Farcaster Replicator: How to Further Decentralize the Stack with Textile

Make Farcaster data available on decentralized storage with replication from Hubs to Postgres to Textile & Filecoin.


Farcaster is a “sufficiently” decentralized social network that’s modeled off of Twitter/X but rooted in web3. Part of its success has been the team’s approach toward building a scalable and UX-focused application, or as the co-founder puts it…


What’s unique with Textile’s approach to web3 data is that we agree with Farcaster’s sentiment: web2 isn’t going away and is more performant for certain parts of the stack. Thus, Textile’s vaults tooling lets developers take data from common web2 environments, such as a Postgres database, and write that data to decentralized storage with almost no additional effort! This allows protocols and applications to progressively decentralize and make certain data open for fair use.

Demonstrating replication from Farcaster to Textile

The Farcaster replicator app takes data from Hubs (e.g., “Hubble” is a Hub implementation) and stores it in a Postgres database. This allows developers to query Farcaster data and easily build applications on top of the network's data. You can check out the Farcaster docs for more information on the existing functionality, but make sure you have at least 2GB of memory and 4GB of free disk space to run the replicator app. (Farcaster's original resource estimates are now outdated due to increased activity; expect slightly higher memory and storage needs for the replicator app.)

To make this possible, a slight adjustment was made to Farcaster’s replicator app that makes the data also available via the Textile Network's novel caching layer and cold storage adapter (to Filecoin). The vaults CLI (here) made this process easy to implement. It lets you create vaults—web3-native data containers—and stream data from a Postgres database to decentralized storage, retrievable by "event" CIDs which are formatted as Parquet files. Every event is written to both a hot cache layer with TTL (time-to-live) and a cold storage layer. Thus, anyone can extract openly replicated data from a vault and load it into their applications instead of running the replicator app themselves.

Check out the source code (a fork of Farcaster’s monorepo): dtbuchholz/hub-monorepo. Note: There were some demo-related imperfections in the setup, explained below. But, a decent amount of data was replicated to Textile and should show how it can be used in tandem with existing web2 tech stacks.

Project structure

In our demonstration, the Textile replication process is handled using shell scripts that execute CLI commands and a custom Docker image. To use the vaults CLI tool, the wal2json Postgres extension must be installed/configured, and the vaults binary must also be installed. You can review dtbuchholz/textile-vaults-farcaster (here) for the published Docker image, which supports the linux/arm64 architecture and handles these setup steps.

Since the replicator app already uses Docker Compose, the original source code is, largely, untouched. The docker-compose.yml file has been updated to include the new Docker image as well as the necessary environment variables for the vaults CLI (TEXTILE_PRIVATE_KEY & TEXTILE_VAULT_NAMESPACE).

Then, a couple of custom scripts were added:

  • custom-entrypoint.sh: Entrypoint for the Docker image, which sets up Postgres to use logical replication, increases the max replication slots, and increases WAL senders to account for 12 total Farcaster tables via postgres -c wal_level=logical -c max_replication_slots=15 -c max_wal_senders=15. Then, it runs the vaults commands defined in textile_vaults.sh.

  • textile_vaults.sh: Polls for the Farcaster tables to be created after the replicator app's migration process, and then starts replicating the data to Textile as it gets inserted into the Postgres database/tables.

More details on this code are described below, or check out the repo for the full implementation.

Installation & setup

Start by cloning this forked repository, navigating to the root directory, installing/building, and navigating to the apps/replicator directory. Note that one of the apps @farcaster/hubble requires cargo to be installed on your machine (but isn't used in the replicator app).

git clone https://github.com/dtbuchholz/hub-monorepo cd hub-monorepo yarn install yarn build cd apps/replicator

Set up environment variables

Once you install & build, you need to copy the .env.example file (in apps/replicator) to a new .env file and fill in the necessary environment variables. All of the Farcaster-related ones are pre-configured for you. For context, most of these come from the .env file that gets created if you were to run the official replicator bootstrapping process, described here. The only change is that nemes.farcaster.xyz:2283 is used as the FARCASTER_HUB_URL, which lets us skip the setup step for Hubble and use a public Hubble API, provided by the Farcaster team.

