ARDRIVE TEAM rebrands to AR.IO as the decentralized gateway network gets closer to launch
The ar.io team has taken a step forward towards its goal of getting permanent storage into the hands of everyone. Starting today, ar.io debuts as an umbrella organization that consists of a growing number of protocols and Apps that enable the permaweb. These open-source, infrastructure-focused protocols include the ar.io Network protocol for gateway operators, the Arweave File System (ArFS) and Arweave Name System (ArNS). Products like ArDrive, a permaweb file sync app, now fall under the umbrella of the ar.io Network.
Phil Mataras, founder of ar.io, has been immersed with systems architecture from his first home-built PC running Pentium 2 to an IT career with a Fortune 500 company. For years he considered the potential of crypto, but remained skeptical of its impossible claims and ponzi schemes. But as he recalls, “there was one particular network and protocol that I was drawn to as soon as I heard about it and I immediately used it – Arweave.”
Arweave introduced the ability to store data permanently. As a public blockchain, however, there were two things missing in Mataras’ eyes: private data and an intuitive file system to organize data within Arweave.
At the first Open Web Foundry (an accelerator program for the Arweave community started in 2020), Mataras debuted the Arweave File System (ArFS), which would enable data to be both encrypted and organized into folders. This filled both missing gaps he originally noticed in Arweave: it allowed people to make permaweb data public or private, and to easily organize it into a hierarchy of drives, folders and files.
Growth of ArDrive
After the Open Web Foundry, the ArDrive app was released and it quickly grew to become a leading file storage app in the Arweave ecosystem. ArDrive empowered ordinary people to upload permanent data – storing blue-chip NFTs, personal photos, and business records from all over the world. Nearly 10% of the weave consists of data from ArDrive.
However, as the team worked on getting permanent data into the hands of everyone it became clear that the Arweave infrastructure needed to expand to fulfill the vision. The first step was to make it easy to upload files to the permaweb, the next step is to ensure access to those files is always available.
This led them to the need for reliable gateways, the interface for users and applications that read and write data on Arweave.
The founding of ar.io
At the end of 2021, ArDrive was approached by the Arweave core team to become the stewards of arweave.net, the community gateway to and from the Arweave protocol. After years of running it on their own, they believed that the ArDrive team had the technical depth to operate arweave.net and to develop a new decentralized gateway infrastructure for the broader community.
Based on this offer, Mataras and his team raised $17M to take on this project.
We thought of many names, but kept coming back to ar.io because it communicates what the gateways do: Arweave Input / Output. Good infrastructure is critical to Arweave right now and will help us all realize the potential of permanent data – Phil Mataras, Founder
Arweave.net was successfully transferred over to the custody of ar.io in early 2022. At the same time, work on a new protocol for decentralized, open-source gateways to the permaweb commenced. This protocol has been developed and gateways using the new ar.io Network protocol are now in private beta testing.
Network Launch Status
While no specific date is being offered for launch, ar.io Network protocol will be released when development and testing are complete.
Gateways are the front door to the permaweb, notes Mataras. “They’re a foundational part of Arweave infrastructure, so we want to take our time to get them right. But our early testing has been very positive.”
A forthcoming element of the gateway launch will be ar.io’s IO Token, which will be used to align network incentives and promote ecosystem health. IO Token holders will be able to stake their tokens with ar.io gateways, giving them a chance to take part in governance and protocol rewards. The tokens will also be used for utilities such as leasing ArNS names so token holders can buy and trade friendly names to map to their permaweb content.
The ar.io Network ecosystem
The ar.io Network is not merely a set of open-source protocols for gateways. The umbrella organization also includes a growing number of software products. Mataras hopes that the launch of each protocol will give rise to new products built on these protocols, the way the ArDrive app is based on the ArFS protocol.
Both are needed for Arweave to scale: reliable infrastructure and user-friendly apps. The ar.io Network ecosystem aims to be at the forefront of both.