The creation of the Internet and then Web 1.0 revolutionized the way we communicate and share information among our peers around the world. The Internet was created in the 1960s to facilitate the sending of military information during the Cold War, followed by the milestone of the first email sent in 1969. In this period, the Internet was still primitive and displayed static pages through protocols called HTTP, still used today.
In 1992, Tim Berners-Lee created Web 1.0. In fact, Web 1.0 and the one we know today are quite similar, differing only in the techniques used to display the information to the final public, between a static page and a more interactive one.
In the beginning, the Web had the purpose of being for everyone and even decentralized, without being commanded by an organization or government. However, the monopoly of large companies through investments in infrastructure and Web improvements that we know today made the proposal for freedom of information readily available unfeasible.
Within this context, Permaweb comes in an attempt to solve exactly these problems through the technologies that arrived with the advent of Blockchain, a sequence of validation of blocks containing information, transactions and data, connected to many other previous blocks on the network, which cannot be changed once they have been validated. Throughout this article we will see the overall differences of Permaweb compared to the current Web and more details on the implementation and advantages of the Arweave network project.
To understand Permaweb, you need to understand what the current Web looks like and how it differs from Permaweb. We can divide the main concepts that differentiate the project from what we have today aiming at the problems solved by Permaweb: the economic relationship, the issue of information storage, the perpetuity of this information, in addition to the general concepts.
The first concept that forms the basis of Permaweb’s innovation in relation to the current model is based on the globalized, immutable and centralized storage network that it is willing to be. Permaweb is maintained, sustained and owned by the people who use it. The principle of data sharing is decentralized and powered by the free space of the users themselves. In addition, the project lives up to the name, keeping all content available on the web permanently once it is published. To avoid a misuse of Permaweb by uploading malicious files or data, the platform has a democratic moderation formed by the community users, keeping the rights of content policy regulation in the hands of the users themselves.
In a very simplified way, the current web is backed by millions of servers, supercomputers, which receive a type of message by the user and respond with some data or information stored on them. When you try to access a website, this message is sent through several layers until you reach these servers, which respond by showing you the desired page at the speed that it takes to load.
Such supercomputers are not cheap and not even the huge warehouses where they are stored are free. Typically, large companies of the current Web, such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, and others, act by keeping these servers active and making improvements to make them more powerful and faster. All this has a cost, which is rewarded through the sale of data and personal information of users by these same companies.
At Permaweb, the data normally stored on these servers is divided among the hundreds of people who make their hard drives available as Permaweb’s servers. This context allows a reduction of costs, avoids the misuse of personal data of users by large companies and makes the sharing of information more transparent and decentralized. Another advantage of information being fragmented and distributed among several drives is to avoid censorship, given that governments and organizations need to block only one centralized server to restrict a whole range of information. With Permaweb, the information would be everywhere, making it almost impossible to block.
As stated earlier, the process to keep the Web running is not a cost-free or even inexpensive process. Large companies, market leaders (and even government sectors) are willing to pay for this system in exchange for users’ personal information, which can be transformed into revenue. The exchange is simple: you gain access to all the information contained on the Web in exchange for the loss of your privacy and anonymity.
In addition, website creators pay these same companies to put a website online. Typically, this price includes an entire server capacity that is unlikely to be fully used. You pay a lot for a service without all that need. Meanwhile, the data of the users of this website is collected, and again, the lack of privacy is used as currency without the proper consent of the user.
Now imagine that: you would like to store your data and have the possibility to pay once to ensure that this data will be stored forever, that it can be accessed from anywhere and that it is in the same way as the original, regardless of how many times it has been shared or transferred between servers. Or also: you have extra space on your hard drive, which you won’t mind if it is full. Wouldn’t it be interesting to share with other network users in exchange for a remuneration for this?
That is exactly what Permaweb proposes. Data sharing and storage depends on memory, which acts as the space needed for this information to be saved, exchanged or accessed. Today, this process is done through servers funded by large companies, centrally.
