Wuala is a mixture of a classical online storage solution and a file sharing application: you can share your data with logged in users or entire groups while all your data are uploaded to a p2p net – even when you’re not connected. The program was now released as a Linux version.
The interesting advantage of Wuala compared to usual file sharing applications is the fact that every user can first define which user or group is allowed to see which content, and that you don’t have to be connected to the net to offer your friends the option to download your stuff. When you mark your data for upload they are splitt into small parts, encrypted and afterwards uploaded to the other clients of the network (including some big servers of the company behind the project). All data is saved redundant so that you most likely always have the possibility to download your data from everywhere else as long as the Wuala network has no major breakdown.
Currently the amount of data you are allowed to upload is 1 GB. However, if you provide some space for other people’s files on your hard disk you also get more space on the network – given that your network connection allows incoming connections and that your computer is online most of the day. In this regard the approach reminds a bit of Freenet which also defines your upload space by the space you provide to the network afaik. You can also “earn” additional space by inviting other users, and I guess in future you might be able to buy additional storage.
According to the web page, your data are encrypted locally and therefore cannot be viewed by other clients as long as you don’t allow it:
All files you store are encrypted such that only you and those authorized by you can access them. All encryption and decryption is performed locally and your password is never sent to us – so not even we can access your files.
Unfortunately, the program is closed source (also see below) and there are no further details on that matter. Therefore it is hard to say how strong the encryption really is. I would really prefer especially such a program to be open source, or at least open source in all important bits like encryption.
The graphical interface
Wuala itself comes along with a graphical Java client interface for Linux, MacOS and Windows. The Linux client is provided as a tar.bz package and at the moment still has to be copied to a local folder. There is no package or installation routine, but the Linux client is in an Alpha stage anyway.
The main window shows all shared files and directories and marks them with different colours for different restrictions: yellow ones are the folders which are not shared with anyone, red are the ones shared with friends and/or groups and blue ones are accessible by everyone of the network.
The folders themselves can be removed, downloaded, recommended, marked as favourite, etc.:
You can of course also alter the access rights everytime. And the rights are quite fine grained: they allow you to choose specific users and/or groups to see content and therefore remind me even a bit of ACLs.
As mentioned above there is also the option to make content available for everyone. As a user of Wuala you can of course also allow others to search that content:
Of course it is debatable how useful it is to provide data on Wuala which are readable by everyone – there are similar services on the web where you don’t need the extra client, and Wuala is not the place to provide illegal content worldwide. But some people indeed seem to use the function, and I could imagine that CC content could find a place there.
Anyway, if you pay closer attention to the bottom right you see “Related Products”. This is a link to Amazon products. I guess this helps Wuala to keep the business running. In the current version you can turn off that function, the question remains if that option will still be there in the future.
Besides the main window and the world/search window there are also windows for your groups and users. There you can also start a chat with other users – however, that failed for me due to a Java error. I’m not sure if that is a problem of the Linux client, IcedTea or something else. On the other side, the project is still in Alpha/Beta testing and maybe the function is not tested enough yet or simply not implemented right now.
Another feature I dind’t test at all yet is the possibility to use portmap to have a look at for example video files while they are still not fully downloaded:
Wuala creates a network drive to which your operating system can connect. [...] Wuala has a built-in NFS server and tries to mount a NFS share in the folder named ‘direct’. For this to succeed, portmap and nfs-common must be installed.
Besides the graphical interface there is also a command line application which can be used to set up storage nodes. Since Wuala depends on computers which are online most of the time such a command line client makes a lot of sense for example for 24/7 servers without X.
Wuala is an interesting approach to provide online storage for everyone. It has nothing revolutionary new but combines several known techniques to an interesting, nice looking and working product. Still, as already said I would feel much, much better if at least the encryption part would be Open Source and documented so that users could verify that their content is really safe. In this regard the FAQ has an interesting point:
Do you plan to open the source code?
We are considering to open the source code in future. However, this is a decision that has to be thought out well as it cannot be undone. It also takes some effort to successfully implement a good open-source strategy.
I’m looking forward to the future development of Wuala – especially plans like Web access and of course to Open Source the code are very interesting.
As a last note: currently Wuala is in an early stage and does not allow new users. However, existing users have a set of invitations, so in case you would like to have an invitation, send me a short private note.