I’ve yet to see another project with a similar scope to Safe Net on this front. I’m aware of some blockchain managed storage solutions (e.g. Storj, Sia), along with those with DHTs (e.g. IPFS) and alternatives like ZeroNet (download a site to view locally), but Maidsafe is implementing technology way beyond these, IMO. With Safe Net we aren’t just dealing with files, we are working with structured data types, which can have fine grained permissions; it is a relatively low level solution.
Moreover, the autonomous/self-healing nature, to guarantee access in all but total catastrophe is fairly unique. The network itself is constantly moving data around, in order to keep the requisite data redundancy. This may be to new or old nodes/vaults. The caching mechanism also allows data to be moved closer to where it is needed temporarily, to improve performance and alleviate damage from DDoS style attacks.
However, I think the use cases for having Safe Net available to application developers is just as important. This isn’t just about users uploading stuff to store/share, it is about their applications themselves having a persistent, highly available, online storage facility, which they need zero involvement with. This is what I mean when I say storage becomes a commodity - availability is assumed and self managed, just like local storage on a device would be. The critical difference being how this data can then be shared, combined, integrated with other applications and users to form something new and interesting.
To think of it another way - imagine applications just become the tools to transform data, without ever owning that data. You may use a ‘tool’ to transform the data one way, then another ‘tool’ to transform it another. Compare this with most modern applications, which assume ownership and control of the data too. This has pretty big implications, especially when you start adding compute to nodes - autonomous tools, which operate on your data, on your command. This is a totally different architecture to how the current common client/server architecture operates and it fully separates the concerns of an application and the data it transforms or generates. This is only possible with the type of network Safe Net will become and it really excites me.
I think you are on the right track with the bit you have in bold there. Any number of agent applications (tools in the above) can be used to mutate data in different ways, depending on different events. However, I think this is quite a different approach to the mechanisms that Etherum et al use. Instead of having every node on the network run a script when an event occurs (like Ethereum), In contrast, Safe Net would instead leverage agents transforming data when it is possible for them to do so (such as when they are added as a signatory), leveraging the common data storage. These agents could be chained together, allowing them to mutate a stream of data in sequence.
There are pros/cons of this. As the network isn’t running the agents internally (at least until compute capability is added), there is a chance that an operation isn’t completed (the main con). However, it also means that each agent can be managed externally to the network, could be written in any programming language and could be relatively efficient (not ran on every network node, but just by the agent owner). If the agents are operated by the parties completing a step, then this makes a certain amount of sense and they can also keep their keys secret (which isn’t possible when ‘the network’ must use them to complete an operation).
So, I suppose it depends what is understood to be a smart contract; a sequence of multi-signature operations to mutate some data in a specific way certainly seems to fit the bill, but it is quite different from what people are used to with Ethereum, as I understand it.
Yes, there is a lot of potential value here and the Maidsafe devs are bullish on delivery. Short of filtering all traffic that is not recognisable - at the risk of lots of false positives - it could be very hard to filter Safe Net traffic. It would certainly be far harder than Bitcoin though, for example.