AR.IO = Arweave Input/Output
AR.IO has been called the front door to the Permaweb. It is the input and output of the Arweave protocol, and is the best way to get your data onto and from it.
The AR.IO network is arguably the most important piece of infrastructure in the Arweave ecosystem next to the original storage protocol.
Furthermore, the decentralized and incentivized gateway network will not only provide an incentive for permanent data to be served, but it will also level up network performance so modern apps have the fast downloading, data indexing, and robust querying they need to be viable.
However, before we get into a deeper explanation of that let’s look at the conditions that brought about the formation of the AR.IO network.
Arweave and the serving of data
As Arweave grows in use and awareness it will likely become known for what it truly is: a zero-to-one invention. It is has given the world something that it had never known - permanent data storage.
Arweave (a Layer 1 blockchain network) offers scalable and permanent on-chain data storage in a sustainable manner. It does this by incentivizing miner nodes through a tokenomic endowment model which ensures data is globally stored and replicated for hundreds of years without the need for continual payment by its uploader.
Essentially Arweave created a decentralized global hard drive that never forgets. This has enabled immutable, long term data archiving with censorship resistance, tokenized payment models, smart contracting systems and other innovations.
Since the Arweave launch in 2018 millions of files of all types have been permanently saved on this hard drive that never forgets. But a problem remains: how do you get these files from Arweave now and 200 years from now?
How do we retrieve data from the hard drive that never forgets?
From the beginning, the Arweave team anticipated the problem of retrieving data from their protocol and created the first Arweave gateway - arweave.net.
For context, Arweave gateways are different from Arweave nodes (aka miners). Arweave miner nodes act as the first layer in the protocol and are highly-incentivized to provide permanent data storage. But they are not rewarded to serve that data to users who want to see it years from now. Gateways, and in particular the arweave.net gateway, were created to address this gap. They perform many functions that Arweave nodes are not designed to fulfill, especially permanent data retrieval.
One gateway, however, cannot serve the needs of a thriving permanent data ecosystem. Furthermore, modern apps need fast downloading, data indexing, robust querying, and other services that only customized gateways can provide. If Arweave is going to grow real world adoption, it will take more than one main gateway to handle it. But who is incentivized to deliver permanent data in a quick and efficient manner?
David Whittington, one of the main architects of the AR.IO decentralized gateway network, has a helpful analogy for this situation:
Let’s say you are moving, and you’re paying a friend to store your stuff.
You say to your friend, “I’ll give you this money and you’ll store my stuff.”
Your friend agrees. But he also happens to be very literal and simply takes your stuff and puts it in a big dumpster filled with other debris. Later you return and say, “Give me my stuff back.”
And the friend says, “Woah - you just told me to store it, not to give it back.”
Gateways are all about getting your stuff back. This process needs to be incentivized. And ideally you don’t store it in a dumpster. You store it in boxes with labels. You have some way of indexing it so people can find the things they want. And that’s what a good gateway does for you.
In sum, Arweave is a revolutionary protocol that makes permanent storage possible but the economic cost of user interaction with the network has not been fully addressed. A growing network requires good gateway infrastructure, but this can be quite expensive to run.
The next step in the ecosystem is to incentive the infrastructure and economics to index, retrieve and service all of the data on Arweave.
Naturally, the question arises: how can gateways be as incentivized to retrieve data as the Arweave nodes are to store it?
AR.IO = Arweave Input/Output
The name AR.IO stands for Arweave Input/Output. As Phil Mataras, our Founder, says, “ar.io is the essence of what both gateways and the software we build achieves - we input and output data to Arweave.”
AR.IO currently operates and stewards the main Arweave gateway - arweave.net. But it is also actively developing the decentralized and incentivized infrastructure that will enable a network of gateway operators to interact with permanent data on Arweave. These new decentralized gateways will not only provide an incentive for the data to be served, but will also level up network performance so modern apps have the fast downloading, data indexing, and robust querying they need to be viable. This all aims to increase real world adoption of Arweave.
To achieve this we have:
- Reduced gateway overhead costs with efficient modular networked architecture, and
- Created an economic incentive layer with the IO token.
Just as Arweave created permanent data through technological and economic innovation, we have followed the same path of creating a technological and economic standard that will serve that data for hundreds of years to come.
The AR.IO network and its decentralized gateways will open many new doors within the larger Arweave ecosystem. We are confident of this because we have already seen promising new opportunities with enterprise-level partners.
AR.IO gateways expand the reach and breadth of what we can provide for the community, and create new opportunities for the Arweave ecosystem as a whole.
To learn more about AR.IO check out all of our articles:
- What is AR.IO?: An overview of the products and protocols created to foster the ecosystem
- What is the AR.IO Token?
- What is the Permaweb?
- Why do we need permanent data?