The Swarm City team recently published an update about the state of the project in which they described the difficulties that they had been facing with making IPFS and Whisper work for decentralized peer-to-peer marketplaces. They outlined the new approach that, in their view, would allow them to complete make a scalable version of their platform a reality. Here, we interview the project’s CCO Matthew Carano on this and other questions about Swarm City which our readers could find interesting.
In a recent Medium post, the Swarm City team stated that the initial plan had been to rely on IPFS and Whisper for data storage and P2P messaging but it turned out that neither are suitable for their respective purposes. Could you explain a little bit what is wrong with each of them?
The goal of IPFS is decentralized file storage – and it does that. The problem is, there is no incentive for nodes to hold on to those files. We can’t assume anyone else will store Swarm City data, which means the world is relying on us to store the data on our own servers. This is not decentralized. One of Swarm’s achievements is creating a way to incentivize nodes to hold onto data. This will give Swarm City the decentralized data persistence it needs to scale.
The way Whisper functions is by broadcasting every message to every node in the network. That means over time it cannot scale – the data requirements are too great. Also, we have noticed this hurts accuracy as well, which shows up as out-of-order messages in the Swarm City chat.
Again, we believe Swarm has solved this issue, so our users can have encrypted, decentralized messaging.
IPFS is a project by Protocol Labs which appears to be a relatively well-funded venture. In addition, there appears to be a vibrant ecosystem of projects around IPFS. Are you aware of any efforts by people working on IPFS to address the issues you have encountered?
I am not aware. And even though it’s not our issue to solve, we have looked into possible solutions as well. For example our IPFS Consortium, which is a promise (by smart contract) by everyone in the consortium to hold on to everyone else’s data. You can read more about that here.
But at this point, we believe using Swarm is a more expedient way to make our app scalable.
Also, as far as I understand, Swarm is an Ethereum community-developed alternative to IPFS. What are you planning to replace Whisper with?
Swarm as well.
Do the issues with IPFS and Whisper affect other possible uses of Boardwalk, beside ridesharing?
Boardwalk is just the name for the place where the first Swarm City marketplaces appear. Every transaction happens within Swarm City marketplaces, be it a rideshare, retail, or service based transaction. We already have working marketplaces at Swarm.City using IPFS and Whisper, but they will not function as intended, in a truly decentralized way until we replace IPFS and Whisper. This is really our major holdup.
How much has the development been hampered by the Parity multisig hack? In other words, where do you think the project would be now if the hack had not happened?
I can’t say for certain, but I believe we’d be much further along had the hack not occurred. We could have devoted more of our own resources to solving Ethereum scaling issues.
What is your opinion about your competitors such as Chasyr and DRIFE? Are either of them actually building a truly decentralized platform?
Unless something recently has changed, Chasyr is not a decentralized project, and I am not familiar with Drife. But the main differences between Swarm City and most other project are:
- Objective reputation.
- Any type of marketplace can be created, from rideshare, to homeshare, to freelancer, to services, to retail. Anything.
- Anyone can create a marketplace – not just the team working on Swarm City.
- Every marketplace can have its own unique front end. A rideshare marketplace should and does look different than a retail interface for example.
- Swarm City cannot stop marketplaces from being created, or transactions between two people.
- Swarm City cannot impose a fee for transactions that happen within the ecosystem.
After I promoted my latest article on Reddit, I was told by the fans of an organization called Eva Coop that it had already solved the decentralized ridesharing. Do you think that is a fair claim?
Decentralized means censor proof. To say otherwise is to not understand what that word means. Per their terms and conditions they can censor who uses their app.
You launched a fundraising campaign on Giveth for the work on replacing IPFS and Whisper for Boardwalk. Are you optimistic about being able to raise enough funds this way? Perhaps, you could try a new ICO given how much conditions have changed since late 2016?
I am hopeful. We’re not interested in doing another ICO.