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Issue #2: Can Web3 Solve for Permanent Cloud Storage?

Web3 and Blockchain Trends by Daccred
Web3 and Blockchain Trends by Daccred
IPFS Ecosystem
IPFS Ecosystem
If you have ever used WeTransfer, iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive, MEGA, then you have an understanding of what cloud storage is and how it works. While most people have no idea it is there, Google for example gives every new Gmail account 15GB free, while other services might charge you a premium once you exceed 1GB.
What happens if you delete your account on any of these services? or can no longer afford the subscription for any of these services? Chances are, you could be at risk of losing your files forever.
This is what a warning from Dropbox looks like, once I am about to max out my storage capacity in my current subscription plan. Now it’s important to note that the business of Cloud storage is no small business, and it’s fiercely contested. For an over U$80 billion market, many have fallen in their attempt to compete with the current contenders. So one might ask, what makes Contenders in the Web3 space think that a decentralized alternative can not only grab huge market share but also innovate far better than the leaders in this category?
DataDAOs and Decentralized Cloud Storage
Let us take a look at a recent event that occurred last week with a platform called fees.wtf. Fees started out as an analytics platform that helps you track how much you’ve spent on ETH Gas fees. Last week they launched an airdrop that had massive reception that even hackers targeted their platform with a DDoS attack in order to extort funds from the team.
For those unfamiliar with DDoS, (DDoS is short for Distributed-Denial-of-Service attack, where a cyber-attack seeks to make a machine or network resource unavailable). Remember when Facebook was down for a few hours, that’s something a DDoS aims to achieve, except in the situation of Facebook it was not a DDoS. To survive these attacks, the fees team mitigated the attacks by redeploying their web application to the IPFS network.
Immediately I noticed this, something clicked for me. If you’re building your Web3 dApp on Ethereum or any other decentralized protocol, you have a back-end running on the blockchain and all you need is to host your front-end app, and in the case that you decide to use a decentralized protocol to host your front-end, the same principles and benefits of a blockchain network apply.
  1. Immutability
  2. Resiliency and Security
  3. Decentralization (from a Distributed Network)
By leveraging a decentralized network to host their web application, the attackers could no longer force shutdown the platform because that meant attacking over 200,000 server nodes that could serve a bandwidth capacity of more than 20.5 Terabytes in a day.
Given these circumstances, you’d ask why didn’t they use this strategy in the first place? The answer could be that IPFS is where you want to store something you probably want to archive or change infrequently. However, with a web app, especially front-ends, this is something you can’t control, as minor things like content updates, color, typography, and also feature updates are inevitable. Not to mention the awful UX it creates every time you force your web browser to remember a new URL.
Practically speaking, if in over a week I published 20 new updates to my website on IPFS, what this means is that I will have 20 versions of my website on the blockchain that I have no possible way to delete, and the only option I have it to hope for those links to get stale and eventually get deleted or pruned from the IPFS network (more on this later). If we are being honest that sounds horrible, we already have an Internet Archive, A Non-Profit Organization dedicated to preserving the history of the internet, and they’re doing a really good job taking scheduled snapshots of the whole internet. E.g. Here is a version of Tecmie’s website from the Internet Archive that was a snapshot in 2015.
Apparently, if we have Non Profits like Wikipedia and Internet Archive who have made it their mission to preserve the content of the internet, then what else do we need to store permanently in the cloud and why would anyone need permanent file storage?
Blockchains and Immutability
If we take a look at decentralized cloud protocols, one key value proposition these networks propose is IMMUTABILITY - meaning, not capable of change. With the advent of Proof of Work, Proof of Stake, Proof of X, every uprising protocol must prove that the data they create on a decentralized ledger cannot be tampered with or modified after it’s been committed to the blockchain. So when we look at Decentralized Cloud Storage, our expectation is that the same principles will apply.
Up until now, IPFS has used a pruning strategy to maintain sustainability, where stale content is removed from the network after a period of time to ensure servers are not over-utilized. So if you wanted your data to stay permanently on the network you had to pin it or use a Pinning Service. These are paid services that allow you to upload your data to a remotely hosted IPFS node and retrieve it whenever you want. While paying a pinning service to store data in a convenient workaround, it still requires someone to bear the cost of storing that data, and If that one sponsor stops paying for that pinning, the content may be lost entirely. What this translates to is that IPFS can guarantee that any content on its decentralized network is discoverable, but doesn’t guarantee that content is persistently available thus giving rise to the doubts
  • Why should I use IPFS?
  • Why don’t I maintain my Dropbox subscription?
Let’s not forget Web2 cloud storage as we know it today is mature to a point where these platforms provide a solid encryption layer and own their distributed network of servers in locations across every continent in the world today. Notwithstanding, these doubts and the popularity of NFTs have sparked a growing number of protocols and services within the Web3 ecosystem to solve the problem of Long Term Storage / Permanent File Storage.