The TEXTILE_PRIVATE_KEY and TEXTILE_VAULT_NAMESPACE environment variables are the only new ones you need to add. You can use an existing Ethereum-style (secp256k1) private key for TEXTILE_PRIVATE_KEY (note: do not hex-prefix the string in the .env file). Or, you can run the following command to generate a new one...just make sure the vaults CLI is installed if you run this on your machine!:

vaults account create .wallet

This will create a private key and store it locally in a file called .wallet (or whatever file name you choose). The TEXTILE_VAULT_NAMESPACE can be any string you want to use to namespace your vaults—the example below is for demo_farcaster_2. When a vault is created, it will be prefixed with this string, and each table that gets replicated will exist under this namespace.

For example, the casts table would be replicated to a vault called my_namespace.casts. The following defines all of the tables that get replicated:

  • casts

  • chain_events

  • fids

  • fnames

  • links

  • messages

  • reactions

  • signers

  • storage_allocations

  • user_data

  • username_proofs

  • verifications

Replication process & Docker

To run the replicator app, you'll need to make sure you have Docker installed and running. Then, you can start the replicator app by running the following command from the apps/replicator directory:

docker compose up

This will kick off a process that does the following:

  • Spins up 5 total Docker containers: one for the core replicator app, Redis (caching), statsd (for stats aggregation), Grafana (to view stats), and the Postgres database (altered with Textile functionality).

  • Fetches the latest Farcaster data from the Nemes Hub and runs through a migration process that writes backfilled data to the Postgres database.

  • Streams Postgres changes to Textile via the vaults CLI, which creates vaults for each table and replicates the data to Textile's decentralized storage.

  • The replicated data goes to both a caching layer and cold storage layer, so it can be retrieved ~immediately for a pre-configured TTL and ~indefinitely from Filecoin—all using the vaults retrieve <cid> command.

Note: The Textile script is designed naively to run only on startup, so if you exit the Docker process and restart it, the script will start from the beginning and try to create new vaults for each table.

Textile vaults & Farcaster data

Vaults script & streaming

If you review the textile_vaults.sh script, two important steps occur. First, new vaults are created for every Farcaster table with the vaults create command:

vaults create \ --account "$(vaults account address "${private_key_file}")" \ --cache 10080 \ --dburi "postgres://${POSTGRES_USER}:${POSTGRES_PASSWORD}@postgres:5432/${POSTGRES_DB}" \ --window-size 1800 \ "${TEXTILE_VAULT_NAMESPACE}.${table}"

  • --account: Sets the account address to use for the vault, which is the public key of the private key you set in the .env file (provided by the vaults account address command).

  • --cache: Sets the TTL in minutes, so 10080 is equivalent to 7 days of cached data storage & retrieval.

  • --dburi: Defines the Postgres database to stream data from.

  • --window-size: Sets the window size in seconds, which is the time period to batch changes before sending them to Textile—in this example, every 30 minutes.

  • Lastly, the ${TEXTILE_VAULT_NAMESPACE}.${table} part of the script defines the vault name. This is the environment variable you set in the .env file and the name of the table in Postgres that's being replicated, separated by a period (.). The table is defined in a loop where the command is executed, which is each table name in the bulleted list above.

Then, the script starts replicating the data to Textile with the vaults stream command:

vaults stream \ --private-key "${TEXTILE_PRIVATE_KEY}" \ "${TEXTILE_VAULT_NAMESPACE}.${table}"

  • --private-key: The private key you set in the .env file is used to sign all data that gets sent to Textile, which ensures data integrity and authenticity.

  • ${TEXTILE_VAULT_NAMESPACE}.${table}: The name of the vault (formatted as namespace.table_name) to stream data to, which gets created in the preceding vaults create command.

Farcaster → Textile events

Because Textile makes the data publicly available, you can work with data that's already been backfilled in an existing vault. First, you'll want to make sure the vaults CLI is installed on your machine (note: make sure Go is installed on your machine first):

go install github.com/tablelandnetwork/basin-cli/cmd/vaults@latest

For the sake of this demonstration, we've created a vault with the namespace demo_farcaster_2 (ignore demo_farcaster as this was a test). The owner of this vault is at the account 0x5e50Bb5A0fA30c4b9B6a809687CDB90A776D8bB7. You can start by checking out all of the vaults owned by this account:

vaults list --account 0x5e50Bb5A0fA30c4b9B6a809687CDB90A776D8bB7

Note: Due to some demo script issues and constraints when running Docker, the following tables did not fully replicate data to the demo_farcaster_2 namespace: fids, fnames, casts, signers, and messages. If you run the vaults events command, only a subset of the full dataset will be listed. Additionally, after about 6 hours, the Docker image maxed out on memory and caused Redis to fail, which then caused the replication process to halt. In total, the database reached 2.867 GB at the time the processes were (manually) killed.

