Today, David Vorick joins us to discuss how decentralizing the internet with Sia’s Skynet will pave the way to Digital Freedom.
David is the Co-Founder, and Lead Developer of Sia, which is a decentralized cloud storage network that ultimately allows its users to have more control over their data. Sia leverages blockchain technology to create a data storage marketplace that is more robust and more affordable than traditional cloud storage providers.
David has been active in Bitcoin and the larger cryptocurrency space since 2011. He studied computer science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and co-founded Sia parent company Nebulous in 2014 during his senior year of college. David is based in Boston where he also serves as the founder of Obelisk, an ASIC mining hardware company.
The following transcript was created using artificial intelligence. There will be some grammatical errors below.
Richard Carthon: Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode of Crypto Current, your host here, Richard Carthon, and today I have a special guest all the way out in Boston working on several projects, one that you’ve probably heard of, Sia, and he’s one of the lead developers for that and we’re going to be spending some other time talking about Skynet. We have David Vorick. How are you doing today?
00:00:31:17 – 00:00:34:01
David Vorick: Hi. It’s great to be here. I’m doing wonderful. Thank you.
00:00:34:20 – 00:00:41:25
Richard Carthon: Well, thank you for joining us. Before we get to learn about all the amazing things that you’re working on, first we want to learn more about you. Can you give us some background on yourself?
00:00:42:25 – 00:01:03:19
David Vorick: Sure. Yeah, so, I went to college in upstate New York, a university called Rensselaer Polytechnic. And it was my freshman year that I discovered Bitcoin. One of my dorm mates came up and just kind of said, Oh, you’d like Bitcoin, you should go Google it. And yeah, my life just took like, a sharp right turn.
00:01:04:21 – 00:01:23:20
David Vorick: Pretty much every day of my life since then has been kind of centered around Bitcoin and Blockchain and decentralization. I was just really fascinated with the idea that we could build something like, technology that nobody else controlled. And so, it was like, how, you know, how far can we push this? This seems absolutely incredible.
00:01:23:22 – 00:01:41:06
Richard Carthon: No doubt. And same thing with me. As soon as I learned about Crypto and Blockchain went down the rabbit hole and haven’t looked back and kind of put my life in a different trajectory than I would have ever thought. Now, you’ve been in the game since, I believe, around 2011, like, how has your journey been since first entering the space, to like kind of where you are now?
00:01:42:13 – 00:02:07:15
David Vorick: Yeah. I mean, it’s been kind of crazy. I remember when I entered the space, Bitcoin was $1.5. So, I’ve been through, you know, we went all the way up to 40 and then we went up to 260 and down to like 70 and up to 1,200 and down to 200 and up to 20,000. And so, it’s been fun following all the hype cycles.
00:02:07:17 – 00:02:40:08
David Vorick: I remember like, when suddenly it was no longer, you know, I think 2016, suddenly they’re like a bunch of people in suits at your conferences and they’re all talking about Blockchain, not Bitcoin. And it was like, a little disorienting, but then, you know, Ethereum kind of came out of the woodwork, you had the ERC 20s and the huge ICO boom of 2017. So, I would say it’s been a very intense ride and on my end, mostly been focused on building just this one technology the whole time and I think that’s really going to pay dividends in the next two to three years.
00:02:40:29 – 00:03:12:29
Richard Carthon: And it’s really interesting that you bring that up because I really want people to resonate with that, the market ebbs and flows, right? You can see this gigantic gain and then you’ll see a retracement, you’ll see a gigantic gain and then a retracement. A lot of people who are just now entering the space right now, when they saw at the beginning of the year Bitcoin was around 30,000, went all the way up to 60, came all the way back down, back to 30. And now, we’re, you know, trudging along right around 46K right now. It’s just, when you’ve been there and you’ve seen it before, you can stomach it a little bit better and you can also see where things are headed and you see where the rest of the market is headed as well.
00:03:13:24 – 00:03:20:26
Richard Carthon: But like you said, you’ve been doing a lot of building during this time and I believe Sia’s been one of the main ones you’ve been working on. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
00:03:21:18 – 00:03:59:25
David Vorick: Yeah. So, Sia is a decentralized cloud storage project. I really started working on it in 2013 with the idea of if Bitcoin can make money without a bank, can we take that same technology and build the cloud storage, you know, think like Dropbox without a cloud provider? And so, can I just kind of put my files somewhere and have them be available to everyone all the time or to you all the time, but not give control over to someone like Dropbox? And so, it’s been seven years that we’ve been building the solution and the answer was pretty early yes.