Pay to Upload, Access Free Forever
That’s it, the new business model or should I say the decentralized business model for cloud storage. NFTs created a need for the permanence of digital media metadata - which has given rise to two contending protocols. In the fight for decentralized permanent cloud storage or Pay Once to Upload, Access Forever, We have:
Arweave
Arweave calls themselves a collectively owned hard drive that never forgets, and the beauty of this protocol is that it comes with no baggage, unlike Filecoin which was responsible for IPFS and had to ensure compatibility, Arweave on the other hand came with one mission “enables you to store documents and applications forever”.
This single mission has been able to power a lot of use-cases like Argo, a Decentralized alternative to Netlify and Vercel, and other applications like Evermore Data, and Ardrive which are Dropbox alternatives on Arweave.
When you look at how Arweave has approached the development of its protocol, you might get a hint of activism as the motivation behind the progress made so far. Truly Arweave wants to build a decentralized archive of information that can never be deleted from the face of the earth. We’re looking at the work of journalists, Wiki folks, photographers, and Digital Art creators. Its target is people who want their work, and in this context “Digital Media” to outlive them even after they die.
Filecoin
Filecoin says they’re a protocol that provides core primitives, enabling a truly trust-less decentralized storage network. These primitives and features include publicly verifiable cryptographic storage proofs, crypto-economic mechanisms, and a public blockchain.
In Proof-of-X lingua, we can sum this up into Proof-of-Replication and Proof-of-Spacetime
Taking a look at this you notice how different and possibly novel the Filecoin approach is. Their mission gears towards providing the core building blocks for decentralized file storage. If you weren’t aware before now, Protocol Labs - the organization behind Filecoin is the same people behind IPFS. I think IPFS is a novel invention, actually really smart and the CID standard that IPFS uses is a technically sound concept. It should be universally adopted across all web applications that handle media files.
There is a really great talk on a different topic that I watched on Youtube, where the lady gave a very clear and concise intro to how CIDs work and how much of a difference it could create if every internet site adopted it. You can watch the talk from the Intro to 3:00 Minutes.
How Merkle Trees Enable the Decentralized Web!
With Filecoin focusing on R&D and inventing the building blocks of decentralized file storage. Similar use-cases, like that of Arweave, emerge within the Filecoin ecosystem. We have Fleek offering a decentralized AWS S3 alternative. The folks at Chainsafe labs experimenting on encrypted file storage atop the Filecoin Network.
Market Winners
I have a CoinMarketCap list where I track emerging protocols innovating on decentralized file storage. Aside from the price wars and fight for Market Cap, the fierce competition between Arweave and Filecoin is evident.
Filecoin here has the first-mover advantage given that it was launched by the same folks who designed the IPFS protocol. Arweave though new has taken the space by storm, and to give you an insight into how indecisive the entire ecosystem is about who the category winner is, BAYC (Bored Ape Yacht Club) possible the single most successfully hyped NFT collection to date, has the provenance record of their Genesis NFT collection Metadata on both IPFS and Arweave. My guess is that this is some way of saying, may the best man win.
The Economics for Mass Adoption
Decentralization is powerful, resilient, and also complex. The economics of paying only once to have our data stored permanently in the cloud while hoping that a novel Proof-of-X mechanism can be incentive enough to ensure long-term storage of media in the cloud still has a long way to go.
If you read the last issue, you’d know that we haven’t yet reached mass adoption for Web3, and reaching the mass market for any wave, protocol or category formation is a very critical event that needs to occur.
A look at the chart, and we can tell that the point Web 2.0 took off, was that critical point of mass adoption, the moment we reached 1 billion internet users. Most people might say we are still very early days into the ecosystem, we’ve seen this before. This current wave if not the last wave before mass adoption, might be the penultimate.
Here is something that is certain, this current wave is a strong one, take a look at Microsoft’s recent acquisition move for Activision Blizzard and you can tell, huge budgets are thrown into user acquisition, huge bets are being made on the Metaverse.
Another example we can look at is the Advent of JAMStack and how Vercel, Netlify, and others redefined the way developers publish and host websites.
From 2015 we saw website publishing take a whole new turn. We reached a point of mass publishing that propelled solutions like Netlify, Vercel, Github, Gatsby, and many other businesses. Redefining how front-end engineers developed and published websites to the cloud.
To reach critical mass-market adoption, It’s no coincidence that a certain volume of users needs to participate in Web3. And we know that File Storage is a critical part of that stack.
Protocols are the base for platforms to innovate, and most platforms we interact with today under the hood rely on
  1. A Web Server
  2. A Database
  3. A Content Delivery Network
  4. API Server
  5. A Protocol Layer
So far Arweave, Filecoin, and the rest are tackling the stack in #3, while the blockchain is trying so hard to replicate #2 and do #5 at the same time. However, with 21 million users and a 4000% increase within 18 months, we are still yet to hit critical mass, a point where we’d actually know if the economics and technical implementations of the current innovations can hold up.
Till then we can only support, watch and contribute to the novel improvements in the space and watch out for the future.
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Web3 and Blockchain Trends by Daccred
Web3 and Blockchain Trends by Daccred @daccred

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