Data Permanence

Article
Preston Brown

2 months ago by prestonbrown

Yesterday my friend Zach Robertson wrote an interesting article called Blockchains Are Not Permanent. I have been compiling some notes over the past few days related to data permanence and I thought I would try and summarize some of the stuff I’ve found.

There is a prevailing myth of data permanence with popular phrases and terminology like, “the internet is forever.“ The claim that everything we post online will be accessible for eternity is a complete myth. I would challenge anyone who truly believes this to show me their MySpace page. You might find an interesting article that shows you exactly how to do it. But wait! All the links on this page are broken!

This myth of data permanence also exists on BSV. An author named “Klimeno” over on blog.bsv.sh has written an extensive entry on this exact misconception, titled: The Prunability And Non-Permanency Of Your Data: The Case Of OP_RETURN. There is a known lack of protocol incentive for miners to retain all data in the OP_RETURN as the size of the chain continues to scale. It is a cost savings incentive to get rid of the data, and maintain only the signatures of the data. We then get to a place that is somewhat back where we started, where we are merely tenants to a data-hosting solution. Granted we have the added insurance of checking against signatures, but we have not solved the problem of permanence. Will my Twetches live forever on the blockchain, accessible however I like? Or will they reside only on the servers of Twetch partners at some point?

Protocols like Arweave try to solve this problem with an added protocol-based incentive structure called “Proof of Access”, despite some of the other problems Arweave might have, proof of access effectively solves the pruning problem. It also incentivises miners to store rare blocks, complete with data, so they can get the high reward for when the protocol asks for proof of access to that block (and the complete set of data retained within that block). BSV could benefit from a system like this if it seeks to maintain a solid foundation of data permanence.

Another way individuals and organizations have sought to fight entropy and data permanence is through financial driven resources. for example, permanent.org seeks to establish a trust, operating on tax free financial investment to continually fund redundant, proven data storage practices for a one time fee. Organizations like the Internet Archive have stated that their main goal is to combat what some have dubbed a “Digital Dark Age”.

The Digital Dark Age is a measure of just how impermanent data already is. In summary, the digital dark age is a lack of historical information in the digital age as a direct result of outdated file formats, software, or hardware that becomes corrupt, scarce, or inaccessible as technologies evolve and data decay. To think the protocols and data formats we use today will continue to work with technolgy of the future is a mistake.