00:03:59:27 – 00:04:24:17
David Vorick: And then, it just has been evolving since then. How can we make it easier or friendly or how can we, you know, get the Blockchain kind of more out of the way and make it just work the same way that like iCloud? Or really even like, I’ve started to think of things like Facebook and YouTube as the cloud. You know, they hold your data and it’s like, can we make the decentralized cloud as clean and friendly as Facebook or YouTube or Snapchat?
00:04:25:22 – 00:04:50:15
Richard Carthon: Right. And I think that’s a really awesome concept. And being able to control your data, having it be decentralized and having to do it so early, right? Y’all got into this extremely early, 2013, like, that’s early in the game. So, how have you seen Sia kind of evolve through the times and as as newer elements starts to come into Crypto and Blockchain, how are you able to keep adapting with what’s going on?
00:04:51:03 – 00:05:13:25
David Vorick: Yeah. So, it’s kind of interesting because I think most of the technological progress has actually been kind of adjacent to what we’re doing. So on the one hand, it does feel like we started very early and we had to do almost everything ourselves, right? A lot of people are surprised to learn that we built an entire Blockchain from scratch. So, we’re not a Bitcoin fork, we’re not built on top of Ethereum. Sia launched before Ethereum launched.
00:05:14:15 – 00:05:15:00
Richard Carthon: Yeah.
00:05:15:02 – 00:05:43:24
David Vorick: And I think a lot of people don’t realize that. But at the same time, when it comes to decentralized cloud storage, it’s really only been us pushing the needle. You also have Storage, which is like, you know, half centralized. And they’ll readily admit that they’re more of a centralized solution than a decentralized one. Then you have Filecoin, which really, it only launched in late 2020 and it’s been kind of just not that interesting as a technology, it can’t do very much.
00:05:43:26 – 00:06:17:00
David Vorick: And so, we’ve kind of been the only ones pushing this space forward. And at times it was challenging because it’s just a lot of engineering work. There are a lot of like, distributed systems problems, a lot of new problems that you have to solve to move large amounts of data around that you don’t have to solve for something like Bitcoin and Ethereum. And so, as we’re developing things and as the rest of the space is discovering advances, a lot of those advances just didn’t apply to us. And so, it’s not like the rest of the space wasn’t moving forward, it’s just that it was moving not in the same direction that we were.
00:06:17:02 – 00:06:17:17
Richard Carthon: Right.
00:06:17:19 – 00:06:41:10
David Vorick: And so, but finally in 2019, we had this idea for something called Skynet, and that’s really when kind of the space for decentralized storage cracked open. And since then, we’ve really been trending up. You know, I think before 2019, size peak usage was maybe like 10 to 30,000 users. And then today, you know, in the past month, we’ve had more than 3,000,000 people use Skynet.
00:06:42:07 – 00:06:42:22
Richard Carthon: Wow.
00:06:42:24 – 00:06:59:20
David Vorick: So, it really has kind of hit a sweet spot in terms of usability and it’s found a spot where it can, there are certain things you can do on Skynet that you can’t even do on centralized platforms. It’s just better in some ways and that’s something that we’re really proud to have finally achieved.
00:07:00:12 – 00:07:18:06
Richard Carthon: So, let’s break that down, right? So, you have Sia and then you have Skynet that was built on top of it. Like you said, you were able to build your own Blockchain from scratch, so, having that, you’re basically able to create Skynet, which is built on top of it, which is the centralized Internet for the future. So, that’s the tagline that’s on your website. What does that ultimately mean?
00:07:19:00 – 00:07:45:21
David Vorick: Yeah. So, the idea is that like, take for example, Facebook. When you go on Facebook, you actually spend a lot of time and effort on Facebook. Like, most of the value of Facebook is the effort you put in yourself. Like, how many hours did it take you to find all of your friends? How many conversations like, how many random connections have you made that you then added people on Facebook? That’s not Facebook, that’s you’re doing all the work and yet, Facebook owns all that data.
