Storj Head Dev Shawn Wilkinson Hosts Q&A

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Storj hangoutThe founder and head developer of Storj, Shawn Wilkinson, is one of those admirable individuals leading the charge of decentralization with their chosen battlecry – “decentralize everything!” He is on a mission to provide cheaper, more secure, peer-to-peer decentralized cloud storage to the masses. He hosted a Google Hangout/IRC Q&A session Wednesday where interested parties got a glimpse of the current state of Storj development along with what we should expect for the future.

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You can read more about the MIT licensed open source Storj project here, but in a few sentences, Storj provides a secure way to sell your unused hard drive space to someone who wants to store their files in a decentralized manner. The project claims it will lower the cost of cloud storage by 10-100x by “paying incentives to storage providers in the form of a ‘blockchain-based dual purpose token’ that would also store information about file integrity and storage locations.”

Data is first automatically encrypted and hashed client-side, then implemented on multiple blockchains, rendering the system safe from security breaches that traditional cloud storage is notorious for. Redundancy is key, and there will be at least three copies of each file stored across the network.

“The idea is that you have a file, and you take that metadata, encrypt it and split it into chunks through the network, and you take that metadata and store it on the blockchain so all the other applications can access that file if they have the relevant data and keys,” said Wilkinson, adding that users have complete control over being able to delete files from their hard drives.

No central point of failure, no insecure data floating around in the cloud, and no trusting third parties. Sounds great, right?

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So what was the Q&A all about?

Wilkinson started it out by stressing the importance of community involvement, saying that the development team not only values the opinion of their supporters, but routinely asks the community what specifics they want to see implemented.

“We like to see what the users want and adjust our model and what were building and our interfaces towards that because that’s who we are building this stuff for. We’re building for ourselves we use it internally, but its really for the users, so you have to make sure you listen to them. We’ve done that multiple time sin the past, where all the really big important decisions were the community’s choice, not my choice or team members choice. Here are a bunch of options we have laid out here, pick one.”

Wilkinson encouraged anyone who wants to help out to do so – whether that’s on the back end development or on building add-on applications with the open source code.

He then provided some interesting use case examples, like providing Storj space to the data heavy genome sequencing and video production industries who have reached out to Storj for alternative solutions to their current data storage options. What currently costs $1500 in cloud storage on Amazon will cost about $150 on Storj network.

“We will really be able to write a pretty a neat use case out of Storj, and we will be able to make sure the first people in the network have their storage space bought up simply because the demand will be so high.”

Performance on the Storj network is based on the number of peers that have that file and the connection speed of a particular peer. “Compare Dropbox and any peer-to-peer network. At scale, peer-to-peer networks will blow any centralized service out of the water. My goal is maximum throughput, so fast that your internet connection is the bottleneck not the network because at the base we have rewarded transfer,” Wilkinson told Bitcoin Magazine.

Wilkinson also mentioned that they have their Metadisk API out now with some bounties available — which they also just released a white paper for, they will eventually be pursuing full HIPAA compliance, and software demos will soon be performed. And a comprehensive white paper will be released soon that really dives into the technical detail of the overall Storj protocol.

There’s no mining on the Storj network – just unused hard drive space that’s sold or bought with Storjcoin X (SJCX), which has a value set entirely by the market and users.

Pretty much everyone, regardless of computational power, will be able to sell hard drive space. “The algorithm is fairly simple in terms of its load capacity – just doing a few disk checks and hashing them together. So you could probably run this off a Raspberry Pi connected to a hard drive. Not like Bitcoin mining where you need computational power.”

What’s interesting about SJCX is that, because the coin is continually being used to store data, and being paid per check in, the coin is constantly being used in the network, which gives it some intrinsic value that doesn’t happen with a lot of other coins.

To get yourself some Storjcoin X, you have to either buy it, or sell hard drive space. Storj is currently wrapping up a crowd sale, and Wilkinson stressed how much of an advantage crowd sale participants would have.

In addition to having early access to SJCX and the Storj software, Wilkinson said the following of early adopters:

“If you participate in the crowd sale you’re going to get a decent majority of the coins there, and those are the only people who are going to be able to earn from the early hard drive farming. So there is a huge advantage in the people who participate early, the people who are coming in late are going to have to wait until the network is more stable and we are finished and everyone is happy in the process.”

“It’s almost like a Kickstarter model where you are getting a reward for contributing to the software. Later on when this network is scaled out, then yes, it will be open to the general population.”

At the end of the crowd sale, Wilkinson said they plan to create all the coins that need to be created, so there’s a cap of 500 million, and then lock the asset so no more coins can be created ever by Storj or anyone else.

Wilkinson said the team currently has 2/3 of the libraries they need to make it run. “So we’ve been doing a lot of work on a library called upstream which transfers the data between the network and the person who stores the file. We already have the verification algorithm in place.”

After this weekend’s Cryptolina event (where Wilkinson is presenting), he says it will probably be a couple of “sit down days” before he can have a DriveShare beta released for the initial users to play with, which is the client that allows users to buy and sell their hard drive space.

“It’s worth noting that we are doing this very incrementally, and are building features one at a time.”

The team already has their beta version of Metadisk web-based file-sharing protocol available for public testing, which will eventually allow people to interface with the Storj network without having to download any software.

Once Storj is released, Wilkinson says that all you have to do is “download the DriveShare application and paste in your [SJCX] address and hit go. You decide how much space you want to sell and the app takes it from there and does all the checks and verifications. And you’ll have encrypted bits of files laying on your hard drive.”

Wilkinson also said that while they are holding off on using Ethereum for SJCX until its devs release production level networks, it’s something that Storj will experiment with at some point, as it could be very useful on the back end of Storj in terms of payments.

“We are looking for integration with multiple platforms Counterparty, MasterCoin, Ethereum, MaidSafe,” and he’s hoping that the open source nature of the Storj code will encourage developers to customize their own applications for specific use cases.

He left CCN with this hopeful message of the future:

“One unique thing about Storj is that were building everything one application at a time. So we are starting with Metadisk – the file storage and sharing application, and then we’re building out DriveShare next, which is the portion that use to sell your hard drive space to the network. And essentially we are just building them out as applications that are inherently customizable. So you could take Metadisk and change the colors and change it from English to Russian and change the interface around to fit a different graphic or to fit a different use case so that instead of storing files it strictly used for storing images. You’re going to have hundreds or thousands of applications running on the Storj platform or using Metadisk code, but they won’t be called Metadisk or Storj – it will just have a little notification at the bottom saying this is powered by Storj.”

Featured image courtesy of blog.storj.io

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