The ar.io Network first started in 2020 with the launch of ArDrive, but it is more accurate to say that it started with a mission - to get permanent storage into the hands of everyone.
Phil Mataras, the founder of ar.io Network, has been immersed with systems architecture from his first home-built PC running Pentium 2 to an IT career with a Fortune 500 company. For years he considered the potential of crypto, but remained skeptical its impossible claims and ponzi schemes.
But as he recalls, “there was one particular network and protocol that I was drawn to as soon as I heard about it and I immediately used it - Arweave.”
Arweave introduced the ability to store data permanently. As a public blockchain, however, there were two things missing in Phil’s eyes: private data and an intuitive file system to organize data within Arweave.
The Open Web Foundry
The next step for Phil in realizing the vision of permanent data for everyone came at the first Open Web Foundry, an early incubator for projects being built on Arweave.
At the Open Web Foundry, Phil debuted the Arweave File System (ArFS), which would enable data to be both encrypted and organized into folders. This filled both missing gaps he originally noticed in Arweave: it allowed people to make permaweb data public or private, and to easily organize it into a hierarchy of drives, folders and files.
After the Open Web Foundry, Phil raised capital to fund the first build of ArDrive, a Dropbox-like file sync app on top of Arweave. He then quit his Fortune 500 job and went into building mode with a small group of developers.
The Growth of ArDrive
After the first version of the ArDrive app was released in November 2020, it quickly grew to become the dominant file storage app in the Arweave ecosystem.
Arweave is a powerful protocol but it is inaccessible to everyone except specifically trained developers. ArDrive made it simple for non-developers to use Arweave as well. It empowered ordinary people to upload permanent data - storing blue-chip NFTs, personal photos, and business data from all over the world. Nearly 10% of the weave consists of data from ArDrive.
However, as the team worked on getting permanent data into the hands of everyone it became clear that the Arweave infrastructure needed to expand to fulfill the vision.
This is where the need for reliable gateways comes in.
The Founding of ar.io
At the end of 2021, ArDrive was approached by the Arweave core team to become the stewards of arweave.net, the main gateway to and from the Arweave protocol. After years of running it on their own, they believed that the ArDrive team had the technical depth to operate arweave.net and to develop a new decentralized gateway infrastructure for the broader community.
Based on this offer, Phil and his team raised $17M to take on this project and expand our scope of work.
Arweave.net was successfully transferred over to the custody of ar.io Network in early 2022. As this occurred, new opportunities emerged. The first one was the need for a new protocol for open-source gateways to the permaweb. This protocol has been developed and gateways using the new ar.io Network protocol are in private beta testing.
The second opportunity was for the Arweave Name System (ArNS), which gives permaweb data a more human-friendly name. ArNS is currently in open beta testing.
Over time it became clear that ar.io Network was an umbrella concept that held different protocols such as the IO network protocol, ArFS, and ArNS. In time, these protocols will each have their own products, just like how the ArDrive app is based on the ArFS protocol.
Thus the ar.io Network ecosystem has been launched. As the Arweave continues to grow, there will doubtless be new opportunities for ar.io Network, either to improve infrastructure or to offer new products.
No matter what we build, we hope it will continue to fulfill the original vision:
to get permanent storage into the hands of everyone.