00:07:45:23 – 00:08:24:12
David Vorick: You can’t take your friend connections and then use them on Twitter or use them on Signal or use them, you know, on other applications. You have to stay within the Facebook ecosystem if you want to leverage all of that. And I think that that’s almost like, criminal. And like, deep down, it makes me extremely unhappy that people are putting so much effort into building such valuable social networks and Facebook gets to control all of it. And so, the idea behind Skynet is what if the data, instead of being stored on Facebook, was stored in your own storage in a cloud that you controlled yourself and your friends all control their storage?
00:08:24:16 – 00:08:45:25
David Vorick: And so, you can take your social graph with you anywhere. You can expose APIs, you can let other applications access your contacts and then build these like, rich ecosystems. And so, I think it’s just simply a better way to build the Internet. And so, that’s really why we got super excited about for Skynet. Today, it’s mostly used because it’s a really convenient way to share files.
00:08:46:01 – 00:09:07:12
David Vorick: For example, if you have large audio files or if you have like, big video projects or like, it’s mostly used for almost like, work related things. We have these massive, you know, 10, 20 gigabyte files. There’s no easy way to share them on the centralized Internet, like WeTransfer just isn’t that great, doesn’t go that large. Skynet can do large files like that a lot better and so, that’s actually where most of our users come from.
00:09:08:13 – 00:09:30:12
Richard Carthon: That’s great, and thanks for breaking all that down. As you were saying, like, the first thing that actually popped in my head was WeTransfer. I’ve used it previously and the fact that you’re allowing for larger files, I can definitely see that connection. Another thing that went through my mind was when you talked about Facebook and not owning your data, there’s a documentary on Netflix right now called The Social Dilemma. Everyone listening, if you haven’t watched it, go do yourself a favor.
00:09:30:14 – 00:09:54:03
Richard Carthon: It’s pretty insane what’s happening with all the data from all the various social networks that are out there. But it sounds like Skynet is helping to solve that because now you become your own server. You get to keep all of that and you get to choose if you want other APIs or other solutions that you’re dealing with, to have access to where you’re spending your time, which actually helps solve the main problem of what is talked about in The Social Dilemma.
00:09:54:27 – 00:10:16:23
David Vorick: Yeah. And it really unlocks, you know, when users control their own data, you can have things like, you know, it’s Facebook social network, but then some other company is controlling what shows up on your feed. So, if you don’t like Facebook’s feed, you’re like, Oh, there are too many ads. You can use some other feeder. If you don’t like Facebook’s messenger, anyone else can build a messenger and that can just tap into the same data.
00:10:17:00 – 00:10:57:18
David Vorick: Today, you can. If you have an idea for how to make Messenger better, like, you have to convince Facebook to accept your idea and a lot of times Facebook will just be like, Doesn’t make business sense, right? We don’t make money off of that idea. But in the decentralized Internet, you can just tell users, Hey, I made a better messenger, come use it and they can use it and still message all of their friends who use Facebook’s Messenger, right? And so, the big thing is that with decentralized data, you can switch applications without losing your entire social network. You can still message your friends who have never even heard of the messenger that you prefer and that’s just a better way to build.
00:10:58:20 – 00:11:12:09
Richard Carthon: It’s pretty cool, man. And as you see, like, as we move towards a more decentralized Internet, what are some of the features that you think are going to continue to kind of like, come to both Skynet and just where this environment is headed?
00:11:13:03 – 00:11:32:11
David Vorick: Yeah. So, probably one of the things I’m most excited about are actually NFTs and the idea of like, a creator token and a content token. I think that, you know, when I see the NFT projects today, like, you know, the popular thing of the week is like these pudgy penguins.
00:11:32:13 – 00:11:33:13
Richard Carthon: Yeah.
00:11:33:15 – 00:12:07:15
David Vorick: And it really reminds me of 2013 when the first alternatives to Bitcoin were showing up, you had things like barbecue coin, like Dogecoin, like Courtcoin and Primecoin. And all these things that were just, to people who knew what made Bitcoin special, they were all pretty stupid and like, Dogecoin ended up standing out. But the vast majority of the 2013 Cryptocurrencies fell to irrelevance. And you just knew when they were coming out, you’re like, This isn’t special, this doesn’t capture the magic.
