The decentralized web is finally here. ZeroNet, a peer to peer web platform based on Bitcoin cryptography and the BitTorrent network, is gaining popularity.
The idea is to move websites from the conventional method of hosting on a single server to a peer to peer network. The sites are served by each user, just like how Torrent works. When you visit a website in the ZeroNet, the content is not loaded from a single server and is instead hosted from the peers who are accessing the site. Essentially you become a peer and start serving the site automatically to other visitors.
ZeroNet is a promising technology. Since sites are served by visitors, there is no hosting cost involved. There is no central server and thus no single point of failure. It is also impossible to shut down a site as long as the page is still seeded by peers. This makes the site immune to government censoring and DMCA takedowns. If you are thinking along the lines of DDOSing the server, you’ll have to take down each single visitor of the site, which would be quite hard.
A torrent site hosted in ZeroNet made news recently. The site is called ‘Play’ and might be the first torrent site that is almost shutdown-proof. ZeroNet is also able to host dynamically distributed websites that can offer real-time updates.
One caveat is that it is no more anonymous than the BitTorrent network. It means others can see your IP address. But it has full Tor support so you can hide your IP easily. You can also double down with a VPN (click here to sign up for LiquidVPN) for added anonymity.
One feature of the platform is that each website is completely transparent. Each user will be able to audit the complete working mechanism as well as will be able to clone any site. This can be a concern to those who wish to keep their sites closed source.
But even though a website can be cloned, it is impossible for anyone to modify a ZeroNet site without the private key, which only the site admin holds.
ZeroNet could also work on non-internet networks such as Bluetooth, WiFi direct, radio communication, Meshnets, etc.
The platform currently hosts a number of websites created by the growing user base. Major ones include ZeroBoard ( A simple messaging board ), ZeroTalk ( A Reddit like decentralized forum ), ZeroBlog ( A microblogging platform ) and ZeroMail ( End-to-End encrypted mail ).
Setting up ZeroNet is quite easy. Just grab the suitable package from here, unpack it and you can start running the service. It is available for Windows, Linux, and Mac. If you hit any roadblock, you can reach out to the active Reddit community (/r/zeronet) for help.
The future plans for Zeronet development include introducing torrent-like file splitting for large files, password or public key based private sites and I2P networks support. A social network, Github alternative, News website, marketplace, etc. are also under focus. You can follow the latest updates on Zeronet at Twitter.