In brief

  • Filecoin is finally launching after several years of delay.
  • It wants to be a "decentralized Dropbox".
  • But its creators, Protocol Labs, will have to fend off a miner mutiny and deal with competitors already on the market.

The distributed file hosting protocol, Filecoin, finally has a launch date for its mainnet. It’ll go live at block 148,888, which should be on October 15.

The date, announced yesterday, is three years after Protocol Labs, the company behind Filecoin, raised $205 million in an ICO for the project. 

Filecoin works like this: instead of hosting your files on a cloud, which is essentially a warehouse full of computers owned by Amazon or Microsoft or Dropbox or whoever has the money to build a cloud-based file-hosting service, Filecoin’s protocol lets you host your files on other people’s computers.

Sometimes referred to as a “decentralized Dropbox,” users can end their reliance on third-party file-hosting services. This has perks: Dropbox, for instance, monitors the content on its platform; all of Filecoin’s information is encrypted and nobody can monitor it. 

The launch would end several years of delay. In 2018, Filecoin estimated that its testnet (a test version of the blockchain) would go live at the end of 2018 and that the mainnet (the real deal) would go live by the spring of 2019. Much later, Filecoin said that the testnet would go live in spring, and that the mainnet (the real deal) would go live by the end of 2019. 

It wasn’t until December 2019 that Filecoin launched its testnet. Then, it said that the mainnet would launch in March 2020. Now, a year later (almost to the day), Filecoin says its mainnet will go live next month.

There’s reason to believe that, this year, Filecoin will meet its expectations. It launched an incentivized testnet (a test version of the blockchain rewards users with real cryptocurrency), on August 24. This indicates that the network is at a late stage in its development.

But all could be for naught. In China, an angry group of miners and venture capitalists are threatening to fork Filecoin ahead of its launch. This is because they think they’ll be underpaid once the mainnet launches. 

One main reason: On August 27, Protocol Labs published a paper stating that the mainnet launch could render up to 80% of miners unprofitable, since the protocol requests far more capital and opportunity costs than are available to most miners.

Should Filecoin finally launch next month, it’ll have to compete with the BitTorrent File System and Storj, similar projects which both beat Filecoin to the punch by launching earlier this year.