00:12:08:02 – 00:12:08:17
Richard Carthon: Right.
00:12:08:19 – 00:12:35:27
David Vorick: But the idea that there are other things than Bitcoin that you can build that are valuable was a correct idea, right? And I feel like that’s where the NFT space is right now and it’s actually getting a little better. I felt more strongly this way in like, you know, late 2020. Now the NFT projects are starting, you know, they’re starting to get a little more creative and more valuable, but I still feel like we’re super early. And so, the idea of an NFT is, I think, spot on.
00:12:35:29 – 00:13:11:11
David Vorick: And it’s just the current execution that we have is like, you know, we’ve got NFT training wheels on. So, I’m super excited about the future for that. I think it will completely shape the economy and everyone’s going to be proud of NFTs that they own. And that’s how all content creators, you know, podcast artists like yourself or like music artists or YouTube creators like, I think they’re all going to monetize by selling NFTs of themselves and their content. So, I’m really excited about where the NFT space is going.
00:13:12:09 – 00:14:13:29
Richard Carthon: No doubt. I mean, it’s pretty remarkable that as people are looking at NFTs, just the true value of being able to create something and then having that resale value where you can still get your commission as things become more and more valuable over time. If you look at artists, if you look at musicians, if you look at even memorabilia that was from like, the original Star Wars, if you can imagine having an NFT when that first happened to where things aren’t now, just the pure value of what they’d be worth. And then the original people who created or owned it, being able to get a piece of that pie is incredible. And it’s just opening up all these new types of revenue streams and opportunities for people to connect with either art, gaming, or virtual worlds. This decentralized Internet is becoming more and more of a reality and it’s pretty cool that you’re getting to work on it. And in that same vein, man, like, you’ve been around for over a decade in this space, what were some of the key lessons that you learned during that time that you think you can take with you into the next five to 10 years?
00:14:14:27 – 00:14:53:09
David Vorick: Yeah. I mean, I think one of them is just patience. Like when the markets are down sometimes, you know, it’s like two or three years they’re down for a while, but they always come back because the technology is real. And so, I think, you know, if you focus on the, you know, what can people do with this technology that they couldn’t do before this technology existed and you like, really hone in on those pieces, that’s what you can focus on and get like, mastery around and get situated around. And then, that will carry forward that those are the things that are going to stick around in the next bull cycle.
00:14:53:11 – 00:15:40:11
David Vorick: And I think, yeah, just the biggest thing is to not get too distracted. I think, you know, in the hype cycles, there are a whole bunch of fads that come up, even in 2017, where a lot of the projects that have raised are doing well now and are still around, but a lot of the biggest projects that raised are not doing well now and are not still around. And a lot of them die. And so, I think just staying focused and keeping calm and when things are going, you know, up really fast, just kind of keep your wits about you and don’t don’t freak out. Don’t worry too much about missing out because if the whole space is going up 100X over the next five years, you know, you’ll go up with it. You don’t have to be on the most valuable NFT, you just kind of have to be in the space.
00:15:41:14 – 00:16:35:25
Richard Carthon: I think that’s really good advice. It’s just a reminder that across everything that you get into, they’re not all going to win, but you first just need to get involved and then find projects that you think are going to last. And if, like you said over the next five years, a ton of that you get into, the rough estimate is to average around 100X, even if it’s a little bit less, you go into any other kind of market, you’re not going to see that kind of return, not even close. And so, it’s just a good space to be into educating yourself on learning about all these different opportunities that are in the space and making sure that you’re becoming involved. Another question I want to pose to you is, as you look at what has happened this year and all of the things that have started to evolve more recently, NFTs, DeFi, decentralized space and everything else, what do you think is going to be one of the biggest up and comers as we look at the next one to two years?
00:16:36:26 – 00:17:17:04
David Vorick: Yeah. I mean, I think NFTs are really the big thing. I think DeFi is honestly too early. It’s not that like, DeFi is bad or that it’s not like the technology is fake, but it’s a bunch of technology that’s building on raw speculation. And so, it’s just like speculation on top of speculation and like, a lot of the underlying, when you look at the underlying collateral, there’s not a lot of real there yet. Whereas like, when I look at NFTs, even though I just called them like, kind of early and, you know, misplaced at the moment, when you look at how much real is behind these NFTs, it actually feels like there’s more there than anywhere else in the space.
