What is Arweave? Explain Like I’m Five

The Arweave Project
6 min readApr 26, 2018


“Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.”

The original vision for the internet was a platform to communicate freely. As the power of what we created was realised it became a place where people could be monitored, controlled, and censored.

Censorship will soon be a forgotten word.

To fight against the direction in which the internet has been taken we’ve created a truly tyranny- and censorship-free new data storage protocol on a blockchain-like structure called the blockweave. The blockweave is based on a novel proof of access consensus mechanism that makes truly permanent, low-cost data storage available for the first time.

Unlike other blockchains, we’ve created truly scalable infrastructure to be the backbone for the data economy, because we’re able to reach up to 5000 transactions per second (TPS), and store data at a fraction of the cost of Filecoin, Siacoin, and Storj.

The blockweave solves two fundamental problems currently associated with public decentralised blockchains:

● On-chain storage constraints; and

● Unsustainable consensus mechanisms

New protocols have had to be built on top of existing infrastructure because fees are too costly for storage on-chain. It’s like reapplying a bandage over, and over again instead of just letting the wound heal. This means there is always going to be a cost to access content, and that content is never stored permanently, and never will be. As the demand for data storage grows exponentially, the need for a decentralized low-cost data storage protocol that permanently stores that data is a necessity.

In this article we explain why it’s important that this problem be solved, for humanity, and for the blockchain ecosystem. More specifically, we explain how we solve these issues in an easy to understand way, because our novel technology has the potential to confuse people reading about it for the first time.

We’ll also touch on our unique token economic structure for miners that means we can guarantee uptime for data with lightning-fast delivery speeds, our beloved SAO (Semi-Autonomous Organisation), as well as examples of unique real world use cases that are currently being built out by our partners, and people like yourself.

So, Why Now?

“With the development of television, and the technical advance which made it possible to receive and transmit simultaneously on the same instrument, private life came to an end. Every citizen, or at least every citizen important enough to be worth watching, could be kept for twenty-four hours a day under the eyes of the police.”

Last year, $20bn was spent on new data centers alone, nearly double what was spent in 2016… and it’s not slowing down anytime soon.

Throughout technological shifts in history, humans are exponentially creating and storing enormous amounts of data. We started with floppy discs, graduated to CDs, and have now progressed all the way to semiconductor chips capable of storing data in thousands of tiny transistors.

Now just imagine what happens when the next wave of technology comes online and we’re producing data at an exponentially increasing rate.

Growing size of the global data economy

As seen above we’re going to be creating 160 zettabytes’ worth of data by 2025.

We’re in a time where we can’t currently keep up with the amount of data being produced and stored in a cost-efficient manner.

With the movement towards decentralisation in full swing, in which a network of peers self-organize to act collectively without large concentrated power centres is rapidly occurring that we’re excited to be a part of. We have been finally able to create a truly public, open, borderless, decentralised, new form of blockchain that will allow anyone to create for our collective future.

We’ve Solved This with the Blockweave

The blockweave is a blockchain-like structure designed to enable scalable on-chain storage in a cost efficient manner for the first time. As the amount of data stored in the system increases, the amount of hashing needed for consensus decreases, thus reducing the cost to store data. When compared to the number of miners currently on SiaCoin, Arweave would be able to increase TPS many fold, and lower the long-term cost of storage dramatically.

Proof of Access

We realised that current consensus mechanisms (like Bitcoin’s) were unsustainable with their ridiculous energy usage just to keep the system alive. We then came to the further realisation that you could produce a positive externality instead of a negative one to form consensus.

Proof of access is a novel consensus mechanism that produces a positive externality of data storage. Instead of competing to burn as much electricity as possible, miners compete to provide as many replications of the data held in the system as they can. Further, as the blockweave expands in size, the amount of electricity expended in the mining process decreases.


Wildfire is the Arweave’s self-organising network topology system. Wildfire ensures that miners are selfishly incentivised to store and share data as quickly as possible with other miners in the network, in order to build a positive reputation.

While more complex under the hood, Wildfire can be summarised as: ‘if you share with me, I will share with you’. As nodes in blockweave networks require fast access to data in order to mine efficiently, they are selfishly-incentivised to give data to other members of the network promptly and continuously, autonomously improving the sharing to lightning-fast speeds.


In order to support a network that allows for long-term on-chain data storage, the Arweave needs a system that supports unlimited sized blocks. The Arweave achieves this by using a system that decouples transaction distribution from that of block distribution in the network. This allows only a ‘shadow’ of the block to be moved around the system (the instructions necessary to rebuild the block from its constituent transactions), rather than full block itself. This means that the information required to process large blocks can be distributed across the network in just a few kilobytes

Use Cases and Apps

In broad terms, Arweave is the killer decentralised blockchain whenever large amounts of data need to be stored, because of the unique proof of access consensus mechanism.

By thinking about some core applications that are currently being built, and those that are soon-to-be built, we can run through:

  1. Decentralised data storage:

Now personal and corporate files can be stored for one single fee, instead of the monthly ongoing costs associated with other storage protocols, making the data immutable, verifiable, and truly censorship-resistant. Depending on the lifetime of storage, the price for the AR tokens can be cheaper than monthly fees for competitors such as Filecoin or AWS. In addition, the blockweave further ensures the availability of data near instantly by its design, with 100% guaranteed uptime through the incentive mechanisms for miners.

2. Decentralized data sharing:

With Arweave, any content can be uploaded anonymously and shared to anybody. Imagine a peer-to-peer torrent network where there is always at least 1 seeder, no matter what. As opposed to derivative applications such as Filecoin or Sia, Arweave’s protocol design has an embedded mathematical pricing function, load-balancing demand and supply at fair prices. Any file can now be published anonymously to the world, and stored forever without powerful third parties able to take them down.

3. Decentralized data collaboration:

The archaic academic publishing market is currently at $25bn per year, with the market leader Elsevier having higher profits margins than Apple.

Approximately 80% of research papers are non-replicable, due to (among other factors) an unclear connection with the dependent historical research papers, and a lack of availability of previous experimental datasets. Arweave enables the initiation of an immutable decentralized database, opening data to anybody wishing to review and challenge its quality. Cooperation of scientists becomes borderless even for highly regulated data. Every research project can be rewarded by its true impact factor. Arweave has already built a partnership with staff from Charité (the largest university hospital in Germany) to develop a revolutionary new scientific journal.

4. Decentralized data Identity/Protection:

Today, valuable content is created online. While the future of content creation is clearly decentralised, proof of its origin, ownership, and its impact is still centralised by regulators and lawyers. With Arweave, every piece of content can be captured with a timestamp and archived in the blockweave providing a clear (and defensible) claim of IP and/or ownership.

If you would like to stay up to date with all the latest Arweave developments, you can find us in the following places: Telegram, Twitter, Facebook, Discord, and Reddit.

As always, if you have any questions you can drop us an email at team@arweave.org.




The Arweave Project

A novel data storage blockchain protocol enabling a permanent serverless web and creating truly permanent data storage for the first time.