The relentless coding of the last few months, guided by the Book of Swarm has culminated on the 29th of June when we’ve proudly released the alpha version of Swarm’s new Bee client with docs. We marked this long-awaited milestone with the launch of a new Swarm network at the Swarm Alpha online event that featured some of the best minds in the Ethereum and wider blockchain space.
In the event we showcased how easy it is to run your own Bee node and become part of the Swarm ecosystem in various ways (even easier if you run it on Dappnode ;)). We also presented how to start using our client as well as how to build unstoppable dapps for web3 on Swarm. Swarm nodes form a decentralized network that acts as cloud storage service. The alpha launch is the first step on our roadmap to bring this to mainnet release: it realises Distributed Immutable Store for Chunks (DISC), Swarm’s private and permissionless storage model, the foundation of true digital sovereignty.
We’re grateful to everyone that showed up and soon (when the gas price madness cools down), we’ll be sending you limited Swarm NFT’s marking this special occasion.
A lot has been presented at the event, this is just a quick summary. For the curious, we recommend checking out the recording of the event with a listing of all the talks.
Building a new world
“We’re building a new world where the individual is at the centre. For the first time we can offer people decentralized applications that have the potential to change how people act and interact with each other.”
If you ever wondered why you should develop software for sovereignty, why the time is now and what it takes, Jordi’s talk will inspire you and provide guidelines. Recommended, even if you don’t use Swarm.
From dev team to organization or how Swarm is graduating from Ethereum Foundation
Next on stage was Gregor (video here) who touched upon how Swarm is graduating from Ethereum Foundation (EF). Gregor briefly explained how this has been coordinated for a while with EF and “Beauty in subtraction” has been part of EF’s strategy (see here). This is also very much aligned with Swarm’s organizational strategy and Swarm hopes to be another successful graduation example, just like ENS (see here).
As the Ethereum ecosystem grew while EF focused more on ETH2 (and less on the Holy Trinity of web3), Swarm’s scope also became more ambitious: to complete the vision of the World Computer by providing base layer storage and communication infrastructure. Swarm’s promise to act as a comprehensive backend stack for web3 can be seen as the “narrow waist” of fair data economy. Gregor briefly skimmed through the path the Swarm team has taken over the past months and the organizational changes that streamlined the team’s work while growing from a dev team to its own autonomous organization.
“Unstoppable apps need unstoppable organizations that are capable of addressing the everyday challenges of running a project. Moreover, Swarm is not a company, rather a project running on collaboration, and as such it should be DAO-friendly. Because of that, we strive to be organised like a swarm and have a sort of a developer’s approach to the organization, iterating on the processes and improving them, creating a scalable organization”.
Earlier this year, Swarm Association was established in Neuchatel, Switzerland, and Swarm Foundation is in the process of being created. Watch this space for more updates on this topic.
Laying the groundwork for the new World Computer
Leaving the introductory part behind, it was time to dig deep into the bowels of what Swarm is. Viktor Tron (video here), Swarm lead and spiritual father of Swarm was talking about why we aspire to complete the paradigm shift that started with Bitcoin and evolved through Ethereum. As he pointed out, although it seems the internet of today is decentralized it is becoming more and more “platformized” with services such as Facebook and Twitter.
Much, like a city’s running water system or electricity grid contributes to the entire economy, building resilient core infrastructure that is decentralized, incentivized and secure has the ultimate potential to unleash the long awaited dapp explosion everyone dreamt of when Ethereum was launched — explained Viktor about the vision. Exciting times ahead, indeed.
Letting the developers in
Viktor’s talk was the cue for Rinke and Janoš to show everyone what we’ve been working on in the past months — DiSC (video here). DiSC (short for Distributed Immutable Store for Chunks) is the base for all the higher-level applications powering and running on Swarm.
