that unlocks new and disruptive business models within the blockchain paradigm,” wrote Ramon Recuero, who formally revealed the network in a Medium post.

The network was created through collaborations involving several Ethereum ecosystem stakeholders, such as digital asset security play TabooKey, the dapp DAO MetaCartel, and the OpenZeppelin project.

Zooming in, the GSN relies on decentralized relayers — which can be run permissionlessly — to execute transactions. As Recuero explained:

“These relayers are stored on Ethereum inside the RelayHub smart contract. Your app can choose the relayer that is going to execute the transaction based on its reputation. Once you choose a relayer, it immediately replies to you confirming the request. If it doesn’t, you can switch to another relay right away.”

The advantages of this system, which now has a live beta on the Rinkeby testnet, is that through it users should no longer have to go through confusing, multi-step onboarding processes or deal directly with address keys.

Also Toward Making ETH More Useable? Tornado Mixer

Another pain point native to transparent blockchain cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ether is that, if you use addresses and associate them with public activity without resorting to privacy techniques, then anyone with an internet connection and the know-how to review a block explorer can audit your financial history.

Consider how some Ethereum dapps and DAOs require public attestations on platforms like Twitter. In the past, to make such verifications with privacy, users would have to turn to or spin up an address they haven’t used in the past.

However, many people would surely prefer to have a single consolidated address they could use for all things Ethereum without revealing the entirety of their on-chain activity. That’s where experimental privacy solutions like the Tornado mixer come in.

Just deposited 0.1 ETH into the brand new [experimental] https://t.co/NR5IvbWmVs mixer. I'll withdraw in a bit once more people have joined my anonymity set!

Very cool @rstormsf and @PeppersecCOM! pic.twitter.com/RUwj1UCzBm

— Ameen Soleimani 👹 (@ameensol) August 5, 2019

Tornado, which leverages zk-SNARKS privacy tech to obscure participants’ activity, was first unveiled in late July as a beta on the Kovan testnet. This week, Tornado was released on the Ethereum mainnet.

The mixer has yet to be audited and should still be considered experimental, so use it at your own risk until further notice. Still, the project’s advancement comes as many in stakeholders in the Ethereum community have been grappling with how to bring better privacy to their blockchain.

For example, Tornado’s testnet beta arrived not long after developer Kendrick Tan released his Heiswap mixer on the Ropsten testnet. Tan built Heiswap according to the minimal design specification that Ethereum co-creator Vitalik Buterin outlined for a mixer back in the spring.

These mixers are still early on in their lifespans, but they represent the possibility of Ethereum becoming increasingly private to use.

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