What is ArDrive?

As the world has entered the information age a new problem has arisen for basically everyone on the planet: How do I keep my data stored for long periods of time?

Our data has become one of our most precious commodities holding all of our photos, records, and personal history. Solutions on how to keep this information for long periods of time have not come easily and usually amount to a patchwork of physical devices and digital apps. But over time, these devices become obsolete and companies go out of business, threatening the longevity of our storage.

A whole 1.44 MB of storage!

Thanks to ArDrive our most important data can now be reliably stored long-term.

What is ArDrive? ArDrive is a permanent, secure, always-on data storage application for a simple, one-time price. It stores all types of documents, photos, and videos in an indelible digital vault to keep them secure for a lifetime.

Let’s take a closer look at why ArDrive was created, how it is able to store data permanently, and how it works!

Why do we need another file storage app?

The cloud storage industry is already crowded with a wide variety of apps that offer a broad range of features. Of course, there are the household names such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft One Drive. There are also many less well known offerings such as pCloud, IDrive and Degoo.

Many of these apps are easy to use, and have become defacto ‘essential’ services in the lives of their users.

Yet, even with the proficiency of these apps it is clear that they come with a huge trade-off.

During the past decade, the whistle has been blown on countless tech companies for providing poor security of user data, selling and using customers data and demographic information without knowledge, and continually change the terms and conditions of their offerings.

Some of us are prone to give up and assume there’s little we can do. How much control do we have over how the big tech companies are run? Who has time to read the legal terms and conditions of our software anyway?

But what if there was another way to actually give people control of their own data.

What makes ArDrive different?

We agree another app like Dropbox or Google Drive is unneccessary. If there is a new app in the data storage market, it would need to approach things in a whole new way.

That is what ArDrive does: it enables people to have a whole new relationship with data storage.

ArDrive offers what has never been offered before: long-term data storage in a pay-once forever format to store your most important files.

Being able to say that you can offer permanent long-term storage isn’t a small statement. Just as large doors swing on small hinges, long-term storage swings open new doors that will impact our use of data in numerous ways.

Not only does ArDrive give you long-term data storage but it also gives individuals control over their own data like never before. Your data stays with you. It’s actually owned and controlled by the individual. No longer will you have to worry about what a company will do with it, or if your account will become inactive, or if you will lose access to it. All data uploaded to ArDrive will always and only be controlled by the person who owns it.

Even if ArDrive goes out of business, your data will not. It will remain permanently in your possesssion on the permaweb.

These changes are profound in the relationship a person can have with the control and storage of their data in terms of privacy, control, payment and sharing of data.

Before we look a little closer at these game-changing relationships, let’s explore how we have got to the present day with our personal data, and why a new approach is needed.

1987: no color, no images, no Comic Sans

The Internet is not what it started out to be

The internet has become such a huge part of our life, and so commonly used that it is hard to remember what it was like in the early days.

For those of us old enough to remember, the start of the internet seemed like a novel concept, but something primarily reserved for computer hobbyists.

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, recalls that when he raised his first million dollars to start Amazon the most common question investors asked was, ‘What’s the internet?’

In the earliest days, computer scientists envisioned the world wide web as something quite different from what it has become today. The internet was founded to freely share computer code and provide an open exchange of ideas where people could contribute and be compensated fairly for their efforts.

Fast forward 50 years, and a very different future has emerged. The modern internet is a sprawling commercial marketplace dominated by a few major players who control the data, set the standards and squeeze out the competition. Most of the rest of us are on the outside looking in.

The internet has also turned in a place that can often work against the average user by bait-and-switch schemes, intrusive ads, scams, fake news and lost data.

Many people are not happy about what the internet has become, and want to bring it back closer to its original vision.

In the mid-1990s we saw a transformation of the Internet from a text-based program to a user-centered experience with the invention of Netscape. This opened up the internet to billions of people, and many new applications were developed on top of it.

Please tell me What’s cool?

In the same way Netscape opened up the front of the internet, the back end of the internet is now being transformed. New technologies like blockchain are fundamentally changing the way that data is handled and stored. And this behind-the-scenes transformation helps bring the internet back closer to its original vision. In the coming decade, it will also change the applications that are made on top of the internet, and how we use the web day-to-day.

Arweave, the tech ArDrive is built on, is one of the key players in establishing this new back-end for the internet.

Arweave and permanent storage

Arweave came up with a revolutionary model for data storage through a combination of technological innovation and economic incentives designed to compensate people for storing data.

This data storage would bring about two important functions: data could not be changed or deleted from the system, and the economics made it viable to store data for 200 years or more!

This represents a true revolution in data storage and enables people to have a different type of relationship with their data. Now that we are able to store data for long periods of time, there has been an explosion of apps being built upon Arweave to take advantage of this technology. One of the apps in this new ecosystem is ArDrive.

Learn more in our deep dive: What is Arweave?

How does ArDrive fit with Arweave?

ArDrive is an application that is built on top of Arweave.

Think of a fancy two-layer wedding cake. Arweave is simply the base layer of the cake, and ArDrive is the layer on top of that, alongside many other apps.

