In the past month, several social media platforms took a harsh stand against cryptocurrencies and placed indefinite bans on cryptocurrency advertisements, effectively cutting any chance of relevant information reaching out to the world. However, the future of decentralized assets may lie in a similar decentralized platform; ZeroNet.
Global Crackdown On Cryptocurrencies and ICOs
In 2018, several countries and financial institutions have spoken against cryptocurrencies and ICOs, condemning their decentralized nature and unregulated fundraising concept respectively. As an excuse, institutions cite “protection of investor funds” to explain their move, while never providing a clear fundamental or technical reason to illustrate their rejection of cryptocurrencies.
To facilitate and be prepared against an epidemic of global crackdowns, it is imperative that cryptocurrencies resort to decentralized forums and websites, where the long arms of law cannot reach.
A Private, Decentralized Internet
ZeroNet is a decentralized web-like network of peer-to-peer users. The project is fully open source, and relies on a private key system, similar to bitcoin, instead of the traditional IP address based internet.
Using the Tor network for privacy, ZeroNet allows users to build their own websites, forums, and social platforms within the immutable network.
Initially, users recreated renditions of popular websites, such as Facebook and Reddit, and later worked on complex utility projects including a search engine, an email client, and a site-wide newsfeed.
These websites, called ‘zites,’ are completely untraceable in nature and are not hosted on a centralized server that may store valuable user data. Instead, the platform utilizes an innovative approach – merging the concepts of Bitcoin and BitTorrent.
Using Bitcoin To Ensure Immutability
ZeroNet’s solution is simple and effective. When a private ‘zite’ is hosted on ZeroNet, the platform treats each zite as an individual BitTorrent shared file, and names each data file by a bitcoin public key.
When a user accesses ZeroNet, it simply downloads the particular zite being visited, such that the visitor’s computer now acts as a “peer.” The computer then starts seeding zite data, which allows for other users to download, access, and “visit” that zite. Improving over BitTorrent’s limitation, ZeroNet files are continuously updated with user activity, allowing for comments and other changes being updated on each peer of that zite’s network.
However, the peer-to-peer network results in a considerably slow internet, as all files are served locally from the folder they were downloaded to. And to ensure that each file comes from the peer intact, ZeroNet makes use of Bitcoin’s protocol.
“ZeroNet uses the exact same cryptography and mathematical calculations as the Bitcoin network to verify if the wallet owner started the transaction or not,” explains ZeroNet creator, Tamas Kocsis.
Today, ZeroNet’s principles allow for forums, media sites, and other zites to be created without the fear of a regulatory ban, government interference, or centralized business owners taking a harsh stand against technologies they do not understand. This is of utmost benefit to cryptocurrencies, which currently face the wrath of media institutions looking to ban their right to free speech, in a self-regulated measure.
ZeroNet Used In Censorship Heavy Countries
The popularity of ZeroNet’s zites creates a perfect use-case for decentralized bodies to trust the platform.
According to Kocsis, active zite users mainly come from the heavily censored internet nations of China and Russia. “There is also significant interest from Europe and North America,” says the developer, adding that users seek a decentralized platform which offers freedom of speech.
The implementation of such a decentralized platform also prevents chances of a government crackdown and is likely to not have much effect on ZeroNet, according to Kocsis. Since the network is enabled by Tor and uses encrypted bitcoin addresses to keep running, regulatory bodies cannot trace the zite owners.
If somehow the government does trace down every zite’s peer, which is technically impossible, all it takes is for one person to continue seeding, to ensure the zite is fully functional and running.
Monero Could Be Next Subreddit To Be Banned
In March 2018, Reddit banned the darknet user’s (and researcher’s) favorite subreddit, r/dnm, after updating its site policy on content.
However, the mention of “currency” on its list of banned content comes as an impending warning about the possible ban of cryptocurrencies to follow next.
Most likely, the privacy-focused cryptocurrency, Monero, might be the first victim of a site-wide crackdown on cryptocurrencies, as it is neither backed by deep pockets nor features bitcoin-like transparency.
One Reddit user, who may have thought on similar lines, requested subscribers of r/monero to build a website dedicated to monero on ZeroNet while pointing out the similarities between them. Soon enough, the issue was voiced on Monero’s official forum, and further action is awaited.