RAILGUN and the Gardener Contract: Combating Frontrunning in DEX Listings

RAILGUN’s launch was unlike any other. Measures were put into place to ensure the initial airdrop was kept very deliberately fair and square.

RAILGUN is an advanced smart contract that uses zkSNARKs technology to bring privacy to DeFi. It is a layer-one solution currently deployed on Ethereum, Binance Smart Chain and Polygon. Further launches, via airdrop to staked holders, on Solana and Polkadot are planned for the near future. Without the need for side-chains, it allows users to continue using their favorite dApps, send and receive tokens or accumulate a balance completely privately. Remarkably, such abilities were considered impossible until just recently, with Vitalik Buterin considering the gas limit of an entire block incapable of handling such transactions. The initial coin distribution when RAILGUN was launched was remarkable too. 

Like ICOs, initial airdrops when coins are distributed for DEX listings face the issue of front-runners – who use bots to get ahead of retail buyers and snap up the supply at the lowest possible price. After all, the retail buyers who want to participate in governance will still buy in later if they missed out on the airdrop, so why not profit from them? By paying more to get their transactions through earlier in the block, they can snap up coins first and benefit from selling them off again once the price rises. And so the retail buyers are left out-of-pocket. It’s very much like ticket scalping, or buying up graphics cards to resell at a premium.

With RAILGUN’s token launch, those attempting to front-run their trades were caught by a smart contract nicknamed “The Gardener.” Those caught attempting to jump the queue by cranking up their gas fees had their tokens locked for 3 days. The instructions given for the launch were to buy in small amounts due to the deliberately low liquidity offered. Naturally, some ignored this advice in a paroxysm of FOMO, and ended up paying $22,000 per RAIL. Which, considering the price was tethered to $0.50 per RAIL by some expert drip feeding of liquidity, was quite the premium.

With this system, retail apes could purchase small amounts with low gas, whales had to wait several days until the liquidity was provided for larger orders, and front-runners were punished. Small-scale buyers who actually wanted to participate in governance and the growth of the project were prioritized over those simply wishing to make a quick profit at the expense of others. Tokens were distributed equitably from the bottom up, with the smallest buyers having first opportunity.

With RAILGUN adding NFT integration in the near future, this system will also benefit airdrops of all kinds when privacy would be advantageous – for promotional reasons, for example. RAILGUN makes it possible to privately airdrop almost any kind of token compatible with the blockchain, including NFTs. So if a promotional event or launch would benefit from distributing NFTs without making the token, its quantity or the source of the airdrop known, RAILGUN makes that possible.

It’s quite a mystery that RAILGUN’s clever, innovative launch didn’t garner more attention. I’m sure the code could be modified to take into account the vagaries of EIP1559 for others to repeat the same successes.

Mike Chaffin

Published by
Mike Chaffin

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