OpenSea, one of the most popular marketplaces for non-fungible tokens or NFTs, is suffering a “database outage,” the company announced on Thursday. As a result, several services which rely on OpenSea’s APIs, including the popular crypto wallet MetaMask, are having trouble displaying NFTs.
“We’re caching that data so their outage doesn't wipe the wallet,” MetaMask co-founder Dan Finlay told Motherboard in an email. “We store what NFTs the user has in the wallet. OpenSea's outage means we are currently not auto-detecting new NFTs that are sent to the user's wallet, although users can always tell the wallet about NFTs they have by entering its address manually.”
“We use OpenSea to detect new NFTs, this outage would only affect new NFTs minted during the outage. Users can still manually add NFTs to our wallet, and this only affects the auto-detection of NFTs,” Finlay said. “Auto-detection (the thing not working) is itself is a feature we're going to make opt-in anyways to improve user privacy, so in a way, privacy advocates might prefer the current behavior.”
In other words, because OpenSea is down, some NFT owners who just bought their tokens may not be able to see their expensive JPEGs even in their crypto wallet.
“We are experiencing technical issues leading to a site outage. Teams are currently investigating,” the company wrote around 9 a.m. ET. As of this writing, OpenSea published an update saying “a fix has been implemented and we are monitoring the issue. Programmatic access remains disabled.”
Some people are taking advantage of this situation to make the point that the NFT market and the so-called web3 is not as decentralized as its supporters often argue.
For example, Jane Manchun Wong, a security researcher who specializes in reverse engineering popular services and apps to spot unreleased or upcoming features, saw that Twitter uses OpenSea’s API to display NFTs in an unreleased feature. So, now that OpenSea is down, Twitter can’t show the NFTs.
“I just think too many platforms are reliant on OpenSea. And it becomes a single point of failure, especially when OpenSea has not been stable lately,” Wong told Motherboard in an online chat.
OpenSea and Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Earlier this month, the founder of Signal Moxie Marlinspike criticized supporters of web3, the idea that the internet is moving toward a new era of decentralization built on cryptocurrencies and blockchains, pointing out that the crypto world right now is more centralized that many care to admit.
In a viral blog post, Marlinspike explained that he made an experiment to show exactly what he meant. He created an NFT that displays in different ways depending on what market it’s seen on, and that always looks like a poop emoji in users’ wallets, such as MetaMask.
“MetaMask doesn’t actually do much, it’s just a view onto data provided by these centralized APIs,” Marlinspike wrote. “All this means that if your NFT is removed from OpenSea, it also disappears from your wallet. It doesn’t functionally matter that my NFT is indelibly on the blockchain somewhere, because the wallet (and increasingly everything else in the ecosystem) is just using the OpenSea API to display NFTs, which began returning 304 No Content for the query of NFTs owned by my address!”
This is pretty much what’s happening now that OpenSea is having an outage. To be clear, users still “own” a unique string of characters—or hash—that shows the world they “own” their expensive JPEGs, and most users will be able to view their NFTs just fine due to MetaMask's caching workaround. But others will not be able to see new NFTs in MetaMask until OpenSea comes back online.
In December, an outage at Amazon’s Web Services showed that at the end of the day, the web right now is very interdependent and not decentralized at all. When AWS went down, dYdX, a so-called "decentralized exchange" on Ethereum went down as well.
UPDATE, 1:25 p.m. ET: After this article was published, Twitter announced it’s rolling out NFT profile pictures on the platform.
UPDATE, 4:33 p.m. ET: This story was updated to include additional comment from MetaMask’s founder Dan Finlay.
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