Gateways play a crucial role, not only in The AR.IO Network, but within the entire Arweave ecosystem. Along with the protocol itself, gateways are considered to be one of the most significant pieces of infrastructure required for building a strong community and fostering development.
What is a gateway?
A gateway serves as a bridge between the applications and users with the underlying Arweave network. The role of a gateway is crucial in providing a seamless user experience as it ensures fast and efficient processing of data, which is essential for modern applications.
The gateway in the Arweave network performs specific functions such as data retrieval, caching, serving, and indexing transactions into a searchable database, making it easier for users to access and query information stored on the network.
In short, gateways are infrastructure components that allow efficient and speedy access to data in the Arweave network.
The responsibilities taken on by gateways result in cost-free and maintenance-free hosting of both static and dynamic content for various users, creators, and developers. However, it's important to note that these expenses are not without cost to the gateway operators.
As of now, Arweave does not provide any tokenomic incentives to offset these expenses, which can be substantial, especially at larger scales.
It's worth exploring the Arweave network and its current gateway environment prior to the introduction of The AR.IO Network in greater detail.
Arweave and Gateways
Arweave is a Layer 1 blockchain network that has pioneered permanent data storage. It functions like a global decentralized hard drive as its miners are incentivized to store data for long periods of time through a sustainable endowment mechanism.
It's crucial to note that the Arweave miner nodes that store data on the network are incentivized to store and even share that data among each other, but they are not incentivized to share the data with applications or end-users. This could lead to data not being served in the performant way required by and expected of modern applications.
To address this issue, the Arweave team introduced arweave.net, a gateway operated as a community good for serving data to end-users.
Arweave.net currently caches and indexes the entire storage weave with a high quality of service; however, as the ecosystem has grown, the demands of and reliance on a single centralized gateway responsible for handling all network traffic have become apparent.
What could you do with Arweave without a gateway?
To emphasize the significance of gateways in the Arweave ecosystem, it's helpful to consider what the ecosystem would look like without them.
What would the Arweave environment look like without gateways?
- Store data permanently
- Data would be highly replicable within the network
- Retrieve data at slow speeds
- Some data trying to be saved may not make it to the protocol
- Technically more difficult to interact with the ecosystem, eliminating most developers from building
What would the Arweave environment look like without gateways?
- Improve the retrieval of data from the system
- Increased speeds of data being retrieved from the system
- Higher likelihood of data being seeded to the protocol
Drawbacks of relying on only Arweave.net
- Centralized service
- Expensive to operate without limiting performance
- Cannot be optimized for specific use cases as it must be configured to serve the entire community
What's next for gateways in the Arweave ecosystem?
For the Arweave ecosystem to continue to grow and provide support for the development of modern applications, it is necessary to enhance the existing legacy infrastructure with gateway infrastructure that can accommodate these apps.
To address this issue and provide incentivized data retrieval, among other benefits, Arweave enlisted the help of the ar.io team to develop more efficient gateway components as well as to create a network of decentralized gateways.
The addition of an incentivized gateway network will make the ecosystem much stronger and fulfill Arweave's original vision of having complementary infrastructure on top of the network to enhance the decentralized storage network.
How do decentralized gateways benefit the Arweave ecosystem?
As previously mentioned, the decentralized gateway infrastructure is almost as important as the Arweave protocol itself. To understand the benefits it will bring to the ecosystem, let's take a closer look at how ar.io gateways will improve it.
What does an ar.io gateway do for the ecosystem?
The various gateway nodes on The AR.IO Network are the interface between users and the Arweave network. Gateways will be run by operators in a decentralized network who have the opportunity to customize their gateways for various use cases.
Overall, each gateway acts like a “Permaweb Service Provider” and supports multiple, value-added, low-trust services for users and applications that need to read and write data on Arweave.
More technically, gateway services are modular, extendable, and configurable to include:
- seeding layer one transactions to the greater Arweave network
- caching and serving chain and transaction data
- resolving friendly names to transaction data with the Arweave Name System
- indexing and querying layer one and two transactions
- proxy for Arweave nodes serving the Arweave HTTP API
In the end, gateway operators keep the front doors to the permaweb open by running reliable and performant systems for their own use cases, their community or even the whole Permaweb.
The AR.IO Network brings the following features to gateways:
- Discoverable: Each Gateway is able to register with the “Gateway Address Registry”, where it can be easily discoverable by permaweb apps.
- Incentivized: Gateways will be incentivized by the IO token, which will have on-chain governance, reward sharing, and staking all to enable gateways to operate under a low-trust model
- Customizable: Each gateway can be customized for specific applications, use cases, community needs, or business models. The gateway can be set up to serve the broader ecosystem or isolate it only for a specific application. As well it can be run off a single laptop or have a whole system built around it and make it multi-cloud with redundancy and a robust cache.
- Decentralized: Any person will be able to run a gateway and share data across the world.
Interested in becoming an ar.io gateway operator?
The ar.io gateway protocol is highly adaptable and can accommodate a wide range of technical expertise and use cases.
For example, a gateway operator can set up a gateway on a personal laptop or build a comprehensive system with features such as multi-cloud redundancy and robust caching, like arweave.net.
This is a highly anticipated opportunity within the larger Arweave ecosystem. To learn more, refer to our gateway operator product page and documentation. Also be sure to connect with the community!