The Journey to Filecoin Mainnet Liftoff

After years of work, the Filecoin mainnet is officially live!🚀 As we shared last week - this Mainnet Liftoff transition is an awesome milestone for the whole community. There are now >100 useful applications and tools building on Filecoin, 600 TiB of storage deals putting Filecoin’s capacity to use, and nearly 7️⃣0️⃣0️⃣ PiB of storage capacity growing at over 500 TiB an hour!

In addition to Filecoin’s thoughtful incentive structure that rewards quality, long-term data storage - what sets Filecoin apart is the amazing ecosystem of projects integrating this decentralized storage layer. From the ConsenSys suite of tools for the Filecoin Network, to the Filecoin Archives curated with the Internet Archive, to the builders throughout the IPFS community helping make Filecoin great - there’s an impressive community of heavy-hitters investing in Filecoin’s success. Thank you!

The Filecoin Mainnet Liftoff was a highly anticipated launch - and a giant leap forward for the web3 ecosystem. Filecoin brings a verifiable storage layer to the decentralized web, adding an important storage incentive structure to the InterPlanetary stack used by many web3 projects (including IPFS, libp2p, IPLD, and Multiformats). As with any launch moment, it’s easy to forget where things began - and the immense progress and innovation required to go from “that’s impossible” to “it’s live!” Let’s take a brief trip back to ~7 years ago, when the ideas for Filecoin first formed…

In the Beginning

Back in 2014 when Filecoin was first envisioned - “web3” was still in its infancy. Vitalik Buterin had just put out the Ethereum whitepaper and “blockchain” was just starting to gather a significant following. When Gavin Wood published “Dapps: What Web 3.0 Looks Like”, he proposed 4 components of this next-generation web: “static content publication, dynamic messages, trustless transactions and an integrated user-interface.” This set the stage for new projects to come meet these needs.

While computer scientists have been pursuing distributed operating systems since before Bell Lab’s Plan 9 in the 1980’s, the ability to seamlessly combine innovations from cryptography, blockchain, and git-like content addressing was just making it possible to actually create a verifiable, reliable, distributed storage network made up of hundreds of independent, untrusted peers that could together help persist humanity’s most important knowledge. Back in 2014, protocols like IPFS (content-addressed file sharing), libp2p (peer-to-peer networking), and IPLD (hash-linked data structures) – which form the foundation of Filecoin’s data storage network – were also just getting started.

It all began with a dream: what if we could use the tools from the p2p revolution in the early 90’s to prevent catastrophes like the burning of the Library of Alexandria? The destruction of generations of knowledge can set back progress and innovation for hundreds of years. This becomes an increasingly existential risk as more and more of our lives happen online. If we could make knowledge more accessible, efficient, and resilient, we could build a better foundation for our future ideas and discoveries – a foundation where scientific studies come with the exact data needed to reproduce them or re-analyze their findings, the particular digital tools we need can’t be taken away or shut-down by a central owner, and our whole interconnected graph of knowledge – the web – is redundantly persisted and linked across thousands of independent network participants.

In many ways, this vision goes back to the very founding of the internet - the idea of a decentralized but interconnected network of sites and routers without single points of failure. In the early 2010’s, that original vision for the web had taken a back seat to the centralizing forces around dynamic, personalized content that harvested user data to serve targeted advertising. Instead of many small interconnected websites, there were behemoths like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon. At the 2016 Decentralized Web Summit, Vint Cerf (one of the inventors of the TCP/IP protocol), Tim Berners-Lee (creator of the World Wide Web), Juan Benet (creator of IPFS & Filecoin), and others, joined forces to “radically reinvent core technologies that underpin the web” (Klint Finley, WIRED). Filecoin, IPFS, libp2p, and similar protocols emerged as the new generation of tools to take back the internet and make it faster, safer, and more open.

Achieving Liftoff: All Systems Go

Filecoin’s audacious mission is to create a decentralized, efficient, and robust foundation for humanity’s information. Reaching liftoff, though but a step along that path, is a massive accomplishment that took years of hard work from a huge community.

The early years laid the foundations for Filecoin by building out the web3 tech stack now used by most projects throughout the ecosystem. Core web3 building blocks used by Filecoin and other projects came into existence – like libp2p (a flexible peer-to-peer networking layer), IPLD (a hash-linked data model), and IPFS (data exchange protocols enabling content-addressable file sharing). These modular projects helped make the web3 ecosystem more interoperable, collaborative, and interconnected.

Long before we broke ground on the uniquely hard research problems around Filecoin’s Proofs of Replication and SpaceTime, this community was building tools and protocols to empower a new interplanetary ecosystem with an interoperable web3 tech-stack we could all refine and improve. Passionate communities and ecosystems formed around these projects, bringing together like-minded collaborators that turned challenging ideas into reality. At the core of these communities were some shared values that we tried to encode into the protocols we were building. Values such as transparency, openness, modularity, interoperability, and individual agency.

