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Web3-Native SQL

Kyle Samani
April 20, 2023 | 4 minute read

In the first wave of crypto innovation after Bitcoin, many developers forked the Bitcoin codebase to try to build other decentralized infrastructure and applications beyond digital gold. Some of the earliest forks included attempts at building decentralized databases that could be used for general purpose application development. In the wave of crypto innovation that followed Ethereum’s launch, teams began building BFT database engines.

For many reasons, these prior attempts struggled to find traction. All of them were just too early: there wasn’t enough decentralized financial infrastructure, and there weren’t enough developers who understood the unique properties of decentralized systems. But over the last few years, the financial infrastructure has meaningfully improved, and web3 developers have started to extend their horizon beyond finance and into general purpose consumer applications.

Today, I’d like to announce Multicoin’s participation in an $8M round for Tableland, a permissionless network of nodes that provide a relational database - AKA web3-native SQL. The round was led by Coinfund, and included Blueyard and Protocol Labs, among many others.

Web3-Native SQL

SQL is by far the most popular database language, and Tableland is leaning into that heavily. Tableland is built on the open source SQLite engine.

Today, Tableland is integrated with Ethereum, Arbitrum, Optimism, and Polygon, and will be adding support for the Filecoin FVM soon. This means that developers can link a financial asset stored on any of these asset ledgers—fungible and non-fungible tokens—to Tableland. A common use case for this is for managing metadata or other mutable data for NFTs.

Tableland makes SQL a performant and easy-to-use, first-class citizen for web3 developers. Some examples:

  • DR/VRS is building a mutable NFT that leverages Tableland's customizable database access control rules. This feature enables NFT owners to combine unique and unchangeable traits with an inventory of customizable traits that they can layer onto their characters.
  • Hideout Labs is developing an NFT launchpad platform. Setting them apart from other platforms, they are crafting a trait swap marketplace where users can compose and exchange NFT traits across collections. By moving these mutable traits off of the asset ledger and onto Tableland, they are unlocking a lot of new design space to greatly increase interplay between traits.

Tableland Studio and Composability

We announced our investment in Ceramic a year ago. In that time, we’ve seen an explosion in developers building consumer experiences. A few examples:

  • Social — there are over 100 teams building various decentralized social products. All of these products could all benefit from the ability to store certain elements, such as user-generated content, on decentralized databases.
  • Games — hundreds of crypto-ified games are launching this year, and they are all starting to slowly decentralize their component pieces.
  • NFTs — Dozens of major brands have announced NFT initiatives, and are now exploring what can be done with mutable NFTs.

But whereas Ceramic offers noSQL and Graph databases, Tableland is hyper focused on SQL and relational databases. Each company is taking a bespoke approach to corner the market and has selected the correct set of tradeoffs for a composable database architecture. As such, we ultimately expect both to thrive as they serve developers who understand the importance of cross-application data composability.

In addition to the core database engine, the team is launching Tableland Studio later this year. Tableland Studio is a developer platform designed to streamline the process of rapidly prototyping feature-rich, data-driven web3 apps. The Studio will help developers create and manage new projects running on the Tableland network by connecting data with smart contracts, building with collaborators, and integrating other protocols such as IPFS, Filecoin, ENS, and others into their app.

As more applications feed more data onto the permissionless network, future developers can discover, adapt, and reuse entire application architectures in minutes. Studio will help developers move faster by opening a growing library of application architectures that developers can fork, modify, and reuse. These are the “blueprints”—including database designs, smart contract code, queries, and even application code—to build everything from NFT-based games to AI model training marketplaces.

Studio will dramatically accelerate a creative recombination built on data composability.

We’re excited to back Andrew and Sander in their pursuit of Tableland. We are strong believers in the need for decentralized database infrastructure, and we’re proud to support the entire Tableland team as they build the future of web3-native SQL.

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