And suddenly, the Sulfurous Blockchain took over online storage services. Under the pretext of developing a way to store files as Web3 – that is, by assigning each one a non-falsifiable serial number – the American startup Protocol Labs has developed a system that allows hosts to speculate on the cost of accessing data online: Filecoin.
In principle, it is up to the hosts to join a network in which each stored file will have a unique identifier, the CID (Content IDentifier), according to an access protocol called IPFS (Inter-Planetary File System), invented in turn by Protocol Labs. Each host calculates the identifiers of the files it hosts in the house, thanks to the algorithm of a Blockchain, called Filecoin.
Since all hosts on the network access the same Blockchain, they index all files, those they store on their own infrastructure and those stored on the infrastructure of others. They then act as a gateway when a user close to them wants to access a file hosted by someone else. The files are reachable from all over the world via a universal URL such as “ipfs: //
If by chance the file were to be modified, its update would be treated as another file, with another CID identifier.
“The idea is to use the network for the data we want to publish with the certainty that it will not be modified. Imagine a war reporter posting photos from the field, institutes posting research, museums sharing digital copies of works, “says Colin Evran, director of ecosystem and operations at Protocol Labs, during an interview. LeMagIT meeting at a recent IT Press Tour event in Silicon Valley.
And to add without further ado the keyword that delights the entire web3 sphere: “FileCoin is also the ideal network for publishing NFTs! “, He exults, referring to these digital files – often equipment in video games, but could be drawings, music – whose serial number assigns them to a single buyer.
Build an ecosystem of online storage hosts
Let’s move on to the payment system. In order to store files on the FileCoin network, end customers must purchase DataCaps from portals called “notaries”. Currently, a DataCap entitles you to 32GB of storage per year. Yes, a priori, you have to pay annually to keep the storage space. The portal then presents the user with a list of partner hosts to spend their DataCaps with.
Note: The user must purchase storage from the host as usual. At best, Protocol Labs explains that, firstcustomers should get a preferential rate if they are provided with DataCaps.
In exchange for the DataCaps it receives, the host sees a price in Filecoin (or “FIL”) attributed to its retention. Furthermore, the host is also paid in Filecoin when it “pulls” the CID identifiers of its users’ files.
The host spends its Filecoins to pay for an access right to another host, which happens when its customers want to access a file that is with this other host. And he himself receives a remuneration in Filecoins when another host accesses a file stored on his disks. Since these are files intended to be published to the public – or even NFT, let’s say, sold by an American company to European users – access between hosts should be frequent.
A priori, it would be a virtuous circle: the more Filecoins you have, the more you are a host that has access to resources, the more customers you attract and the more Filecoins you earn.
A cryptic system
Basically, like everything related to virtual currencies, Filecoin has bizarrely cryptic documentation. The page that is supposed to explain to hosts how they will get rich is limited to talking about the role of customers and notaries – which is not the subject – and refers to the appointments to be made online, in the privacy of one-two-one with an expert.
Going through various unlikely links, LeMagIt ended up finding a 34-page document attempting to explain Filecoin’s business model. Rather, it tells how a Blockchain works and states that hosts must store local copies at home for other hosts’ customers or pay compensation if they leave the system.
Launched two years ago, the Filecoin network now reaches a storage capacity of 18.9 exabytes (18.9 million TB) spread across 4,500 hosts. To spread the concept to the public, Protocol Labs has created its own online storage service dedicated to NFTs and asks hosts to archive copies at home for the redundancy of its offering.
The startup has also collaborated with various projects related to the Ethereum blockchain, including Fleek. It is a platform for creating merchant sites, where you pay in Ethereum cryptocurrency, with URLs referenced by Ethereum and where everything is stored on the Filecoin network.
Recently, the startup created Filecoin Saturn, an offer to allow people to host local copies themselves. According to Protocol Labs, the idea would be that of a Content Delivery Network (CDN): to allow clients on the network to access their files more quickly by taking them from the hard drives of people who live nearby.