Rinke reported on the reformed dev team’s new accomplishment releasing the Bee client, designed to be lean and modular in the spirit of fostering ecosystem collaboration “The idea [with Bee] was to enable developers to communicate with lower levels of the client through a simple API,” Janoš added.
Release the Bees!
And then finally, the moment of truth arrived.
After Črt Ahlin gave a quick overview of the Bee client documentation it was time to let the “Bees into the wild”. Svetomir fired up the new Swarm node, making it available to the public. This marks the beginning of the redesigned public network that with the addition of incentives and layered solutions to enable the impressive feature set of our testnet will bring us towards mainnet release by the end of the year. In other words, this is the real deal. ;)
After the “Bees were released”, Santiago walked us through the steps of starting up an individual node and how to connect it to the network. He also demonstrated how uploading and downloading a simple picture file to a node works, by posting the now infamous profile picture of a Goldie. Although this looked like a simple task, Rinke pointed out: “A lot of moving parts had to be synchronized in the back to make it work.” Check the code and the Book.
The BZZ token
As the evening rolled on, Daniel took the stage (video here) and presented news around the long anticipated BZZ (“Buzz”) token. The first question Dani addressed was “Why does Swarm need its own token?”.
First, Swarm became an autonomous project within the Ethereum ecosystem also marked by graduation from EF (see above). Secondly, the Ethereum VM has been widely adopted and the wider blockchain ecosystem has several EVM compatible chains, each having data needs. Data interoperability across these is a vital part of the Swarm vision.
Beside reduced exposure to ETH volatility and the clear need for a platform token to facilitate interoperability across EVM-compatible blockchains, explained Daniel, BZZ will allow the project to stand on its own legs as well as help bootstrap its own ecosystem.
The BZZ token being the fuel for the incentive system will help coordinate the allocation of bandwidth and storage resources on the network. Staked as security deposit it offers providers of long-term storage to signal commitment by standing to lose it when successfully challenged on data loss. When used to pay for services, it acts as the medium of exchange between the users and providers, Dani added.
For those considering BZZ, it will first be generated through the first token issuing and offered to outside buyers. Later it will be only available against hard deposits of DAI. The details will be communicated once all legal requirements are fulfilled.
Blockchain panel with EF, IOV Labs and ETC Labs
Concluding his talk, Daniel was joined by Taylor Gerring, Josef Jelasic (Ethereum Foundation), Gabriel Kurman (IOV Labs) and Terry Culver (ETC Labs). Here, to provide also more context, it is important to note that while EF has been supporting Swarm since the beginning, funds for development were not sufficient in the past 2 years and without the support from IOV Labs and ETC Labs (and many more!), Swarm wouldn’t make it so far, to say the least.
The panelists all gave a quick insight into why they use Swarm (video here) and the reasons were aligned with the values Swarm represents: self-sovereignty, decentralization, interoperability, censorship-resistance, wide community support and collaboration. Moreover, it showed why Swarm is in a special position, connecting the Ethereum ecosystem through a joint data layer. We thank all the panelists and are looking forward to growing together. We are all Swarm.
The end was approaching fast and we still had some exciting real-world projects that are already benefiting from Swarm’s technology (video here). Dan Nickless showed us Fairdrop, a decentralized and completely private file-sharing dapp that can serve as a data wallet (decentralized “wetransfer.com”). A data wallet is the most essential app for individuals using a decentralized storage network; essentially, if you want to store private and encrypted data on Swarm you need a wallet (even if this is just a private key). Moreover, developing a data wallet as an ecosystem effort paves the way for interoperability between dapps. Individuals can store and share their data with whatever dapp they choose while dapp devs don’t need to worry how to handle user data in a private and secure way, giving data to the users (of course!). This, combined with no hosting costs for developers, enables a new (d)app development paradigm about which we’ll speak more in the future.
A data wallet is perfect for a dapp like Swarm City’s Instaswarm, which Kiki showed us next. Offering private feeds, supporting content monetization via donation or rewards for looking at sponsored ads, it lays the groundwork to evolve into a p2p marketplace. Kiki demoed account recovery with regained access to your profile stored on — yes, you guessed it right — Swarm.
