AR.IO Network Moves to a Super Computer

Today marks a significant shift in the AR.IO Network’s journey. We are migrating from SmartWeave to AO, a powerful decentralized computing environment built on top of Arweave.

This transition isn’t just a migration of technology, but a significant enhancement to meet the changing demands of the permaweb.

Wait, the permaweb?

The permaweb – an internet that remembers everything, including all of the details about who uploaded what and when, as well as other important metadata - is a new web of apps, pages and data that are all stored permanently on Arweave and accessible through the AR.IO Network from any device with an internet connection.

We spent the past crypto winter grinding away and building the core component of the AR.IO Network, the gateway, with the intent of lowering the barriers of entry to operate a fundamental unit of permaweb infrastructure. The gateway software went from a complex, closed source and rigid behemoth to a simplified, open source and composable node that can get deployed anywhere (on hardware small as a Raspberry Pi).

The AR.IO Network is not a layer 1 blockchain and in order to support its cryptocurrency, utilities and management in an open, immutable and incorruptible way, we designed and built a Smart Contract. Specifically, we built a SmartWeave Contract, which is a protocol on Arweave that uses ‘lazy evaluation’ to perform computation on the client side.

There were design challenges and back and forth with other Arweave ecosystem teams to help us hone in on the solution. We developed all of the main network utilities like the Arweave Name System, functionality defined in the network’s white paper, with some more advanced features like dynamic price adjustment or the observation and incentive protocol. It was all paired with a robust test platform, hundreds of tests, and a full CI/CD process that streamlined devnet and testnet deployments.

Since launching the testnet almost a year and a half ago, over 100k interactions to the contract have been made - including 1300 test token holders, 1700 name purchases, thousands of observations, hundreds of gateways being joined, managed and delegated to. Not too bad for a “lazy” protocol!

Why We are Moving to AO

While the SmartWeave protocol eliminates associated computation fees, it comes with scalability and resiliency challenges that are involved when you have a long list of interactions that every client must compute. Even with easy to deploy caches, our simple and elegant SmartWeave Contract would need an upgrade in the AR.IO Network to continue to scale.

The decision to shift to AO comes after careful consideration of its superior capabilities and the growing need for more scalable and efficient computational solutions in the web3 and blockchain space. AO stands out with its hyper-parallel supercomputing features that allow numerous processes to run in parallel without the constraints typical of other decentralized systems. This environment supports a variety of workloads and provides a seamless experience akin to traditional computing, but with the added benefits of decentralization and cryptographic security.

The primary reasons why we are moving to AO:

  • Enhanced Scalability and Speed: AO’s ability to handle interactions such as token transfers, name buying, ANT management, and delegations more efficiently is crucial for our growth.

  • Increased Functional Flexibility: The modular design of AO allows for new customizations and enhancements within the AR.IO Network that could unlock new potential.

  • Broader Ecosystem Connectivity: Support for cross-chain signatures makes AO an ideal platform for fostering interoperability with other major ecosystems like Ethereum and Solana.

  • Greater Incentives for Gateway Operators: By integrating AO with AR.IO Gateways, we aim to boost incentives for gateway operators, strengthening the backbone of both networks.

  • After using AO over the past couple of months, it feels like going from dial up to broadband in the early internet days.

Navigating the Challenges Together

Embracing new technology comes with challenges. AO is still fresh territory for our team and there is still much to learn and experiment with. We are updating our infrastructure, apps and SDKs, which will take time and careful planning. Moreover, AO is still in development and testnet - its becoming fully decentralized and permissionless are vital factors for a successful AR.IO Network. We are engaged with the AO developers on this front, providing feedback, and ensuring these milestones are achieved swiftly.

What This Means for Testnet Gateway Operators, Developers, and End Users

As we gradually phase out SmartWeave and embrace AO, your experience and support are crucial. We are committed to a smooth transition and will keep you updated every step of the way. Over the coming weeks, we will share more detailed tutorials and support resources to help everyone get acquainted with the new architecture and any migration steps for our testnet gateway operators.

This migration will bring new opportunity and advantages to our community and the broader web3 ecosystem. Let’s continue to set the standard in decentralized technologies with open source building and making the permaweb real.