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Cover image for Why we chose Etherpad as our demo application
Storage To The People

Why we chose Etherpad as our demo application

Robert Friedman
・2 min read

When we were crafting the proposal that would become Storage to the People, our team contemplated the requirements that would make a good demonstration application for web monetized storage but left the contours of that application fairly broad.

Generally speaking, we wanted to build something that would scale easily. This might be because a baked-in audience for an existing open source app already exists or because the use-case for preservation was implicit to the workflow of an app and could be nicely inserted into existing workflows.

As examples, we considered streaming video conference apps like Jitsi, photo sharing apps for mobile devices (of which most well known examples are proprietary), email clients like Thunderbird, audio transcription projects like Hyperaud.io, or document creation suites like Libre Office.

The video streaming and audio transcription options were the most attractive to us. Fortunately, by the time our grant proposal was approved, we had already struck up a successful partnership with TheirStory, a video- conference-based oral history platform. Their application fit the contours of an ideal use-case and their commitment to a historical content capture mission makes them a natural partner for Permanent. You can learn more about our work together in this blog post.

Our partnership with TheirStory motivated us to create an SDK that would expose the private Permanent.org API to 3rd party platforms. This added considerable fuel to the GFTW fire at exactly the moment we needed it.

When we got started with our project, we quickly learned more about how the current web monetization ecosystem works. One implication was that we would be dependent on the Coil model for transactions. This narrowed our options because Coil calculates payments using time on site, not volume of data transferred. This meant our demo app would have to deposit files small enough in size to render any Coil payment sufficient to cover the cost of storing the file.

Then it dawned on our team: why not use something we already use in our own workflows. For the last year, the Permanent team has been relying on the riseup.net Etherpad instance to take open notes during team meetings in order to improve transparency and accessibility in our partner projects. The main drawback with Etherpad was that we could not easily save the files to a persistent storage platform. The workflow was just cumbersome enough that nobody was downloading the Etherpad files or copying the text to more durable repositories.

Etherpad also already has a baked in audience that would help our work scale. So it was settled. We consulted the GTFW Program Team and they gave us their blessing to go ahead with our prototype.

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