The ar.io network started to take shape at the end of 2021.
Arweave, who invented permanent storage on their blockchain, have always pushed to become a decentralized ecosystem. A lot of projects within crypto claim to be decentralized (and are not), but the Arweave team is passionate about making this happen within the whole ecosystem.
At this point in Arweave’s history the permanent storage layer of the ecosystem was decentralized, but that could not be said for how the data was index, cached, and served with gateways.
This was because Arweave relied on one centralized gateway - Arweave.net - to perform all of those functions. This amounted to a single point of failure.
How could Arweave move forward if only the storage layer was decentralized and not the actual serving of the data?
This was never a surprise as Arweave knew of this problem from the inception of the blockchain, and always knew they needed it to be solved. But how?
Solving the Gateway Problem
As 2021 closed the Arweave team knew it was time to finally bring decentralization to the gateway layer.
To solve the problem of running on only one centralized gateway the Arweave team approached Phil Mataras.
Phil had started a company called Permanent Data Solutions (“PDS”) and was actively building the permanent file management and sharing app, ArDrive, within the Arweave ecosystem.
Arweave asked Phil and his team to both manage the Arweave.net gateway and to build a decentralized gateway network on top and thus build out the permaweb.
Phil accepted the challenge and the ar.io network was born.
The ar.io network comes to life
With his ArDrive and Arweave connections Phil raised 17.2 million dollars so that PDS would build a decentralized gateway network on behalf of the ar.io foundation.
How do you build a decentralized gateway network? It all started with bringing in a great team of engineers and developers and laying down a vision of what could become with the team.
The team started out by taking over the custody of the Arweave.net gateway and immediately started to optimize it for both cost and performance efficiency.
From there many of the learnings from working with Arweave.net were applied to building out the infrastructure for decentralized gateways.
As well, the team involved the greater community within the Arweave ecosystem to run their own ar.io gateways in private beta testing and to test any of the advancements that were made. Their feedback proved to be invaluable as it helped the team create a product that can be used in a number of different ways.
The ar.io network going forward
As the ar.io network moves out of build phase into operation phase we are excited by the opportunities that decentralized gateways will provide for gateway operators and those served by them.
AR.IO Gateways are robust and customizable to many types of technical levels and use cases. A gateway operator can establish a gateway on their own laptop, or build a whole system around it and make it multi-cloud with redundancy, robust cache, etc like arweave.net.
In addition, the decentralized gateway network has allowed the Permaweb Domain Name System (ArNS) to be launched, which gives brings domain names to the permaweb and gives permaweb data a more human-friendly name (instead of transaction ids).
What is being realized is that next to the Arweave protocol itself the decentralized gateways are arguably the most important piece of infrastructure within the Arweave ecosystem.
As Arweave continues to grow and gain adoption, there will be new opportunities for the ar.io Network, both to help facility growth and offer new products.