00:17:17:06 – 00:18:02:00
David Vorick: And I think, you know, I think NFTs are just really spring-loaded, it’s where we’re going to get our first non speculative economy. And then once we have that, if DeFi can come on top of it, then all the DeFi techniques that we use to build on top of these speculative tokens, we’ll also be successful and apply to NFTs. But I think, so, I would guess that DeFi is probably going to take a backseat in the next like, one year or so. And then, NFTs are really going to throw out the next bear market. Like at some point, things are probably going to blow up and collapse and we’ll see, you know, another like, 60,000 down to 10,000 or even further down decline. But then, I think the NFT space is likely to surge forward through the bear market.
00:18:03:20 – 00:18:28:23
Richard Carthon: Yeah, I think that’s a really interesting call. I think that NFTs also have a ton of opportunity to keep growing, especially during these bear markets. And as people continue to find out ways to drive a ton of value in how they’re being positioned, and can be reused. So, I appreciate that insight. But as we kind of wrap up, I always like to ask a final question of what is a final thought that you want to leave with all of our listeners here today?
00:18:30:09 – 00:18:49:18
David Vorick: Yeah. I actually would almost leave like a political thought, which is that I think that things are going to start to get tough politically. We kind of saw with Congress over the past few days a very unfriendly towards Cryptocurrency bill got through the Senate.
00:18:50:23 – 00:18:51:08
Richard Carthon: Right.
00:18:51:10 – 00:19:39:04
David Vorick: And as Bitcoin steps up and as things like, the decentralized web step up and start to threaten JPMorgan, Chase, the banks of the world, and then like Google, Facebook, the YouTubes of the world, those companies are going to fight back. And I think especially Google, Facebook, Amazon are going to fight back really hard. They’re going to play dirty, they’re going to play unfair. The banks are definitely going to play unfair and I think we grabbed the attention of these actors that will want to suffocate us. And so, I would say, be ready for that and be ready to fight back, because if you don’t fight back, you will, you know, you will just be suffocated. And I think that’s kind of, you know, the past two weeks have really put me on edge in a way that, you know, I don’t think we’ve had to be alert before.
00:19:40:21 – 00:20:35:29
Richard Carthon: It means that it’s becoming more real when you’re seen as a threat and Crypto’s definitely under attack in different ways right now. And as you said, I think people need to continue to stay diligent, find ways to be proactive, and also just as legislation continues to evolve, to be active in voicing your opinions so we can make sure that Crypto can continue to stay around without you necessarily having to feel like you have to do things behind the government’s back in order to keep using this amazing technology. For every step forward, there’s going to be some steps back, but we have to keep this moving forward. The Crypto community is awesome, there’s a lot of awesome technology being built here that’s giving a lot of access to people that usually don’t have it. So, I agree that it’s important for people to keep staying diligent in what’s going on on the political landscape and finding ways to keep Crypto safe. So, thank you so much for that insight.
00:20:36:01 – 00:20:42:15
Richard Carthon: Thank you so much for spending time with us today. What are ways that people can learn more about you and learn more about what’s going on with Sia and Skynet?
00:20:43:08 – 00:21:17:06
David Vorick: Yeah. So, the best place to hang out with us is on our Discord, that’s just Discord.GG/SkynetLabs. And then, Sia also has a Discord, at Discord.GG/Sia, S-I-A. And yeah, other than that, we’ve got a Twitter account. We’ve got a website, Siasky.net. Sia’s website is Sia.tech. And so, you should come check us out, come hang out with a super friendly community, a ton of people who really know what they’re doing. If you drop by and start asking questions, I guarantee you someone who really knows what they’re talking about will be happy to have a conversation with you.
00:21:18:08 – 00:21:23:24
Richard Carthon: Excellent. Well, David, thank you so much again for spending time with us. And of course, for everyone listening, stay Crypto Current.
Crypto Current will be guiding all of you who are new to the cryptocurrency world to becoming a cryptocurrency and blockchain expert. Crypto Current was founded to give access to information to everyone on current events occurring in cryptocurrency and blockchain in a digestible way. Since its creation, we have created content that impacted thousands of people through its podcast, blog, and social media.