Wuala is a new company with a compelling story for Web users: If you want to share files--music, videos, anything--with your friends and family, it will let you do it for free, with no file-size or bandwidth limits.
The catch: You get 1GB of storage for free. Beyond that, you get access to free storage in proportion to the amount of storage from your own hard drive that you share with the Wuala community.
Wuala uses a "mesh" of hard drives from all its users. Everything you share gets sliced into 500 or so pieces and the distributed in tiny bits, and redundancy, to thousands of other users. When you, or someone you're sharing the file with, wants to load or play a file, it's pulled in from users, BitTorrent-like.
It's not easy to build a reliable storage network based on end-user PCs, which tend to be online only sporadically, and with poor upstream bandwidth. Wuala rewards its users that stay online: The amount of storage users have access to is equal to the amount of storage from their own drives that they've set aside for the Wuala network, multiplied by the average percentage of time that their machine is online. In other words, if you're sharing 20GB of your hard disk, and your PC is on 50 percent of the time, you'll be able to use 10GB of space on the Wuala network. PCs that are network-connected less than 20 percent of the time cannot share their space at all.
All files you put up on the network are replicated extensively, so you'll always be able to get the data that you've uploaded. CEO Dominik Grolimund assured me. We had a nice talk about the mechanics of his network's security, redundancy, and reliability that I won't replay here, other than to say that if Wuala doesn't work as reliably as traditional centralized storage, it's going to be a very short-lived start-up.
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