Since then, we’ve learned a valuable lesson: crypto, p2p, and economic systems are REALLY HARD! 😅 Throughout years of cutting edge research (pushing the frontiers of Verified Delay Functions, Randomness Beacons, P2P Networking Design, and more), extensive cryptoeconomic design and analysis, and advanced systems engineering – we’ve been blown away by the amazing contributions and progress across these ecosystems. We’re lucky to be in such fertile spaces with so many valuable problems to solve - from building Testground to help simulate and validate network performance in distributed systems at scale, to creating Drand to provide a production-grade distributed randomness beacon. These apparent side-quests have ultimately been some of the most critical projects to ensure we create a decentralized, robust, and efficient foundation for humanity’s information.

Over the past 3 years, we’ve formed a not-so-secret superpower – the amazing and thriving community working towards Filecoin’s success. The core 3 pillars of Filecoin’s strength are the miners, builders, and storage clients who power this marketplace.

Mine

In addition to being the core operators of the Filecoin network, the mining community has been deeply engaged in the refinement and improvement of Filecoin implementations like Lotus and go-filecoin since 2019. Miners have been core participants in the journey from the first Filecoin devnet launched in February 2019, to the fully-fledged lotus testnet in December 2019, to Calibration net and Space Race in August where we thoroughly stress-tested the network at scale. During this time, miners have submitted thousands of detailed issue reports, spent hours in slack and zoom chats debugging hard-to-reproduce issues, and submitted critical patches, features, and optimizations up-stream to benefit the entire mining community and ecosystem.

Miners have also become huge champions for each other and the network. Throughout Space Race, a number of community champions stepped up to help onboard new miners, answer common questions, and debug network issues. These miners are superstars, but it’s also in the best interest of all miners, as co-owners of the network, to help steward network value and maximize miner operational success. Programs like the FIP process, Bug Bounty program, and devgrants programs are common ways that miners have reinvested their expertise to continue improving Filecoin. Already, there is great engagement with the Filecoin Improvement Process (with 30+ comments on the recently released FIP-4 and new proposals coming out each week) and a growing community involved in security analysis and reporting on the newly launched security.filecoin.io website.

Filecoin is a whole new type of blockchain mining. Beyond maintaining the consensus and state updates of a public blockchain, Filecoin miners are also network storage service providers who will be rewarded for their long-term quality of service to network clients. The cryptoeconomics of Filecoin rewards reliable and useful storage - creating the incentives for a strong and collaborative mining community to keep improving Filecoin and onboarding more storage applications and use cases for many years to come.

Build

The network of developers, entrepreneurs and builders are the heartbeat of the Filecoin Ecosystem. The Filecoin ecosystem has over 90 meaningful collaborations across various applications, clients, developer tooling providers, infrastructure services and much much more. Over 250 new teams are entering the ecosystem through Filecoin Ignite to learn, build and launch applications on the network. The future of Filecoin and web3 are in the hands of these builders, and we’re very optimistic that the next wave of incredible applications and use cases will emerge from their creativity and hard work.

The momentum behind decentralized applications building on Filecoin stems from the thriving IPFS ecosystem. Decentralized applications building on IPFS + Ethereum have long awaited a solution for persistent storage, and Filecoin Liftoff Week bridges the community of IPFS, Ethereum and Filecoin builders in new and interesting ways. A recent collaboration between ConsenSys & Protocol Labs will further accelerate the bridges between these thriving communities.

Some of the exciting applications and use cases in the ecosystem already include:

  • Consumer storage applications including Slate and Fleek, which make it easy to store your files on IPFS & Filecoin
  • DeFi use cases including Filecoin Storage and the Filecoin DeFi Bridge, which help miners, clients and token holders interact with each other in more efficient ways
  • Decentralized video apps including File.Video and Voodify, both of which are building on Livepeer
  • Archival storage use cases including Filecoin Discover, Kiwix and the Internet Archive, which aim to preserve a host of culturally important and valuable datasets
  • And many others!

In addition, there is a host of infrastructure and tools to help developers build on Filecoin:

  • Textile’s Powergate, an API driven solution for deploying multitiered storage across Filecoin and IPFS
  • Truffle Preserve, which simplifies the process of preserving long-lived application data on IPFS and Filecoin
  • Infura’s Filecoin Network API, which allows developers to build robust Filecoin-based applications without having to sync their own node
  • Glif Wallet, a lightweight web interface to send and receive Filecoin via your Ledger device

Finally, there are hundreds of new teams entering the ecosystem from hackathons to accelerators, including:

  • HackFS, a month long hackathon run by ETHGlobal that produced over 130 new applications and teams building on Filecoin
  • Apollo, a mentorship program run by Gitcoin that mentored 50 teams through their initial MVPs on the Filecoin network
  • Filecoin Launchpad, an accelerator run by Tachyon that has 13 teams building serious companies and organizations on Filecoin
  • Filecoin Frontier, an accelerator run by LongHash in Singapore and Shanghai that is recruiting for a fresh group of teams that will be building applications on the network!

