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Cubbit launches a decentralized peer-to-peer cloud storage service

The internet was originally innovated to offer humans a decentralized network for computer based communications that is independent of any central entity’s control of data flow. The world wide web was not originally developed to rely on enormous server farms, cloud lock-ins, and high speed networks, as it has evolved to be today. However, it was inspired by concepts of peer-to-peer digital interaction and sharing.

One of the world wide web’s proposals written in 1989 by Tim Berners Lee to CERN describes linked digital information systems as an enormous network of independent nodes:

The storage approach should not place its own constraints on the information itself. As such, a “web”, or a network of notes that includes links connecting them is much more useful than a static hierarchical system. When a complex system is being described, most people depend on diagrams involving arrows and circles. Arrows and circles render one capable of describing the interrelationships between different components in a manner that cannot be accomplished, for example, by a table. The system we are seeking resembles a diagram with arrows and circles. These arrows and circles can represent almost anything.

Cloud computing represented an enormous disruption to the world wide web, as it developed a novel approach where data is not stored locally on hard drives, but remotely on central servers administrated by big corporations. Most of today’s cloud service providers are based on this concept or a variant of it depending on their focus and size. Usually, they have full control over their central servers, which store their customers’ data. Even though most cloud service providers implement various encryption algorithms to secure customers’ data and claim zero-knowledge, in fact, the implemented encryption algorithms are not focused on protection against employee access or the company’s potential eavesdropping, but rather on securing customers’ data against external cyber attacks.

The labyrinth represents the culprit, which is the machine that runs the world wide web,” as described by Andrea Rovai in his article titled “The Internet is Broken“. What he describes as labyrinth that lacks a minotaur represents a modern farm of data servers:

The machine is definitely the root of the problem, the Moloch is the machine to which we present our data as a form of sacrifice – the tentacular, enormous, all knowing farm of data servers which is the basic infrastructure on top of which everything else is built. With absence of the machine, i.e. the server farm, Facebook, Google, and other similar networks, would not be able to mine the priceless treasure of mankind’s private data. They definitely are not the machine, but temporary faces masking the faceless machine.”

Nevertheless, a promising startup is presently running a Kickstarter’s campaign aiming at transforming all of the internet’s centralized control via its anticipated distributed cloud storage platform, which is similar to the Storj project. This startup, named Cubbit, aims at developing a decentralized, zero-knowledge, peer-to-peer cloud storage network that will be free to use by anyone, anywhere in the world, to store up to 500 GB of data.

As stated on Cubbit’s official website, a user will be able to establish a connection between their router and a Cubbit cell and automatically receive 512 GB of cloud storage space for free. Each Cubbit cell can be further expanded to store up to 4 Terrabytes of data. Also, a user will be allowed to have four independent accounts that can be shared with friends.

Cybersecurity and privacy are two important issues that deserve examination if the project is to run a successful Kickstarter campaign. The ultimate goal is to encrypt every stored file and then split it to chunks that can be distributed over a network of peers. Owners of the accounts will be the only ones possessing the keys for decrypting the stored data.

Cubbit is designed to be a “green technology” that aims at reducing carbon emission. This is because Cubbit does not rely on a server farm, but on a distributed peer-to-peer framework. This cuts carbon emission and protects the environment.

Another interesting feature of Cubbit is the ability to share and sync your stored files across a myriad of devices, which is an option that has been named “swarm intelligence”. This feature is based on AI and machine learning.

According to Cubbit’s official website, its infrastructure will run on distributed computing as well as AI:

The heavy load, namely storing data and transferring files, will be accomplished via a peer-to-peer network of Cubbit Cells, which are single board devices that collectively comprise what we refer to as ‘the swarm’. Presently, a coordinator server takes care of metadata, authorizations, and deploys machine learning and optimization algorithms in order to optimize the network. Due to distribution of work load, our hybrid model has a maintenance cost that is around 1/10,000 of that of conventional data servers.

Oppositely to the Tor browser, which also relies on a peer-to-peer network of nodes, Cubbit is not associated with any slowdowns. Even though the upload process on Cubbit’s network seems complex, it is invisible to the final user. Initiation and authorization of connections to hosting peers are handled via the coordinator server in fractions of a second. Once peer-to-peer connections are established, Cubbit makes use of parallel transfers to guarantee optimum download and upload speeds, which are similar or even higher than those of centralized data centers.

The company was founded in 2016, and from the very beginning, its motto was to establish an encrypted, green, forever free cloud storage platform for anyone, anywhere in the world. The platform will be based out of multiple countries, which aligns with its peer-to-peer global swarm goals, including Israel and Italy.

According to the project’s Kickstarter campaign page, to date, Cubbit has 995 backers who have pledged a total of $238,000. The company has already exceeded its soft cap of $57,479. The network is already operating in beta mode that involves more than 10 different countries all over the world.

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