ArDrive wants to shake up the access rails feeding files into Arweave’s data storage blockchain.
The startup told CoinDesk it will invest its $17.2 million funding round into creating a decentralized alternative to arweave.net, a critical (but at present centralized) gateway for uploading files to Arweave’s on-chain hard drive, the “permaweb.”
“Gateways are kind of like the front door to the permaweb,” said Phil Mataras, ArDrive’s founder. “That’s where all the apps connect to, to push data up, to query for it, to send a transaction from your wallet to another – it’s all going through the gateway.”
Almost all of the data on Arweave has entered via the core team’s original gateway service, Mataras said. AR.IO, the planned decentralized network, could change that by allowing anyone with the know-how and about one MacBook Pro’s worth of spare computing power to host their own gateway.
Arweave is one of the handful of blockchain-based services working to popularize decentralized file storage. Those services are tiny compared with cloud giants like Amazon Web Services but are growing fast, with Arweave, Fliecoin, Akash and Storj all offering low-fee file storage that can't be censored.
Arweave has more than 1,000 nodes, 150,000 users and 157 million files, Arweave co-founder Sam Williams said through a spokesperson. The network is adding about 1.5 million files a day, he said.
ArDrive’s Mataras said more interfaces are needed.
“We feel that in order for data to really be permanent, access to it also has to be as permanent as possible. And that requires a decentralized network with great incentives to ensure it’s not just about getting data in, but out,” he said.
The AR.IO token will play a big role in that incentive structure. It will be issued via a SmartWeave smart contract, similar to ArDrive’s own token but minus that token’s profit-sharing mechanisms. It will have some degree of governance powers over an eventual decentralized autonomous organization (DAO), Mataras said.
But the token’s core function will be as a form of gateway collateral. Operators will stake AR.IO tokens against the balance of their users to prove their commitment to the network. As with other staking-based consensus mechanisms, naughty operators risk their collateral being slashed.
Gateway operators will be able to set their own terms, charge their own fees and fine-tune their offerings for users, the people trying to store their files in a permanent, decentralized form. The tech-spec barrier to entry is designed to be low but Mataras said “we’re prepared” for any entity that might rather run “big, scalable gateway hardware” to take that route, too.
It’s all still very much in development. The central gateway’s code went open source only a few weeks ago. And the AR.IO testnet will go live later this year. If all goes well, the network could launch by 2023.
That said, it has already attracted the interest of Arweave’s core team. They co-led ArDrive’s $17.2 million funding round alongside Blockchain Capital and Sino Global Capital. After receiving the fresh capital, ArDrive is worth $63 million, according to Mataras.
“ArDrive’s mission is to get permanent storage in the hands of everyone and we need this new infrastructure to really accomplish that,” he said.
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