But, just like the model created by Uber and Airbnb, using Permaweb, you could use the space provided by other network users to store your data. The system is based on a platform called Blockwave, designed to provide scalable on-chain storage in a cost-efficient manner. As the amount of data stored in the system increases, the amount of hashing needed for consensus decreases, thus reducing the cost of 1 storing data.
In addition to the reduced costs of data storage, users also have an incentive to mine and give space on their hard drives, based on the distribution of the native token (AR) of the network. At the time of writing this article, the AR token was listed for approximately $13.
This reward model perpetuates the system and encourages users to keep Permaweb running, providing a decentralized, low-maintenance cost data sharing network.
Currently, we find URLs with content that works well in an ephemeral way and in the short term, but the moment you have hundreds of new sites, all of them publishing and updating their content all the time, things start to change. People start quoting this information and start to link and referencing other information. The point is, this is the recipe for things to fall apart very quickly. At some point, you have access to a large amount of data such as lawsuits documents, news articles and other topics of discussion of a relevant subject, linked to each other throughout the web, but after a few years this same article was moved, the site was taken down or no longer exists. So, now we have a situation where these great bodies of knowledge are all self-referential, but the link license it is broken and the information is no longer as accessible, at least not in the original way you had access to the first time.
That is what happens with the web these days. By the time the information becomes obsolete, when there is no interest for it to be accessed, either definitively or only in the way it was initially disclosed, the chance that this information will be lost, as it is, is huge. This means that the information perpetuated in the current web is subject to changes and manipulations (and even removal) of content previously available to the community. Political discourses, historical documents and scientific articles may be available at one time, and at another, be erased, lost or moved from the part of the Web that can be accessed by all to a more restricted layer. The fact that large organizations and governments have political-economic control of information contributes greatly to this very common phenomenon these days.
Permaweb lives up to its name when all information, once stored in it, can always be accessed, regardless of the amount of effort put into censoring this information.
The Arweave project is based on the implementation of some technologies to solve the problems of the current web. Among them are Blockweaves and Proof of Access. Arweave’s Blockweave works a lot like the traditional Blockchain network system. However, in Blockchain, a block is only connected to the previous block and the block right next to it. In Blockweave, each block in the chain is connected to its next block through two previous blocks: its immediately previous block and another random previous block, called a recall block. At this point, the concept of Proof of Access enters, with the fact that, to mine a new block, miners needed to carry out a Proof of Access of a recall block, and only then add a new block to the chain. In this way, Proof of Access ensures that in order to earn mining rewards, miners will need access to old data, perpetuating long-term data storage in Blockweave’s chain architecture. Thus, the Arweave creates a place where data can be stored without being changed and that is easily accessible through Permaweb.
Blockweave is maintained by miners through the assignment of disk space to the data transferred or created in Permaweb. In return, Arweave rewards them with ARWEAVE (AR) tokens. This unique consensus mechanism, coupled with the reward method, the Proof of Access concept and the Blockweave architecture become the cornerstones of Arweave’s project operation to create a form of reliable, permanent and decentralized storage.
Permaweb works in this context as one of the layers of this Arweave-based mechanism. It acts as the gateway to Blockweave and Arweave, as the part we see when we access a browser, a page, a content. Making a basic analogy, the Permaweb is a layer built on top of the Arweave hard drive, just like how HTTP is the protocol that exposes the web, which itself is built on top of TCP/IP.
Everything in Permaweb is permanent, capable of being recovered quickly and decentralized in perpetuity, and can never be changed, not even by the person who published it. Any change actually creates a new block, without deleting the original one. As long as the protocol is operational, pages, content and applications can be accessed from common browsers, through some tools.
Anonymity is also a key factor, given that everything posted on Permaweb can be done anonymously, without sharing personal or location data. Everything is signed through a wallet and can be traced back to its origin. All this may seem dangerous, considering that everything can be posted permanently and anonymously, but the community forms a team of moderators and monitors that performs a content analysis process. This analysis is supported by a set of tools based on a content policy to ensure that abusive and illicit materials remain away from Permaweb and is described within Airweave’s protocol.
