Have you heard of decentralized web hosting?
Don’t worry, if you haven’t, it is still not as popular as other types of hosting services. Let’s see what decentralization of web hosting services means.
What Is Decentralized Web Hosting?
Decentralized hosting, similar to other decentralized systems, means that all the provided services do not belong to a single entity. The idea of anything decentralized is that the responsibility is shared. In terms of web hosting, this means that either multiple server should be used, or client apps using the peer-to-peer model.
What is peer-to-peer web hosting? Peer-to-peer web hosting uses peer-to-peer (P2P) networking to provide access to webpages. This model is different than the client-server model, in which the distribution of web data happens between web servers and user-end computers.
The idea of sharing the responsibility may not seem quite appealing to already successful website owners and bloggers. However, decentralized hosting could be very beneficial by introducing the model of openness and complete fairness in everything. For example, decentralized hosting will make all involved parties use the same cryptographic techniques, for example Merkle (hash) trees, and additional digital signatures.
Merkle trees, as seen in cryptography, are trees in which every leaf node carries the cryptographic hash of a data block, and every non-lead node is labelled with the hash of the labels of its child nodes.
As for the additional digital signatures, they could make the process completely transparent, and as a result everyone would be accountable for their own actions.
More on Web Hosting: Top Advantages and Disadvantages of Shared Web Hosting
Are There Any Decentralized Hosting Companies?
Yes, there are. In fact, one such company just launched recently – Sia’s Skynet, which can be described as a content delivery network (CDN) and web hosting platform. Sia made their official announcement few days ago, on February 18:
What we are announcing today is the product of more than 20 years combined engineering and operational effort. The vast majority of this time was spent in builder’s limbo. Almost weekly we would get the question: “when are you going to market? When are you building a business development team?”, and we had to keep answering, “the tech is not ready”. And after years of patience both from our community and investors, we can finally step forward. The tech is ready.
To be more precise, Skynet is powered by the company’s blockchain-based, peer-to-peer file storage network. Both regular users and developers can upload files and applications to Skynet, which are meant to stay online as long as at least one peer pins the file. This makes the data permanent and immutable.
The service is intended for public web hosting. However, Sia is working on an encrypted private data feature which is yet to be added to the platform.
Are There Other Companies Similar to Skynet?
Yes, there are. Sia’s Skynet is not the first such effort on the market. Another example is IPFS (InterPlanetary File System), which is a sister project of Filecoin.
Other examples of decentralized, blockchain-based platforms for web hosting and content delivery are TRON’s BitTorrent File System and NKN (New Kind of Network).
Possible Issues with Decentralizing Hosting and Content Delivery Services
Despite that these services show great potential, there are some concerns, such as long-term data permanence and large-scale behavior, which are yet to be proven as effective. There’s also the question with illegal and controversial content, and how it is going to be addressed.