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Summary:

Online storage start-ups are a dime a dozen. And yet, entrepreneurs don’t give up on this highly commoditized sector. Dominik Grolimund is one of them. He has started Wua.la, a Zurich-based company that is using principles of peer-to-peer networking and applying them to storage. The five-person […]

logo_red.pngOnline storage start-ups are a dime a dozen. And yet, entrepreneurs don’t give up on this highly commoditized sector. Dominik Grolimund is one of them. He has started Wua.la, a Zurich-based company that is using principles of peer-to-peer networking and applying them to storage.

The five-person company has been funded so far by Grolimund’s other start-up, a German-language CRM suite for small businesses. Wua.la is offering a free online storage and sharing service that combines the best of Pando and Grouper. It is elegant, clever, and easy to use, and its sharing features alone are worthy of giving it a whirl.

Here is how it works:

You download the Wua.la client (works on Windows, Mac & Linux), and install it. Once you open the client after installation, you are logged into the Wua.la network. You get one gigabyte of storage capacity on their servers to get you going.

You can drag and drop files – images, videos, music, document – onto the client. You can tag your files just like you would on Flickr or YouTube. You can search through files like you would normally search on a web-based service. You can even comment on the photos or videos.

All the metadata is stored locally on your drive. The storage space is divided into folders that are color coded to indicate the level of privacy. You can share the folders with one person or almost anyone, by making them public.

If you need more storage, you have to contribute to the entire P2P cloud. And this is where I think it gets interesting: you can only join the cloud if you are online for at least five hours a day, and have a solid broadband connection. The system gives you an incentive to stay online.

Say if you kick in 10 GB of local storage to the “cloud” and are online 70 percent of the day, then the system gives you an additional 7 GB of online storage. The incentive for providing upload bandwidth is similar – the more upload bandwidth you provide, the faster your download speed will be. They also have super nodes, a.k.a. servers, that ensure that your files are available all the time. (How it works.)

Wua.la, in other words, is trying to avoid the problems associated with BitTorrent, where upstream connections become a problem. Wua.la will make money by embedding small relevant ads or referral links in the client in order to make money.

I am not sure if this is going to pay the bills, and they’d be better off offering premium storage options. It also remains to be seen if the service can scale – it has a less than 1000 alpha users for now. Nevertheless, it is an attractive option for those who crave privacy and don’t want to share personal videos and photos over the web.

If you would like to try the service, visit http://gigaom.wua.la. The first 100 visitors can use invite code gigaom, and download the client. Let us know what you think of the service. If you have feedback on the technology particularly, I would love to hear it.

  1. Since Google, Yahoo and MSN have started giving 2GB in fact unlimited online storage, the future for online storage or P2P swapper become bleak :(

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  2. I tried to upload 6 music videos, at first it seemed to be uploading fine, but after an hour I’ve only uploaded about one 5th of each one…possibly because I’m not the only one trying this out today? Also, I downloaded 2 pictures (from whom I don’t know!), the first one flew in real fast, the second one kicked me out of the application. Has potential, just needs some more work (props for the creative and clever use of a Laotian domain extention!).
    In any case, I still think there’s two approaches that satisfy two different needs that people have. This one, where you can share stuff with friends whether you’re online or not, and ours (http://www.gigatribe.com), where you can share an unlimited number of large files directly from pc to pc – but you have to be online to share them.

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  3. @ John: Sorry for having trouble with the app. We do our best to reduce the bugs every day. Wuala has an automatic update feature, which will make sure that you always have the newest version. If you send in the crash reports (and Wuala manages to send them) the problem is usually fixed quite soon. If you continue to have problems, please send us an email (bug at wua dot la) with a more detailed description. We’d be very happy to solve it ASAP.

    @Free Market Research Report: We are less pessimistic about this. Wuala offers many things, the large competitors do not offer. Last news I saw from Google is that they started to charge you for extra storage on Google Gallery. And I haven’t seen a Google system yet, which would allow me to share a 15 MB Illustrator document with 3 friends (and only with these three friends).

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  4. Big tech Co’s like especially google is become quite greedy day by day.just take a look at the list of acquisitions from google no wonder they are the Microsoft of the Internet.

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  5. Apparently the UK Government is going to make it an imprisonable offence not to reveal the pass key for encrypted files on your hard drive if police require…regardless of the ethical issues of not knowing what material is stored on my hard drive, I wouldn’t touch it for that reason alone!

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  6. @paul: Not sure if I understand your ethical objections. Think of it as an infrastructure to which you contribute in kind instead of money. You do not know who walks on the streets, built with your taxpayers money. You do not know who uses the phone system paid with the same money (at least until the phone corporations became private). This however is only my personal perspective and I am open to debate. Lastly let me note, that you are free to use one Gigabyte of storage without contributing yourself. Only if you want more storage, you have to trade in your own.

    I can’t comment on the legal aspect though, as I’m not a lawyer.

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  7. [...] Wua.la for P2P Storage & Sharing [...]

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  8. [...] with another projects to analyse it correct away, and Wua.la has since been mentioned on Gigaom as substantially as Techcrunch UK. Oh well. Maybe I crapper go for the analyse with the most sound [...]

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  9. I would say this is the best file sharing service I’ve ever seen. Honestly, I only use it for UGC.
    I love the fact that I can share my pix from Vegas with just a selection of my friends!

    Cool service.

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  10. [...] Zipidee, Sermo, eXpresso, SMX Social Media, OpenFLV, Criticker, SnapLayout, Wua.la, Yuwie, [...]

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  11. [...] Silicon Valley. Und die Bemühungen tragen bereits erste Früchte. Wuala erhielt ein ausführliches Review von GigaOM. Grossartige Arbeit Dominik! Initiative zahlt sich eben aus. Selbst wenn man aus der kleinen [...]

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  12. [...] Wuala startet in der Schweiz ein Webdienst, der es im Silicon Valley binnen weniger Tage zu einiger Bekanntheit gebracht hat. Warum? Weil dieses Online-Speichersystem sich prinzipiell von allen bekannten [...]

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  13. [...] Valley. Here are some of the amazing results: * Techcrunch coverage * A presentation at Google * GigaOm coverage * A facebook group with 200 members (and [...]

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  14. Have to say that I am using Wuala since three months and I am very impressed. Exactly for what I was looking for. Great article.

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  15. [...] up, see screenshots, or read more. Read also what others say: Techcrunch, GigaOm, Download.com, [...]

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  16. [...] proving that social recommendations can be used to discover new content in a P2P environment, and Wua.la has shown that users want to self-organize in small communities that are much more like Facebook groups than [...]

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