Own Your Website — Where Only You Have Control Over It.

Adelene
Geek Culture
Published in
6 min readJul 30, 2021

A completely decentralized website using blockchain domains and decentralized hosting.

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

The introduction of blockchain technology allows practically any application to be decentralized. The next step is to decentralize websites. Bringing back the free and open internet without censorship. Let’s figure out how blockchain allows the creation of a completely decentralized website.

What a website needs

Web Files: the contents

This is your HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files. The building blocks of your website. The contents of your website.

Web Hosting: the storage

Web hosting is where you store the website. It is where your web files live. For online access to the website, the website needs to be hosted on a server.

Domain Name: the pathway

The domain name is the address of your website. When someone types in the domain name, it pings the IP address of the webserver. Instead of typing 192.217.10.13. we can type examplename.com. Much more memorable and have a clear pathway to the host computer, which contains our website.

A decentralized website is hosted on a decentralized server with a decentralized domain name. It is built so that no one can take away the path to your website, nor can they destroy the storage.

Blockchain Domains

Why bother having a decentralized domain?

In a normal website, the domain name is provided by domain name registrar services like Namecheap. These domain names need to be registered in a DNS network. This allows us to know which domain has been taken and which is available. Someone has to sync the network together and oversee them, and they are Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

Authorities can easily take down your website. They just have to use ICANN lookup to find the domain registrar. The domain registrar can deactivate your domain as they have full control over your domain. By taking away your domain, your website cannot be accessed.

What is a Blockchain Domain?

The blockchain domain is a Non-Fungible Token (NFT). NFT is a token that lives on the blockchain, it is a token of ownership for assets. The domains are stored in a publicly accessible blockchain. Anyone can view the details of the domain, but only the wallet owner can modify the details.

Authorities have no way of taking down blockchain domains. They know the information about the domain, as blockchain is visible to everyone, but they have no access to change the domain. If they want to take down a domain, they have 2 options — seize the crypto wallet or takedown computers that participate in the blockchain.

It is extremely time-consuming to hunt down every single computer that contributes to the blockchain. The end result will most probably be fruitless because new computers can join the network at any time. Compare this to just asking the domain name registrar to take down your domain. The decentralized nature of blockchain domains makes them censorship-resistant.

Let’s examine another method to take down the blockchain domain — seize the crypto wallet that holds it. Provided that the wallet that blockchain domain did not go through any Know Your Customer (KYC) identification, no one knows who owns the domain. People can create websites without their real identity tied to them. It is hard for authorities to take down the domain when they have no clue who owns it!

You own the domain, and no one can take it away from you.

Photo by K8 on Unsplash

Comparison with .onion

Why have all the trouble of buying a blockchain domain if there are .onion sites?

Only accessible by Tor Browser

.onion sites can only be accessed by the Tor network. Tor apps in Android works. However, the iOs Tor application crashes often based on some reviews. I tried to using Onion Browser app on my iPhone, it just lags and doesn’t load up anything. The amount of apple mobile users is around 1.5 billion. Furthermore, mobile web traffic is over 52.6% of global web traffic. By limiting the website inside the Tor network, it limits the amount of potential traffic.

Practically everyone has access to clearnet. Clearnet is a publically accessible network excluding the deep web and dark web. Blockchain domains are in the clearnet. Allowing the average person to access it easily without going through Tor.

Not indexed by search engines like Google, DuckduckGo, and Bing.

It can be hard to distribute content without a search engine index. Website owners have to give direct links to access their .onion sites. Search engines are good for allowing users to search for their queries. Without a search engine index, it is harder to get traffics. Getting to your website content with a trusted search engine is crucial for discoverability and trust. Tor community helps by providing a list of .onion sites.

.onion sites need to have an exact 16 characters long.

These 16 characters are randomly generated. It is based on the public key when the .onion is created. This makes .onion sites very hard to remember for website visitors. For instance, the New York Times .onion site address is https://www.nytimes3xbfgragh.onion, the only readable part is nytimes. Website visitors have to record the website address themselves.

Why Do I Need to Bother With Decentralized Hosting?

Censorship-resistant

Okay, so you get your blockchain domain. Ready to own your website that is censorship-resistant. Note that the blockchain is publicly visible to everyone. Information such as your nameserver, which reveals where you host your website, is publically viewable by anyone. Authorities just have to contact your hosting provider to take down your web files or stop providing their service. What if you use your own servers? Government with decent manpower can track down your server location, and seize it.

Single-point-of-failure

Central hosting providers have the ability to manipulate your web files. Once a malicious actor gets hold of one of the servers that contain your website, damage can be done. A dark web hosting provider got hacked, causing over 6500 sites down.

When using a hosting provider, you are trusting their security infrastructure. Additionally, that their employees have proper cybersecurity awareness. Social engineering is proven to be very effective.

A centralized host opens up a single point-of-failure for your website.

Decentralized Web Hosting — Interplanetary File System (IPFS)

IPFS is a peer-to-peer distributed file system. It connects all participating computer devices with the same system files. IPFS is also the protocol to access digital files connected to NFT. Web files version is synced with computers all around the globe. Every computer that downloaded the IPFS software is hosting their website and participating in the distribution network! Even if your own computer with IPFS got taken down, other participating computers hold a version of your website.

Speed Benefits of IPFS

We don’t have to fish out money for Content Distribution Networks (CDN). Imagine this. If you are in the United States, and you want to access a website that is hosted in Australia. The internet cables that run underneath oceans would have to travel quite far. Making the website load slower. CDN help by hosting your web content on their servers. You can have your website in both United States and Australia, allowing faster website loading speed. However, CDNs cost money, you are literally renting another server in another country to host your website. CDNs might not be a viable option for website owners who are on a budget or non-profit organizations.

IPFS, by design, allows website visitors to ping the nearest computer that participates in the IPFS network. Speeding up websites without costly CDNs.

Conclusion

We have the infrastructure to create a completely decentralized website. Blockchain domains and IPFS allows censorship-resistance website exists in the clearnet. Own your website. Where you are the only ones who have a say on whether to take it down or not.

Want to know more about blockchain? Every Sunday, I share about blockchain basics or projects at comprehend.substack.com

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Adelene
Geek Culture

Crypto enthusiast. Privacy and security advocate. Obsessed about productivity, self-development, and finance. Learn about crypto on comprehend.substack.com