When I talk about decentralized data storage, my audience inevitably thinks of the BlockChain, and that’s why I want to talk about it here.
The BlockChain is a technology that allows a register to be stored in a decentralised manner and which is very difficult to tamper with. These characteristics are interesting when one seeks to do without a trusted third party for securing records.
In particular, it becomes possible to keep accounts on which a whole monetary system can be built: each entry debits one account and credits another. Cryptomonnaies were the first applications of the BlockChain.
But this technology has a number of drawbacks (which PeerStorage of course tries to avoid). Some points are more or less corrected by “new generation” BlockChains, but their use remains quite marginal.
1. Digital pollution
Data accumulates indefinitely in a BlockChain. That’ s what it’ s made for: to keep everything, forever. Even if it becomes useless. This build-up of data is a form of digital pollution, and when we talk about eternity, we must understand that one day it will become overwhelming.
For the record in the 18th century, the steam engine was enthusiastically received as it enabled innovations, increased yields and accelerated travel. Nobody was concerned about coal depletion, let alone CO2 emissions into the atmosphere.
From this point of view, PeerStorage is to BlockChain what solar energy is to coal: a form of renewable storage. Unfortunately, history has shown that too often short-term profit considerations override long-term concerns. And we have to admit that the BlockChain also allows a certain number of innovations.
2. Energy consumption
Trust in the BlockChain stems from the fact that a large number of so-called “miners” (here!) maintain the same common history. It can only be forged if a majority of minors collude to rewrite an alternate past. In order to avoid this collusion, each miner must carry a cost, and the most widespread solution is to make him carry an energy cost: in practice performing cryptographic calculations whose only purpose is precisely to burn energy. For this effort, all miners receive as reward an amount in cryptocurrency to be shared among all of them. As long as this cryptocurrency dividend covers the energy cost, there will be more and more miners, and therefore more and more energy consumed.
An order of magnitude: to date, the electricity consumption dedicated just to BitCoin mining is on the order of that of Luxembourg.
Another consequence of energy consumption and of miners’ need for profitability is that mining capacities are concentrated where the cost of electricity is lowest. However, these concentrations pose a real threat insofar as minors come to know each other and the risk of collusion becomes very real. However, even if collusion and thus forgery become possible, miners have an interest in the cryptocurrency they maintain (and which they are paid into) keeping a high price, and that price depends precisely on trust. So let’s say if they were cheating, that would have to be subtle enough to go unnoticed.