This will list out each of those described above, such as demo_farcaster_2.user_data, demo_farcaster_2.reactions, etc. You can then retrieve the data from any of these vaults by running the following command to see each event CID (the example shows data from the table user_data). An event gets created anytime new data is written to the vault and the window size is reached.

vaults events --vault demo_farcaster_2.user_data --format json

Which will log out a list of CIDs that you can use to retrieve the data from the vault:

[ { "cid": "bafkreietgpbkfvdjyqlpwph75eajcp2pix3uw5dajjrfxvzvxv6gti7duy", "timestamp": 1707970383, "is_archived": false, "cache_expiry": "2024-02-22T04:13:08.355842" } ]

Retrieving & querying vault events

If the Textile cache feature is enabled—and the TTL has not expired—the data will be available immediately. If not, it will be routed from IPFS/Filecoin and retrieved from cold storage.

vaults retrieve bafkreietgpbkfvdjyqlpwph75eajcp2pix3uw5dajjrfxvzvxv6gti7duy

Once you download this data, you can then load it into your application. The file gets downloaded with a filename in the format <cid>-<timestamp>.db.parquet, so you can use any Parquet reader to load the data into your application—for example, DuckDB.

First, make sure the DuckDB CLI is installed on your machine, such as using Homebrew:

brew install duckdb

Then, you can load the data within a DuckDB in-memory database using the read_parquet function:

> duckdb SELECT * FROM read_parquet( 'bafkreietgpbkfvdjyqlpwph75eajcp2pix3uw5dajjrfxvzvxv6gti7duy-1707948730199375716.db.parquet' ) LIMIT 2;

Note that DuckDB also lets you load multiple files at once or even remote URLs by passing an array instead of a single string. This is useful if a vault has multiple events and you want to load all of the data at once:

SELECT * FROM read_parquet([ 'bafy123...', 'bafy456...', 'bafy789...' ]) LIMIT 2;

Once you execute the query, it logs the data from that specific table's updates and the Textile event created in the Hubble → Postgres → Textile replication process. For example, the user_data table's first 2 rows of the Parquet file look like this:

[ { "id": "018da9ad-5b90-8ec2-15e7-b8df0b2a80db", "created_at": "2024-02-14 14:12:07.126457-08", "updated_at": "2024-02-14 14:12:07.126457-08", "timestamp": "2023-03-15 13:09:51-07", "deleted_at": null, "fid": 1, "type": 1, "hash": "481d5e80de1b2803e89c6ad96ab349979a689358", "value": "https://i.imgur.com/I2rEbPF.png" }, { "id": "018da9ad-5ba6-34a8-95f7-373ef6d9cfdd", "created_at": "2024-02-14 14:12:07.201302-08", "updated_at": "2024-02-14 14:12:07.201302-08", "timestamp": "2023-07-21 18:20:44-07", "deleted_at": null, "fid": 1, "type": 3, "hash": "0edc9e1164b7d743517e6c0df4ec9f539ab4252b", "value": "A sufficiently decentralized social network. farcaster.xyz" } ]

*Fun fact: As shown above, the first ever user data was a link to an image of the Farcaster logo: https://i.imgur.com/I2rEbPF. Plus, the fifth piece of user data was a message from/about Brian Armstrong (the *value is barmstrong)!

Example logs

Below is an abbreviated version of the logs. You can see that once the Farcaster replicator starts to backfill the FID registrations, it kicks off the Textile vault creation and streaming processes. Everything before the last section of the logs is part of the setup process, and once new data is inserted into the table, the streaming process begins.

