A Website Has Nothing to do With Crypto Decentralization

The front end of a website, also known as a user interface (UI), has absolutely nothing to do with how decentralized or permissionless a blockchain application is.

I’m sure you heard how the US recently sanctioned Tornado Cash. The Tornado website was promptly taken down once the announcement was made. Afterwards, many DeFi applications began blocking user wallets from using their front ends who had interacted with the Tornado contract.

The mocking was swift and immediate.

Most takes were essentially some version of this: “Lol you call yourself decentralized and permissionless, but you’re banning people based off what the US says. You’re not any of these things!”

If frontend access was the only way to use a blockchain app, this would be true.

However to repeat: the UI is NOT why we call anything in crypto or DeFi “decentralized”. No one ever said a centrally hosted website, which is obviously web2 and not a crypto concept in the least, was what made these applications permissionless.

What makes DeFi applications decentralized and permissionless is that they exist on a blockchain that can be accessed anonymously and permissionlessly by anyone. No one owns these apps once they’re deployed onchain or can stop you from using them. THAT is what puts the “De” in DeFi. Saying that a website hosted by AWS is denying you access therefore decentralization is a ruse is a silly strawman. Those who claim a website is what disproves decentralization are either naive to what DeFi is or arguing in bad faith.

Now out of convenience, most of us use centralized UIs to access those contracts. It’s just easier to log on to a website and click some buttons that let you interact with the app than going to the contract and querying it. But this is purely for ease of use. The UI is simply one of the many vectors for accessing the contract onchain. If that UI is blocked or taken down, the contract still exists exactly as it did before. This onchain instantiation is what makes an app decentralized, permissionless, and uncensorable.

Case in point: you can still use Tornado Cash despite the app being sanctioned and the website censored. And if any app’s UI blocks your wallet, you can simply interact with the application directly from contract. This can be done via the block explorer of for a chain, for Ethereum it’s known as Etherscan.

If you want to really be a pro, you can even do it via the command line interface (CLI). Become truly ungovernable.

Here’s how you do it with Etherscan:

You can do everything you need to from Etherscan if the contract is deployed to Ethereum. If it’s on Fantom, it’d be via FTMscan, etc. Bear in mind these are still centralized websites, however block explorers have shown zero propensity to censor anyone at this time.

By going to Contract → Read Contract, you can view things like the balance and other items that are publicly viewable. Here’s a visual example using the Read Contract tab from Curve’s 3pool swap address:

In Read Contract you can expand any section and read data as needed. The information in Read Contract will vary from contract to contract, depending on the application.

Under Write Contract, you can connect your web3 wallet (eg Metamask) and interact with the contract directly from Etherscan. No app UI needed. This is where you can send, receive, and engage with the application all the same as you would via a website.

If programming jargon like “min_mint_amount (uint256)” confuses you, don’t worry. Any credible project will have a Discord and/or Telegram community with admins who will help you with what these sections mean and how to start interacting with the contract. There’s a learning curve at first, but it’s a skill set worth cultivating. Learn by doing.

If block explorers started censoring, or you just want to be an unstoppable smart-contract using force, you can also learn how to use CLI. This is a bit more technical, and is really something you should only need if block explorers start going rogue. While this seems highly unlikely, and could be addressed by simply using an IPFS version of the site, it’s still worth being aware of this avenue.

If learning CLI for app interaction is something you’re interested, you can start with these resources:

Nothing can stop you from using a blockchain application, so long as the chain itself is operational. Decentralization is at the whim of no website!

Follow at @BackTheBunny

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