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In the age of censorship and control, social media posts can disappear in an instant without the ability to be shared to the public nor securely saved for eternity. Since December, denunciation of the coronavirus outbreak has been removed on Chinese social media apps such as YY, WeChat, and Weibo, according to a report conducted by cyber research group Citizen Lab, which stated many of its rules “may restrict vital communication related to disease information and prevention.”
The ability to permanently save and publicly call attention to this censored content through a decentralized blockchain is now being developed with a permaweb network by Arweave. Similarly to IPFS and its distributed web, content on the Internet now has the fortune of being permanently stored for eternity before it can be deleted and taken off the web by authorities, thus letting the power of information reign supreme.
Arweave’s “permaweb” is identical to the normal web except everything is stored and timestamped permanently from documents, applications, data, images, and history altogether, through decentralized blockchain. The number of permanently stored pieces of data is more than a million, while almost 200 applications have been developed on Arweave’s platform. A “collectively owned hard drive that never forgets,” according to its website, which will allow full proof preservation of the Internet without the ability for disruption.
“The normal web, where information is stored and centralized is only in one location. With a decentralized web it can shift over time,” explained Arweave founder Sam Williams. “The idea is to build a ‘Library of Alexandria’ that doesn’t suck, with records of history and knowledge of every fact,” Williams explained further about Arweave’s goal of everlasting storage. “We can use modern blockchain technology to achieve that goal.”
Knowledge, as Williams said, often takes the form of Arweave’s community-built perma-apps such as WeiBlocked, which discovers probable censored content on popular Chinese social media app Weibo. Once discovered, the content is indexed and decentralized in Arweave, then allowing for it to be checked at a later time if it is censored and highlighting it if so. All content is archived so if a post is removed by Weibo, it will still remain on WeiBlocked, thanks to Arweave.
“We want to put power of the information space back in the hands of people,” said Williams of Arweave’s potential of everlasting content. “Once information is in our network, it is difficult to block, even in China.” Shining a light on questions to be asked in the future of ‘what is happening here’ or ‘what happened at this point in time’, are now able to be seen with the network’s capabilities.
Arweave’s blockchain tokens are what its users pay for its permanent data storage on the permaweb. Storing data is supplied through an “economic endowment structure” meaning users pay a principle upfront then accrue interest in the shape of storage purchasing power. By offering hard drive space, users can earn profits through interest on storage contributions while allowing the ability for the network to live forever.
Accomplishing this infinite longevity in data storage is owed in part to a $8.3 million funding round Arweave received from Andreessen Horowitz, Union Square Ventures, and Coinbase Ventures recently. With the money, the company plans to re-invest “directly into Arweave’s community: from builders to archivers and beyond.” The company wants to put the money back into its developer community though Arweave Grants, where users propose ideas for further use adoption of its protocol, and Arweave Boost, which offers up to $50K in data storage and mentorship for startups on its permaweb.
In the case of clarity surrounding the coronavirus, people in the future will now be able to see history of the case without restriction or censorship. “Longterm, people will look back at the coronavirus and see it with 2020 vision,” Williams said of Arweave’s future permanent impression. “People can see what is happening today with the same clarity and data to support it, 20, 30, 50 years into the future.”
Rather than having a problem of lack of information, such as the few fragments known looking back at the 1918 Spanish flu at a time when it was harder to get clear picture of how people felt as it was unfolding, blockchain is able to absolve this problem. Only time will tell, literally, if this information whether it was once censored or not, will forever live on the permaweb for future Internet users to see.
“With timestamping the information space, people can understand the world today,” Williams expressed on the importance of time in its network. Arweave is determined to impact the way information can be recorded permanently making it impossible to alter or lose any data or information in a day in age where uncertainty lingers. “Future historians will look back at the information of today to make deductions and learn, so that in the future we can all make decisions better.”