But the project we became enamoured with is Vizyon. Pierre demonstrated something with literal life-saving consequences. Vizyon shares radiological data and AI capabilities with health institutions across the world, especially those in developing nations. The best thing about it is that doctors across five continents can access that precious data regardless of the platform they use. And Swarm’s robust encryption gives much more security and privacy to the sensitive patient data. Swarm allows them to move gigabytes of data daily, helping over 1,500 patients monthly and getting them results within an hour! This is by no means a proof-of-concept but a network running in production, moving GBs of data daily over Swarm! Really, how cool is that? :)
Attila was the last in line for practical demonstrations showing the Swapchat app which can create an encrypted communication channel between two parties. But the real kicker was their approach to creating a social network called Niche, This enables individuals to send each other links that create a secure connection among them and can this way establish their own private social networks.
To wrap up the ecosystem panel, first exploratory and experimental Swarm grants have been introduced. If you want to start building on Swarm, apply here: Swarm grants (call is open until the end of July).
And so the evening ends and Bee’s story starts…
The final leg of the evening was up. As the last speaker, Gregor reminded the viewers that Swarm is a “narrow waist” of a fair data economy (video here; more on this in a separate blog post). And because of its design, it has the potential to set off an explosion of completely different apps and socio-digital ecosystems.
Zero-cost hosting is another aspect that Swarm promotes, Gregor noted. It is a model where the cost of hosting is supported by the user, not the host. This leads to collaborative monetization models where developers of successful apps don’t have to resort to predatory monetization schemes but are rather supported by the people using their work.
The Swarm Alpha event was concluded by team AMA (video here), here are some highlights:
1. Will Swarm be able to scale?
Rinke: The answer is yes, otherwise we would not be doing this. All of this is meant to support massive use cases.
2. When will we see the actual incentivisation implemented in the Swarm client?
Rinke: Incentives are planned with the Swarm Beta release.
3. How much does it cost to store 1 KB, how the cost rises with size, and what is the minimal persistence of files?
Daniel: If you want to store it for longer it will be more expensive. We expect, but it is mere speculation, that the price will be comparable to ordinarily used centralised solutions. How it will evolve depends on what price is put on censorship-resistant storage and how fierce the competition will be. In short, if what you’re storing is popular, it will cost you nothing. On the other extreme is information that you’ll never need, like your computer backup, and that will be the most expensive information.
4. How Fair Data Society connects to Swarm?
Gregor: FDS is an independent initiative, which strives to become a self-sovereign data commons. It’s been collaborating with and supporting Swarm from the start and will continue to do as much as it can, helping Swarm team to focus on the essence i.e. deep tech and client development. Moreover, Fair Data Society presents the layer between the tech and social by facilitating dialogue around ethics and addressing shared problems of the ecosystem participants..
5. Difference between Swarm, Storj, Filecoin etc.?
They are in a certain way similar, but for example, IPFS and Swarm have a very different architecture. Swarm Is a genuinely a network of nodes to which you can upload files even if you don’t host yourself.
Swarm provides censorship resistance and this basically translates to anonymous browsing
Gregor: If we look from the perspective of just a peer-to-peer data sharing, they are similar, in the same way as different blockchains are similar to many people. However, the architecture differs very much and we’ll see differences emerging once we move beyond simple storage into communication and decentralized service networks.
In short, we believe that Swarm gives developers the biggest freedom in developing unstoppable apps that need more data than blockchain can accommodate.
Join our community
- The Swarm team is reachable on Discord. All tech-support and other channels moved there. Please join us on Discord!Follow us on Twitter.
- Discussions about Swarm on /r/ethswarm and /r/ethereum subreddits.
- Please feel free to reach out via firstname.lastname@example.org
- Swarm up your inbox with our monthly newsletter! Subscribe here.