A Decentralized Web Site Anchored in the Blockchain

by Andrew Barisser

I have been working on a new project which I call ‘The Bitiverse’. Put simply, it is a way of constructing a decentralized website in such a way that it cannot be censored or suppressed. Moreover, the website’s space, its actual pixels, are themselves for sale via a protocol abstracted on top of the Bitcoin Blockchain.

Using Bitiverse software, which naturally is open source, one can construct a website locally using arbitrarily complex information on the Internet in such a way that it is also determinstic and provable.

How it works

Bitiverse software looks in the Bitcoin Blockchain for what I call blockchain pointers. A pointer is just a single OP_RETURN transaction carrying less than 80 bytes of information. That information contains a URL link to another website; I call this the content url. This content url contains further information for how to populate the webpage.

The Bitiverse page is a single website that is meant to act as a portal to other websites. It is a simple first incarnation of a broader idea, namely, censorship resistance that cannot be beaten.

I have imposed scarcity on the Bitiverse webpage to prevent endless spam. It is a 1920X1080 pixel space. Each pixel has an owner: an address on the Bitcoin Blockchain. Each pixel owner may publish a content transaction to declare what he wants to exist in his pixels. This content transaction contains the blockchain pointer described above. While any Bitcoin address may publish a content transaction, only the legitimate owner of pixels within the Bitiverse page can impact what those pixels express. Thus if I am the owner of pixels between [[200,200], [250, 280]] (x and y coordinates of corner points of a rectangle of pixels on the Bitiverse), any content transaction I publish can only affect pixels within that range that I actually own. If I tried to publish content for pixels I didn't own, my message would be disregarded.

Space within the Bitiverse may not just be owned; it may be transacted trustlessly. I have created a simple protocol overlaid on top of Bitcoin, consisting of OP_RETURNS, that expresses the transfer of ownership rights of space within the Bitiverse. Thus if you are the legitimate owner of pixels within the Bitiverse, you may transmit that ownership to another party with a Bitcoin transaction.

Where this goes

The Bitiverse is just a first take on a bigger idea: a peer-to-peer web without gatekeepers. An owner of pixels on the Bitiverse cannot be silenced unless a majority of the Bitcoin mining pool decided to; an unlikely occurrence. If the content_url is shutdown by outside powers, a new one may be created and re-broadcast immediately, becoming a confirmed Bitcoin transaction within minutes. The authorities would have to have the capability of shutting down arbitrary IP addresses every 10 minutes to stifle this.

But the Bitiverse also heralds a second idea: possession of non-currency assets with cryptographic keys. As an owner of pixelspace in the Bitiverse, you don’t need to register with anyone. You are an owner by virtue of your private key. Pixelspace on the Bitiverse is both similar and quite different from owning bitcoins. It is abstract, yes, but it is also like owning a billboard, or physical territory, except with the convenience of owning bitcoins. I’m fascinated with the idea of extending the trustless, cryptographic paradigm to new areas.

The Bitiverse, as is, is a very simple first pass. It could use a lot of improvement. But with that said, it does work. It can construct a distributed, decentralized locally by pulling in blockchain pointers. It is trustless. When ownership of pixelspace is transferred, it really is transferred; just like Bitcoin it has utter, mathematical finality.

I also believe that, while the Bitiverse in its current state is a large, finite territory of links and images owned by distributed private keys, the same paradigm could be extended to more complex websites. The Holy Grail, of course, is a truly trustless, decentralized Reddit. Fred Wilson lay down the gauntlet and I (and others) are actively working on it.

I will be releasing alpha-version source code very soon.

If you’re interested follow me on Twitter.

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