Winston and the Memory Hole: The Arweave Name Explained

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This article was written by Ryan S. Gladwin for Arweave News.

The name of any business, brand or cryptocurrency is a window into the ethos of how and why they operate. Arweave is no different. The cryptocurrency takes a technology-first approach deriving its name from the utility and technology that the coin holds. 

But first, did you know it wasn’t always called Arweave?

A Medium post can be found from 2018, by The Arweave Project that announces a name change from ‘Archain’ to ‘Arweave’. This move was made in order to help differentiate the coin from other projects such as Rchain, Achain and Chainlink.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure this out but the ‘chain’ in ‘Archain’ was referencing the blockchain technology used in cryptocurrency. The name change was seen as an opportunity to highlight the unique technology of this project — blockweave.

What is the blockweave?

Put simply, the blockweave allows for on-chain storage at a low cost without being damaging to the environment due to the Proof of Access consensus mechanism. 

“The blockweave is based on a novel proof of access consensus mechanism that makes truly permanent, low-cost data storage available for the first time”, The Arweave Project said in a Medium post

Proof of Access miners replicate the data held in the system as many times as they possibly can. Arweave then asks each node to confirm that a new block contains a randomly selected block from earlier. If it does, then the new transaction can be added. This requires significantly less energy than Bitcoin’s Proof of Work consensus model.

Not only that but as the blockweave expands in size the amount of mining required decreases. This allows for great scalability both practically and environmentally.

Blockweave and Proof of Access are core to the Arweave philosophy, allowing individuals to store data in a decentralized protected way. It only makes sense that it’s half of the project’s name… but what about the ‘Ar’ in Arweave?

Well, this one doesn’t require as much of an explanation. Arweave allows you to securely archive your data for the history books to remember. That’s where the ‘Ar’ comes from — Archive.

Meaning the Arweave name essentially stands for archiving data on the blockweave

Who is Winston? And what does he have to do with Arweave?

John Hurt as Winston in the 1984 film

A Winston is 0.000000000001 AR — similar to Bitcoin sats. But who is Winston?

Winston Smith is the main character in George Orwell’s classic novel 1984. A book that depicts an individual (Winston) trying to navigate a dystopian surveillance state. “Big brother is watching you…”

So why would Arweave name something after this character? This is where the project’s philosophy really becomes clear.

The internet is starting to be censored more and more. Huge social media companies like Twitter and Facebook are tightening their grip around the throats of their users. Google can remove your page from their search engine at the snap of a finger. The internet is slowly crawling closer to the dystopian world represented in George Orwell’s novel. 

Arweave provides a safe haven for users to store their content, a place free from the hands of censorship. A place to archive your content forever. Just like the diary that Winston writes in throughout the novel.

The memory hole

“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past”. This quote, from 1984, appears as the first slide on an early Arweave explainer video on YouTube. The video goes on to talk about the memory hole – a mechanism in 1984 by which any information could be permanently destroyed.

The book’s dystopian predictions about our future – where society’s freedoms are drastically curtailed and the truth is an inexact science – warn of the dangers of information fragility; where information and power converge under states with no accountability, a decline towards totalitarianism is guaranteed.

“Essentially what we’ve intended to do with Arweave is make the memory hole impossible.” – Sam Williams

No entity, not even Arweave itself, can alter or erase information uploaded to the permaweb. This makes it a key protection against the world described in 1984.

If you’re still not convinced and think we’re just reading too much into it, the default port for Arweave is even set to 1984.

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