While files can be uploaded one at a time to Arweave directly, ArDrive is the primary way to get large numbers of personal files onto Arweave efficiently.

Arweave has a vision of becoming a modern Library of Alexandria, which was an ancient library designed to house the universal knowledge of humanity. Most of us do not have books or documents or photos that would even make it into our local library, but that doesn’t mean our files are not important. ArDrive gives the average individual the ability to get their files into this new Library of Alexandria as well. We can all be part of this collaborative system that allows us to store our data for generations to come.

Now, let’s look at some more of the nuts and bolts of ArDrive. How does ArDrive work and what type of features does it have?

Unique features of ArDrive

ArDrive has many of the same features that you are used to from working with popular cloud storage apps. Some of the current features include:

  • Multi-file upload
  • Secure sharing of files
  • Public sharing of files
  • The ability to store all types of data: documents (.docx, .pdf), images (.jpg, .png, .gif), video files (.wav, .mp4), and countless others

As you try out ArDrive, you will intuitively grasp many of these basic features. However, there are several features that are completely unique to ArDrive.

Permanent Storage

As we have talked about throughout this article the most unique feature of ArDrive is that it is permanent.

No longer do you need to worry about a complex and multifaceted approach to storing your most valuable data long-term. You will no longer need to hold onto a combination of hard drives, USBs, cloud storage accounts, and other third-party solutions.

Once files are uploaded through ArDrive, they will be there permanently. Anything you upload to ArDrive will outlive you! Your data will remain on the permaweb for your great-grandchildren to discover.

Read more about ArDrive’s data permanence

Bank vault photo by Jason Baker (CC BY 3.0)

Privacy and Security

One of the most exciting features of ArDrive is that you will actually get to own and control your data. There is no middleman.

We cannot access to your data, and do not control how and when you use it. The data is stored in a decentralized manner across thousands of servers across the planet. The only way to access your data is through the personal encryption key given with your account. This key is crucial: it’s the one thing required to access your uploaded files – now and forever.

And since it is permanent, there are no threats from outside parties, like a cloud company, to access and use your data according to their ‘terms and conditions’.

Always Active

Since ArDrive is a permanent solution and there is no middleman between you and your data your data will always be available.

This means that:

  • You will never receive a notice from us, or from anyone, to the effect that your account will be deleted
  • You will never have to login every three months to keep your account ‘current’
  • You will never receive an invoice that says you forgot to pay your fees, and that if you do not pay, your data will be removed
  • You will never receive a notice that says you cannot access your data at any time or anywhere

These are big promises, and permanence of Arweave’s data structure ensures we can keep them.

You can put as much or as little onto your ArDrive account as you like. You can come as often or as little as you want. If you come back 5 days from now it will be there, or if you come back 50 years from now it will be there.

ArDrive never sleeps.

Pay-as-you-go

Since ArDrive is truly permanent a subscription model is pointless. Why pay monthly fees if the data is actually stored for 200+ years?

Your data has been secured since your initial payment and you will never be asked to pay another penny more for what you uploaded. Downloads for you or for others are free now and forever. You will only be asked to pay a one-time fee when you upload new data through ArDrive.

The fees are reasonable to begin with and will always come out as the low-cost option within a few short years compared to most storage alternatives.

Censorship-resistant sharing

Finally, ArDrive allows you to share your files with whomever you choose. Now, all of the other cloud storage apps have this option, don’t they? Well, sort of.

ArDrive allows you to share a file with another individual or it allows you to share a file permanently with the public.

This is another way that ArDrive is unique: you can share a document or photo with the public which can be accessed on a permanent web address. Anyone who has that web address can see your files forever. And again, anything that is made public on ArDrive cannot be deleted and is censorship-resistant.

Already, people have been using ArDrive to share:

  • Books in the public domain
  • Computer code
  • Family videos, music and photos
  • Lecture recordings
  • Articles from newspapers and journals

Community-run technology

The last difference – and a very important one – is that ArDrive does not have a typical structure as a company. Yes, ArDrive is incorporated, but it does not have the usual corporate hierarchy of a board, executives and employees.

As founder Phil Mataras stated in his original vision article about ArDrive:
I don’t just have an opportunity to get permanent storage in the hands of everyone, but to also reinvent how a typical centralized business is run. I’ve been lucky enough to participate and learn from such an experiment with the first Arweave Community DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization), in dealing with decentralized governance, management and app building.

What is a DAO, and why does that make a difference?

A Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) is a way to set up a business so that it is not top heavy and only a few executives at the top make all the decisions and get most of the reward.

Instead, it’s more of a co-op: a business that is owned and operated by the community.

The way this is managed is mostly through the ArDrive token, represented by the symbol ↁ. The ↁ token is a way that people can earn -through work or usage – or invest into the company.

Individuals who gain ↁ are able to take part in both the governance decisions of the app, and the future profits of the app through dividend-like payments.

Watch our website for future articles about how this governance structure works.

Feedback

From top to bottom, ArDrive intends to be more than a typical cloud computing company. If you think this kind of approach is disruptive – let us know. Share what you think about ArDrive by joining us on Discord or leaving a comment below.

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