📰NewsProtocol Labs has open sourced the code behind Filecoin, which is still under heavy development. You may remember Filecoin as one of the highest profile ICOs of 2017. This was for good reason. The Protocol Labs team is also behind the IPFS network, a successful decentralized filesystem that is widely used by blockchain projects. What IPFS lacks, though, is an incentive mechanism to ensure data availability. Filecoin aims to solve this, and open sourcing the code demonstrates a big step towards making that a reality. Link.
In addition to the code, the team also published a brief guide to what's available and how users can contribute to the network, such as running node software on the "devnet" -- an experimental version of the network considered even less stable than a testnet. Another noteworthy way to contribute is to participate in the "Replication Game", a competition where players score higher by optimizing, or finding a flaw in, the network's unique Proofs-of-Replication (PoReps) algorithm. PoReps are used to ensure miners are actually storing the data Filecoin users are paying them to, and are critical to the functioning of the network. Link.
Filecoin raised over $257 Million at the height of the 2017 ICO frenzy. In the midst of that mania, it was easy for many to believe the experienced team behind IPFS could ship what they were promising, and most probably expected they'd do so sooner rather than later. Almost 2 years later, the market is in a much different place, and it would be easy to be cynical about "how long" it's taken to get to this point, with much work still left to do.
Having some idea of how challenging the problems they're working on are, I have a different perspective. To me, it's not surprising it's taken many months to get to this point, and it truly wouldn't surprise me if we're still a few years away from a mainnet launch. Unlike many other ICOs from 2017, however, a review of the repos open sourced this week reveals that the Protocol Labs team actually has been heads down, hard at work, trying to deliver on the promises they made. And I'm rooting for them. A scaleable, reliable, decentralized filesystem would be an incredible new tool for developers in this ecosystem.
Filecoin's novel consensus mechanism also makes it a fascinating project to watch, and I'm glad PoReps is now open for close examination by researchers and security experts. On the Filecoin network, a miners' "hashpower" would be proportional to the disk space they make available for use. If it works, this system would represent a middle-ground between Proof-of-Work and Proof-of-Stake. Unlike PoW, it doesn't require the expenditure of exorbitant amounts of energy, an externality that has, fairly or not, received much scrutiny. At the same time, it doesn't suffer from the "nothing at stake" problem like PoS, because miners are still constrained by a scarce, real-world asset: their hard drive space. It's good to see the project is making progress, and I'll be keeping a close eye on their progress now that the code is open source!