replicator-1 | [22:36:36.847] INFO (7): Enqueuing jobs for backfilling FID registrations for 346480 FIDs... ... postgres-1 | All required tables exist; proceeding with Textile vaults postgres-1 | Creating vaults for tables... postgres-1 | Vault demo_farcaster_2.chain_events created. ... postgres-1 | Streaming tables... postgres-1 | Streaming to vault: 'demo_farcaster_2.user_data' ... 2024/02/14 21:20:45 INFO created new db at=/root/.vaults/demo_farcaster_2.chain_events/1707945645693026302.db 2024/02/14 21:20:45 INFO applying create query="CREATE TABLE IF NOT EXISTS chain_events (id uuid NOT NULL,created_at timestamp with time zone NOT NULL,block_timestamp timestamp with time zone NOT NULL,fid bigint NOT NULL,chain_id bigint NOT NULL,block_number bigint NOT NULL,transaction_index smallint NOT NULL,log_index smallint NOT NULL,type smallint NOT NULL,block_hash blob NOT NULL,transaction_hash blob NOT NULL,body varchar NOT NULL,raw blob NOT NULL,PRIMARY KEY (id))" ... 2024-02-14 21:20:45.700 UTC [475] LOG: starting logical decoding for slot "basin_chain_events" 2024-02-14 21:20:45.700 UTC [475] DETAIL: Streaming transactions committing after 0/1A16208, reading WAL from 0/1A161D0. 2024-02-14 21:20:45.700 UTC [475] STATEMENT: START_REPLICATION SLOT basin_chain_events LOGICAL 0/1A16208 ("pretty-print" 'false', "include-transaction" 'true', "include-lsn" 'true', "include-timestamp" 'true', "include-pk" 'true', "format-version" '2', "include-xids" 'true', "add-tables" 'public.chain_events') 2024-02-14 21:20:45.700 UTC [475] LOG: logical decoding found consistent point at 0/1A161D0 2024-02-14 21:20:45.700 UTC [475] DETAIL: There are no running transactions. 2024-02-14 21:20:45.700 UTC [475] STATEMENT: START_REPLICATION SLOT basin_chain_events LOGICAL 0/1A16208 ("pretty-print" 'false', "include-transaction" 'true', "include-lsn" 'true', "include-timestamp" 'true', "include-pk" 'true', "format-version" '2', "include-xids" 'true', "add-tables" 'public.chain_events') 2024/02/14 21:20:45 INFO Logical replication started slot=basin_chain_events ... 2024/02/14 21:21:03 INFO new transaction received 2024/02/14 21:21:03 INFO replaying query="insert into chain_events (id, created_at, block_timestamp, fid, chain_id, block_number, transaction_index, log_index, type, block_hash, transaction_hash, body, raw) values ('018da97e-9c50-bd1d-0a3b-8c71bb062e74', '2024-02-14 21:21:03.508914+00', '2023-11-07 19:42:51+00', 22, 10, 111893697, 7, 24, 3, '73eaf3e303afa0d8e48ab3ac043ce60130f5061beb33314efa70d7bde5941b76', '286dd35ce467bfb3db7e8e4b036909a5e2769d0efadb6f342ef1d8970ea1e264', '{\"to\":\"0x411c9d8a1788c5764b32b44e6c381a541bfdce65\",\"eventType\":1,\"from\":\"0x\",\"recoveryAddress\":\"0x00000000fcb080a4d6c39a9354da9eb9bc104cd7\"}', '0803100a18c1b9ad35222073eaf3e303afa0d8e48ab3ac043ce60130f5061beb33314efa70d7bde5941b7628bba6aaaa063220286dd35ce467bfb3db7e8e4b036909a5e2769d0efadb6f342ef1d8970ea1e264381840165a2e0a14411c9d8a1788c5764b32b44e6c381a541bfdce651001221400000000fcb080a4d6c39a9354da9eb9bc104cd768077002')" ...

Next steps

The script demonstrated a simple yet important concept: streaming data from a Postgres database to Textile's decentralized storage via the vaults CLI is a powerful way to make data publicly available and easily retrievable. From a programming perspective, the code could be improved quite a bit to handle failures, retries, and other edge cases. For example, the replicator app uses many workers to execute tasks that migrate tables and backfill data to Postgres. instead of shell scripts, perhaps workers could be used for the Textile vaults logic.

Now, if you were to load all of the events/CIDs into something like DuckDB, you could then query the data across the entire Farcaster network. In other words, the replicated data on Textile is now available for you to use in your applications, and you can query it as you would any other SQL (or other) database!

As a developer, this could facilitate a much quicker onboarding time. For example, if the Farcaster team were to run the vaults streaming process indefinitely, as a public good, then any developer continually could load all of the data into their application and start building on top of the Farcaster network without having to run the replicator app themselves. This would save not only time but also costs and resources for the community—while also increasing how quickly a dev can start building on top of the network's data.

Further development

If you'd like to alter the Textile scripts or Docker image, you can use docker build to produce the Postgres + Textile image with the following commands:

docker build -t <your_username>/textile-vaults-farcaster:latest . docker image push <your_username>/textile-vaults-farcaster

Just be sure to update the docker-compose.yml file with the new image name under the postgres service. To support other architectures, check out docker buildx.

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