Quietly, and to little fanfare this week, a new project emerged which may give us an early glimpse of what the internet of the future will look like. Going under the name ZeroNet, it combines torrents, the decentralized system of file sharing, with the cryptography of Bitcoin. The result of that marriage is a system for publishing and editing websites which is entirely decentralized and therefore resistant to both criminal hacking and government censorship.
A growing body of computer scientists and engineers are coming to the conclusion that decentralization, with its myriad of benefits in terms of privacy, security and economics, is going to be the key feature of the next generation of internet technologies – sometimes called ‘web 3.0’.
A number of high profile cryptocurrency start-ups are currently working on producing exactly that: a set of technologies to allow people to publish websites without the need for central servers to host them. Maidsafe, for example, is building its own web 3.0 infrastructure for decentralized apps on top of a distributed storage solution which shreds files and stores them across many different machines. Ethereum, another major cryptocurrency project which held a record-breaking crowdsale in 2014, is also seeking to build a decentralized web 3.0 solution, as are smaller projects such as XCurrency.
ZeroNet’s solution uses torrents to share a website’s files (html, css, etc). Users wishing to visit a ZeroNet website will first download its files (html, css, etc) using torrent-like software, allowing the website to then run itself locally on their machine. These sites are accessed through the browser, and apart from the web address they look like any other website. After visiting a site like this, the user will then begin ‘seeding’ those same files to other users.
Currently Bitcoin’s cryptography is used to by a website’s owner to verify ownership of the site, allowing them to edit its files. This is done ‘offline’ without producing a transaction on the Bitcoin network itself. ZeroNet developer shortcutme told NewsBTC, however, that additional applications of cryptocurrency technology are being considered for the future, such as the use of Namecoin’s decentralized DNS to allow for human-readable domain names.
ZeroNet can be viewed and downloaded from GitHub here: https://github.com/HelloZeroNet/ZeroNet