Wuala, the innovative P2P social grid storage coming out of Switzerland, is doing a sneak preview of its public beta from now until Monday evening, after which it will close until the full launch on August 14. It’s worth checking this out before the window closes as I’m betting Wuala is pretty much unlike any online storage service you’ve seen.
The public beta in August will carry a twist. Till now you have to download a Mac, PC or Linux client to access the service. But from the 14th, users will be able to simply click on a button on the site to start the service (it’s a Java app). That’s it. No software installation and no user account required. You can use it for file backup, photo and video sharing, or making files available publicly. Wuala competes in the storage space with Xdrive or Box.net.
So far they have about 30,000 users globally, sharing millions of files. Interestingly, one of them is the Swiss Television Network, which, instead of streaming shows from a site in Flash, just distributes the whole shows as files onto Wuala’s service – which also streams the video direct, no downloading.
The underlying core tech behind Wuala is based on research conducted at ETH Zurich (the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology). The files are held in tiny encrypted pieces distributed across the “Wuala Grid” of users, and mirrored on Wuala’s servers – so you don’t have to rely on other users being online to access your data. Users start with 1 GB of storage but can get as much as they want, either by trading idle disk space or by buying additional storage. You start off with 1GB of free storage, and then if you want more, you can make more space available on your own hard drive for other Wuala members. But users don’t have to trade storage – you can buy extra storage, like 100GB is 100 Euros. All files are encrypted on the user’s computer and the user chooses who gets access to which folder. No one else – including Wuala – gets to see the files. None of the fragments of files from other people stored on your computer are executable. Unlike Web storage, you can drag and drop files into Wuala on or offline.
Now, with any storage there is the issue of copyrighted and controversial material being uploaded. However, Wuala is not like an ‘in the wild’ bit torrent or file-sharing service – anything like shared publicly gets removed. Though there is a slight issue: private groups are encrypted, but then that stuff gets shared all over, whatever service it is.
TechCrunch UK broke the story about Wuala back in October last year. Dominik Grolimund, CEO, previously founded a software company in Switzerland, but exited from that so Wuala is self-funded right now.