Filecoin, But Forever: Arweave Raises $5 Million to Build Out 'Permaweb'

Arweave, a startup building a decentralized storage protocol for the world's knowledge, raises $5 million via token sale from a16z, USV and Multicoin.

AccessTimeIconNov 5, 2019 at 9:30 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 11:40 a.m. UTC
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A startup drawing on ancient history for modern-day inspiration has raised $5 million to decentralize the permanent storage of the world’s information.

“The big goal is to build this Library of Alexandria that just never forgets the valuable knowledge in the world,” Arweave founder Sam Williams told CoinDesk in an interview Tuesday.

The Berlin-based startup is getting fresh funding from a trio of prominent crypto investors: Andreessen Horowitz, Multicoin Capital and Union Square Ventures. The token-based funding round involved the sale of Arweave’s AR token.

Arweave makes decentralized permanent storage possible by relying on “a new blockchain-like data structure called the blockweave,” according to technical documentation published by the startup on Tuesday.

The Arweave protocol undergirds what the startup refers to as the permaweb, an “array of data, websites, and decentralised applications” hosted in perpetuity. In fact, users “pay for a couple hundred years of storage up front,” Williams said, based on laws of declining data storage costs. The Arweave mainnet launched in June 2018.

Miners are paid AR tokens to offer up their computers’ unused storage space, using what Arweave calls a “Proof-of-Access (PoA)” algorithm similar to Proof-of-Work.

Notably, the permaweb is accessible via normal web browsers like Chrome, Brave and others.

“Arweave is live and working today as promised, which says a lot,” investor Kyle Samani of Multicoin Capital told CoinDesk, adding:

“There are clear and immediate applications for permanence on the Web today in government, media, classrooms, courtrooms, and more. I expect developers to leverage the Permaweb as another critical component in the web3 stack, and to build new applications that augment existing services or create entirely new ones.”

Roughly 100 apps have already been built on the Arweave platform, with projects ranging from social forums to article publishing to sticky notes. In a press statement, the company said over 45,000 objects were committed to the permaweb in October alone. To date some 157,000 transactions have been committed to the network.

“People are experimenting with almost all of the basic web services,” Williams told CoinDesk. “We would like to see them grow into bigger projects in the future.”

To grow those “seeds,” Williams said the $5 million funding round will go primarily toward developer outreach efforts. The 12-person team is adding two employees soon and will continue to hire, he added. Arweave is also in the process of expanding to the U.S. as it ramps up its commercialization efforts.

The funding round – Arweave’s first aside from a limited token sale in 2018 – puts the company in the same breath as other decentralized file storage systems such as Filecoin, Sia and Storj.

“We’re attempting to do something totally different,” Williams said. “We’re looking at permanent storage.”

Permanence poses problems, of course, a point that Albert Wenger and Dani Grant of Union Square Ventures pointed out in a blog post published Tuesday.

"Definitely not all ways of applying Arweave will be positive. All technology can be used for good and for bad, starting with humanity’s earliest technology, fire," they wrote. "Sam and the team at Arweave have given a lot of thought to that and have from the start designed features, including a democratic process where participants collectively decide on the network’s content policies, to help address this issue."

Arweave's long-term vision is admittedly grand. Williams says he hopes the protocol one day unseats data storage companies like Amazon Web Services and even national archives. Said Williams:

“We are looking to build something that is truly owned by the people.”

Team photo via Arweave


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