We generate over 6 quintillion bytes of data every day. That data includes 300 billion emails, 500 million tweets, and 64 billion WhatsApp messages. 90% of the world's data has been created in the last 2 years alone, which is more data than what was created in the entire history of the human race. Yet it's estimated that over 60% of digital data — scientific research, human knowledge, and artworks — is lost just a year after creation.
With non-fungible tokens (NFTs) paving the way for a new digital economy — one that allows for creators to receive the lion's share — how do we ensure that they are reliably stored for generations to come?
Anyone can buy a Dalí print. But only one person can own the original. And traditionally the representation of ownership is through a recognized proof-of-authenticity certificate. An NFT is simply a digital representation of ownership and authenticity of an asset — a piece of digital art, for example. But unlike it's physical counterpart, an NFT is stored using blockchain technology which brings two major advantages: immutability (meaning it can't be changed) and decentralization (meaning it's not controlled by any one entity). NFTs also serve as a creative relationship and conduit between the artist and collector; an explicit expression of trust.
But there's a problem. Technical limitations mean that the media itself — the actual thing of value — cannot be stored alongside the token on the blockchain. It has to be stored elsewhere on the Internet and linked to through the NFT's "metadata".
Take your iPhone as an example. It has a limited storage capacity. If you take too many photos then it will automatically upload your old ones to iCloud to make room for new ones. Using metadata, a link is created between your phone and iCloud so you can still view your old photos. But if — however unlikely — Apple went out of business tomorrow then your old photos would probably disappear from your phone and be lost forever.
The same problem exists for most NFTs created today. And we believe that current platforms and the NFT industry as a whole are not doing enough to address this issue. We must do better.
OpenSea — the largest NFT marketplace — trades almost $90m in volume in any given 30 day period. NFTs created through the OpenSea platform store their metadata on their own servers and the media itself across Google's servers. If OpenSea ceased operating today then your NFT — or more accurately the artwork it represents — disappears forever. Or if OpenSea decide that an artist is breaking their Terms of Service then the media can be deleted from their servers — leaving you as a buyer with a "token" stored on the blockchain that points to a dead link.
Using another example, Beeple's CROSSROAD sold in February of this year for a-then-record-breaking $6.6m and at the time suffered the same fate as OpenSea NFTs. But recently Nifty Gateway have been moving their centralized media to a technology called IPFS (which is better but more on this later). Ultimately this still requires Nifty Gateway to continue operating as a business for the art to stay online. That's a very expensive 404 page in a few years to come.
So how do we ensure the preservation of digital art from the likes of Beeple and Pak — the Andre Bretons and Donald Judds of the 21st century — for future generations to come? When the mania settles, how can we guarantee that NFTs created today will be around in 1 year, 10 years, or even 1,000 years from now?
Building a permanence-first platform
Storing a physical piece of art is relatively straightforward — you lock it away and it will be fairly unscathed 100 years later. But with the staggering evolution and promise of technology the storing and the permanence of digital art is a much harder problem to solve. The Internet has only existed for the past 30 years. Will it exist in another 30?
Building highly scalable, sustainable, redundant, and trustless decentralized systems — independent of any one platform — is key.
That's why we're building Purate. For creators who truly care about the permanence of their work and who are not expected to learn about the intricacies of blockchain technologies, smart contracts, or the pros and cons of different file storage systems. It should "just work" and a place where their work comes with assurances that it will be accessible — and thus hold its value — for years to come. To imagine that one day millions of people might enjoy their NFT featured in a digital version of the Louvre.
For decades, centuries, and millennia.
Purate will store all digital media across three separate layers using a multitude of technologies and multiple redundant providers. Cryptographic hashes at each layer that identifies — and authenticates — media will be stored on-chain as part of the NFT itself.
This enables us to guarantee the preservation of all works created through the Purate platform for up to 1,000 years. No, that isn't a typo. Creators are free to create without worrying about the permanence of their work. And collectors not worrying about their NFTs turning in to 404 pages.
Here's how (slight warning: we get a little bit technical here).
- Hot storage. Digital media minted on the Purate platform will be stored across multiple Content Delivery Network (CDN) providers (e.g., Amazon and Google), a geographically distributed web of servers. This is considered the traditional centralized approach as it relies on Purate paying the bills to keep the providers online. But it does allow for the media to be accessible in an instant. This is an important and often overlooked aspect when building a media-heavy platform as slow loading times result in a poor user experience. This frustrates users and ultimately affects the creators ability to sell their art, detracting from their work. How many times have you closed down a YouTube video because it takes too long to load or starts buffering?
Warm storage. In addition, all media will be stored using a technology called InterPlanetary File System (IPFS). IPFS is similar to blockchain technologies in that it is decentralized, trustless, and immutable. But it's not without its limitations. Media is generally slower to access vs CDN providers. And for IPFS media to remain accessible, "nodes" within the system have to want to host it which ultimately costs the node operators money in terms of data storage and the raw energy used for computing power. This is why the Ethereum network has gas fees — to incentivize nodes within the network to process transactions and to cover their raw energy costs. So to ensure media on IPFS remains accessible, one would have to run their own IPFS node at their own expense or pay for a third-party provider to do so. This presents the same problem as using a CDN provider.
And so we must look to incentivized decentralization systems. That's why Purate are partnering with Filecoin and Arweave to bring true blockchain-backed permanent storage. By paying upfront for perpetual storage and backed with smart contracts, Purate can guarantee your media is kept instantly accessible for at least 10 years.
- Cold storage. In the case of global catastrophe, we could lose everything stored on modern media in a single generation. That's why the we're archiving the first 1,000 digital works created through the Purate platform to hardened film designed to last for 1,000 years and stored in a decommissioned coal mine deep beneath the Arctic mountains of Norway. Your work will join the likes of some of the world's most influential creators of our time, manuscripts from the Vatican Library, political histories, masterpieces from Rembrandt and Munch, scientific breakthroughs, and contemporary cultural treasures.
It's time to build a permanence-first platform for the creative collective who truly care about the future of their work and the community as a whole.. We will release further details and share more exciting announcements over the coming weeks and months. Come chat to us on Discord.