Creating Volafile.org has been a long journey. The Git repository now boasts almost a thousand commits over the course of seven months. Volafile’s first prototype even dates another year back, which is where we’ll start.

3rd of January in 2013

Back then I scrolled through some boards on 4chan, wondering what to do with my time. I saw people uploading whole picture collections, one image at a time, over the course of sometimes multiple hours. Doing so also requires you to type Google’s reCAPTCHA for every image. Which is annoying. I really liked 4chanX’s features to check for new posts every few seconds and append them to the page automatically. And so - somehow - the idea just began building up in my head: How about having them share files on a page that appeared to be some kind of folder in the web. The list of files on the right would automatically update as new files got uploaded, giving everyone the impression to be looking at a synchronized folder. Files would expire after a short while, so the list wouldn’t get too full. Where you’d usually expect the directory tree or quick access area, there would be a chat on the left side of the window.

Having the idea in my head I immediately started whipping up some prototype using my rusty python skills and cherrypy. A Chatango chat was lazily pasted into the site and some (admittedly ugly) CSS was used to make the page not look completely generic. Somewhere past midnight when I was finished, I created a new thread on 4chan to show off the page. People started pouring in only seconds after.

4th of January, 04:30

The site was about to crumble under the load. The python code was written with no respect to performance and full of hacks and things I didn’t fully understand. About fifty people were now using the site, uploading & downloading files. Somehow the crappy user experience didn’t seem to bother them, while I was more focused on not making it give in under the load. At some point I had to decide to go to sleep. I apologized to everyone and told them I’d bring the site back up with some improvements later. Then I took it down for the night.

At this point I felt like I was on to something, like I had to pursue this idea further. I didn’t bring the page back up the next day, or the day after that. It took me another seven months and learning about node.js to start working on my idea again. This time it should be able to handle hundreds of users, scale horizontally and be fast & modern while able to run on cheap (yes, I’m like that) hardware.

The creation of what is Volafile today will be covered in my next post.