Thinking about all these advantages and features, it is to be imagined that the costs for such a model would be stratospheric. However, Arweave’s own fee structure is one of its features in itself. In current models, it is quite common for users to pay monthly or annual fees to store their data in the cloud, and over time, costs become cumulative. In the Arweave model, known as Storage Endowment, users pay an amount in advance only once, and this payment is placed in an endowment and the interest on that endowment itself pays for the costs of storage. The most interesting part is that, as technology advances, storage costs decrease. In recent years, the average cost of storing data has decreased by around 30% per year, bringing upfront payment much closer to an investment than to a fee itself. What Arweave does is to estimate the cost of storing your data for 200 years, with a safety margin, calculating that instead of 30%, the cost of storage will fall by only 0.5% per year. This is around $3 per GB of storage (at the time of writing this article). Part of this amount goes to Storage Endowment and another part goes to rewards nodes.
Again, in order to remain decentralized, all payments made on Arweave are made through AR, the native Arweave token. This encourages the mining of new data and creates a sustainable token ecosystem, as well as preventing the takeover of a centralized currency in the Arweave system.
Permaweb has applications in several circles. For individuals, photos and other family memories can be stored, keeping the legacy safe. For companies, it is possible to store legal documents and contracts, without any change by either party. In the case of universities and academic institutions, papers, reviews and other publications would always be available to peers and to the population, making scientific dissemination more accessible and secure.
Despite the great innovations within the decentralized storage sector brought by Arweave, it must be recognized that it is not the oldest and not even the only one in the business.
To bring other competitors from Arweave, let’s talk a little about the projects of Filecoin and SIA Network.
Filecoin works in much the same way as the Arweave project, with the provision of excess storage space on the Filecoin blockchain, in exchange for financial incentives that lead to increased membership and consequently storage capacity. The Filecoin blockchain can also be used as the basis of the dApps infrastructure, such as Web3.Storage.
The data is guaranteed to be maintained through a Proof of Storage consensus algorithm, which ensures that users are not only making available the storage they claim, but also ensuring the maintenance of the data until the end.
Despite the many similarities, Filecoin fails to deliver a complete project, given that the costs are still higher than centralized storage models. In addition, the environment is not yet sustainable, since, due to the lack of verification of the importance and validity of the stored data, users are commonly encouraged to store useless data, creating an artificial increase in the demand for this service.
In the case of SIA Network, you do not buy storage on a perpetual basis, but rent the storage and hosting model on the SIA blockchain. Using smart contracts, renters decide the amount and time of storage, as well as other aspects of the relationship between the hosts and the renters. For its tokenomics, the native token, SC, does not have a fixed max supply. Today, both its total and circulating supply are at 51 billion coins. It’s trading at $0.004.
SIA is developing a proof of burn mechanism. This is for nodes to prove that they’re active and real participants. Nodes have to burn 4% of their $SC coins. This reduces the circulating supply of the coin. However, the total supply is always inflating. This is because $SC coins are distributed to SIA fund owners.
In this article we explained the Permaweb, a new technology launched by Archain: a de-centralised, cryptographically verified archival network, built on a new kind of block storage technology and mining algorithm, called Blockweave. The Blockweave technology is capable of scaling to sizes untenable with traditional blockchain-based systems. All of this underpins a new information storage and sharing system. It is hard to imagine the world we know today without the internet. Despite the setbacks, today the Web is a tool used on a daily basis by many around the world, with several purposes. There is no doubt that the Arweave project has brought major developments and investment in technology to propose a decentralized data storage network with a better cost-benefit, security and data protection. Even if not Permaweb, a project like the one developed by Arweave, proposing a modern, immutable and improved Library of Alexandria available to everyone, would be a great return to the beginning of everything: the Web as an open source of decentralized and scalable information sharing, always available, always accessible.