We truly believe the future of Web3 lies in the hands of these talented developers, entrepreneurs and builders, and we’re excited for the Filecoin community to support their efforts in transitioning Web3 towards mainstream adoption.

Store

Last, but not least, is the diverse community of Filecoin storage clients utilizing this decentralized storage network. Filecoin clients are storing some of humanity’s most important datasets on Filecoin, preserving this data – much of which would otherwise have been lost or too costly to keep – across a resilient and global storage network. Across several initiatives, programs, and partnerships, hundreds of individuals and organizations are now working to preserve important datasets on this new decentralized storage layer for the web.

Our society collectively generates 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every single day. This includes 294 billion emails, 64 billion WhatsApp messages, 500 million tweets, telemetry data, sensor data, and more… every day. While much of this data is preserved, analyzed, and otherwise used, more than 90% of the data we generate as a society is routinely discarded. This is just the beginning, but already, we are starting to see Filecoin become the storage layer for some of these extremely valuable datasets that might otherwise be lost to time. With the Filecoin Discover project, over the last several months, we have enabled access to 3PB of significant public access datasets with hundreds of miners on the Filecoin network. These datasets include Wikipedia, Google Landmarks, 1000Genomes, Arxiv.org, OpenNeuro, and more.

Through programs like Filecoin Slingshot, community members have stored 700+ terabytes of Creative Commons-licensed podcast and music archives, package manager registries, biodiversity datasets, astronomical data, and even more on the Filecoin network for long-term storage. Our community of storage clients has helped to create a healthy, efficient, and affordable marketplace for storage; to robustify our storage software and UX; and to identify and hone in on the core value propositions that are allowing Filecoin to fill storage users’ needs.

Filecoin storage clients and developers have also built several tools to make data storage and management on Filecoin as easy as possible, such as:

  • The Starling project, which is a storage product catered towards large data volumes storage clients who have a special interest in data provenance and Filecoin’s verifiable storage features.
  • Filecoin.tools, a tool to help storage clients and storage developers monitor the status of their storage on the Filecoin network.
  • Deal CSV export scripts to backup indices of data stored on Filecoin for record-keeping and retrieval purposes
  • Codefi Storage for tracking miner reputation and monthly storage price per GiB
  • And much more!

Ever since the beginning of this journey, we have been dreaming about solving important problems to ultimately create the foundation for humanity’s information going forward. The truly dedicated, resourceful, and inspired community of storage clients is helping us see this vision come to life. We are excited to continue working with you to build a new web together.

The Future of Filecoin

Mainnet Liftoff is a huge milestone for the Filecoin project - but it’s just the beginning. We stand in the doorway of a new era for the dweb - one where any application, smart contract, or NFT can store and access it’s own data in a decentralized storage layer without any middleman. Filecoin unlocks never-before-possible applications – like a decentralized machine learning database that can fund its storage costs by charging pay-per-use model training fees, or a decentralized social media platform where upvoted videos increase their replication and therefore playback speed. The next innovative applications in web3 will take advantage of the new foundations laid by Filecoin, IPFS, and libp2p to build applications and networks we can’t even imagine yet. ✨

We’re still in the early days, but the Filecoin ecosystem already has huge momentum - and we will see the payoffs compound as the projects building on Filecoin grow and the network gains new capabilities. Already, the flywheel of innovation is turning to improve the Filecoin protocol - with 5 FIPs (Filecoin Improvement Proposals) landing since network launch to upgrade the network. For example, the Filecoin Plus program (FIP-0003) is designed to create a strong incentive for all miners to search out the world’s most important datasets and onboard them onto the network - ensuring Filecoin is a valuable, high-growth network for useful storage.

These improvements are just the start to the growth and innovation backing the Filecoin network - with much more to come. The entire Filecoin community are now shared owners of the network and the value Filecoin creates for the world - so all miners, clients, developers, ecosystem partners, and token holders have a voice and responsibility to participate in the conversation. The future of Filecoin is really up to you.

When we started, our aim was to build a Library of Alexandria for humanity’s most precious knowledge that could never be burned. Thanks to the global community of storage miners, accessible network tooling, and passionate storage clients - we’re so much closer to achieving that vision, and bringing into existence myriad new use cases as well. If you want to be part of that journey, please contribute your ideas to the Filecoin Archives, a new project in collaboration with the Internet Archive to curate, preserve, and disseminate humanity’s most precious data on Filecoin. Together, we can ensure humanity’s most precious resource - our hard-won knowledge in every field from Science to History - is protected against disaster or attack, and able to benefit humanity for generations to come. 💪

Thank you to everyone - past, present, and future - who has contributed their talents, insights, hard work, and resources to making Filecoin’s mission to create a decentralized, efficient, and robust foundation for humanity’s information a reality. We’re grateful to continue building this network, ecosystem, and community alongside you.🛠

Filecoin is an open-source cloud storage marketplace, protocol, and incentive layer.
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