Fresh from the oven – a new breathtaking issue of the world-famous StellarExpert
Well... Maybe not world-famous, but at least well-known in Stellar community. Strictly speaking, "breathtaking" may sound a little bit exaggerated; let's say "interesting". Not the right word? Ok, how about "informative?"
Yeah, you are right, it's just another post about software updates. For me, all those changes look exciting because of the countless hours spent on the development. Hence I can talk non-stop about the things barely noticeable for our users.
Here is a brief summary of the progress since the previous overview published in November 2019.
First of all, a few words about our current priorities. The last two years were like a roller coaster drive for me since StellarExpert backend and ledger data ingestion engine has been rebuilt from scratch at least four times, not
counting hundreds of other significant changes. Database, storage formats, API, data aggregation pipelines – everything was revised several times in attempts to optimize performance and introduce the foundation for new essential features.
Finally, we have a stable infrastructure and a clear vision of the future road, as well as apprehension of limitations that we can't overcome (perhaps, the most valuable information for future planning).
Of course, there is always a room for improvements – we are trying new approaches, playing with different data storage/aggregation strategies, moving to more robust hardware. It's a constant trial and error research. Sometimes really painful. For example, an attempt to implement better filters and sorting for operations history lists (both account and asset history) failed miserably despite a tremendous amount of effort spent on this feature. We even released it (twice!), but had to roll back the changes, remove the corresponding interface fields, and postpone it for now because the database could not handle filtered operations search on multiple fields in some edge cases, resulting in degraded performance across the entire site. It was not a problem earlier as Stellar pubnet has been significantly smaller, but now with 1 billion operations, we must invent new strategies for storing and querying Stellar history. Just a tiny glimpse at the problems we have to deal with.
But this research is extremely important for the evolution of StellarExpert and other services built on top of it, pushing horizons even further. For instance, we played a lot with different database engines (Neo4j, Elasticsearch, Dgraph, ClickHouse) to prepare a foundation for building a full network graph showing the connections between all four millions accounts from Stellar pubnet.
Maybe you've heard the recent news about the partnership between SDF and Elliptic, a provider of the crypto-asset risk management. In simple words, they offer enterprise tools for detecting and preventing illegal and criminal operations. The network graph we are building will allow us to create an advanced system that can help wallets and application to do the same.
This service will be available free of charge for everyone, as I believe that dealing with illegal activity is very important for a healthy network. Maybe Stellar is not widely used by drug dealers or terrorists, but we hear new stories from crypto-scam victims every day. We can make Stellar Network a safer place by proactively blocking payments to accounts spotted in sending spam transactions or promoting scam websites, so this looks like a very promising research direction.
Aside from building new features, our next top priority is user interface improvement. Now, when we fixed most of the pressing issues, we started to put more effort into the user interface improvements.
There are even more changes under the hood. Maybe not so obvious, but still very important for the streamlined user experience and further development process. We spent a lot of time cleaning the code, updating libraries, optimizing
dependencies. Primary goals:
- Make the interface more responsive by cutting down the amount of loaded js/css.
- Revise API resource caching and employ RFC 5861 stale-while-revalidate
technique for API calls.
- Unify UI, navigation, and split everything into loosely connected isolated
components. We've published some reusable modules already, and we'll keep
sharing our codebase with the community. The long-term goal is to make
StellarExpert fully open-source, piece by piece, module by module.
And finally, here is the list of the most notable interface changes and new functionality.
Offer details interface
DEX offers were the only ledger entries that looked neglected. From now on, you can check all offer details, trades, and
modifications history. The data also includes inactive/removed offers that cannot be obtained from Horizon API or Core database.
Navigate to any DEX offer using a website search or simply clicking a link from operations/trades history.
Reworked explorer home page layout
We added assets general stats and XLM circulation/reserved supply, repositioned charts, and top assets list.
We display a lot (sometimes maybe even more than enough) of statistics and network parameters, so we needed a way to unobtrusively group the data, visually separate content blocks.
The funny thing is, now it is closer to how it looked in the very first version of StellarExpert back in 2017. A long travel towards the maximum UI simplicity and back again.
You asked, and we delivered. Switch between day/night theme using a toggle button in the footer.
Enhanced account page
Now StellarExpert shows organization info from
stellar.toml on the account page for asset issuers and other accounts referenced in organization TOML file, like validator addresses, organization's signing key, and all other accounts listed under the "accounts" sections. This helps to distinguish official organization accounts from malicious impostors.
Following users' feedback, we decided to highlight current account balances.
Plus, we added account activity index metric based on the operations count during the last month/year which allows assessing account dynamic at a glance.
Inline operation memos
It turns out that some ecosystem projects extensively use transaction
memo field to attach extra information to payments and manage offer operations. So we followed the advice of Hans from BlueOrion and show memos directly in the operation history list.
Fixed protocol changes history
The protocol changes history introduced some time ago had a major flaw. It displayed only those ledgers on which protocol bumps occurred, so other important adjustments (like base reserve amount or max transactions per ledger changes) were missing there.
We refactored ingestion engine to store all protocol revisions.
Operations live stream
You know, Stellar Network is quite a busy place. With hundreds or often even thousands of operations per minute, tracking recent activity in a user-friendly way becomes a not-so-trivial technical task. A straightforward streaming of all operations from Horizon server results in a rapidly flicking interface more resembling a stroboscope. Also, transactions and operations have to be grouped together, otherwise the information on the screen will be incomplete.
Operations live stream interface shows recent operations on the ledger with the smooth UI that automatically pauses the stream on scrolling and allows fetching operations
history using infinite scroll.
Asset rating API endpoint
We opened one more API endpoint – a composite asset rating index. It is backed by a system of technical indicators based purely on the ledger activity parameters (like the number of trades, payments, age, volumes). This rating
stats return the same data we show on the asset page. The rating is prone to manipulations as it is based only on technical parameters. But still, it can come in handy for wallets and DEX interfaces.
Read full API description here. Feel free to use it in your projects.
As always, will be happy to hear your feedback and new feature proposals.
(cross-post from https://stellar.expert/blog/stellar-expert-update-may-2020-revamped-iterface-and-new-apis)