Who is Building the Decentralized Internet?

Across various industries, no matter how successful they are, there exists an array of issues. Whether it be in design or execution, it is not out of the ordinary for something to go wrong. To combat this, many developers are taking it upon themselves to seek an effective solution. That particular salvation for many comes in the form of decentralization.

Decentralization is becoming a standard solution for many industries looking to resolve issues that are plaguing their systems. Over time, this concept would gradually find its way into the field of cybersecurity. There are a variety of startups and firms that are starting to introduce unique tools that draw from blockchain technologies. With them, it is possible for Internet users to gain sovereignty over their data.

Evidently, a majority of companies are content with this arrangement. However, there is a handful that are going the extra mile to include other factors as part of the issues. These include such things as censorship and geoblocking. These, among several others, are what their solutions need to eliminate.

The idea of Internet freedom for these entities is pure nonsense. That is to say, it is a farce if centralized service providers remain on top of the Internet food chain. Therefore, they make a decision to go for a less subtle approach towards overhauling the current structures. They are what is enabling the recurring issues relating to privacy, freedom, and security, after all.

This article will go over projects working towards Internet decentralization and will touch on the topic of censorship.

Bluzelle

According to this project’s website:

Bluzelle strives to level the technological power structures and access to information through decentralization.”

Bluzelle is a blockchain startup with a specific goal in mind. It aims to build a considerably more secure method of storage and management for users’ information. It plans to do so by way of constructing decentralized database systems. The project is the next-generation database protocol for Internet decentralization, effectively making databases more reliable and prosperous.

The ecosystem of Bluzelle plans to run on a two token economy: BLZ  and BNT. In total, there will be up to two participants in the ecosystem. First, there will be the ‘producers’. These are basically the miners who extend computing power to the Bluzelle network. Doing so will successfully support the entirety of the database of distributed information. Second, there will be ‘consumers’. These are DApp developers that are looking to store their products on a platform that is immutable and decentralized. The consumer will employ the use of the Bluzelle database network and pay for services in BLZ and BNT tokens.

Bluzelle possesses boundless scaling abilities due to their algorithm storing data in a unique network model. To elaborate, it is a model that does not wholly depend on data centers. It is capable of instantly scaling database services. The construction of Bluzelle is primarily for a dynamic performance. This is because it can modify both the number and location of nodes sharding data to cut down on request time. What’s more, it will boost overall performance.

Bluzelle views blockchain databases as being the ideal technique for security enhancement. Moreover, they see it as a way to make verification easier across partner organizations.

Unstoppable Domains

What if there was a way to replace cryptocurrency addresses with a more human and readable name? This is the approach that Unstoppable Domains are taking in its quest for achieving complete Internet freedom.

For this particular startup, there is one feasible way to properly help users bypass the hindrances of today’s web. That specific method is to provide a Domain Name System (DNS) on a blockchain ecosystem. As such, this will effectively make it near impossible for entities to engage in blocking or censoring such domains. In a similar fashion, this project offers crypto holders readable names, serving as alternatives to conventional cryptocurrency addresses. This feature alleviates the anticipated difficulty that holders tend to experience thanks to the natural complexity of crypto addresses.

It is for this reason that users need to create a readable name. This method will be in lieu of trying to remember their address or using the comparatively less efficient QR code.

Unstoppable Domains operates on the Zilliqa blockchain and because of this, its blockchain domain is .zil. Let’s say, for instance, that a user wants to adopt this technology. In this case, this person can replace their address with a domain name such as “Freetoken.zil”. All payments that are directed to this specific domain will automatically find a route to the appropriate wallet.

There is something even more impressive to remember about this startup. That being the very fact that the domain names are supportive of cryptocurrencies beyond the Zilliqa coin. By combining the two functionalities of Unstoppable Domains, it becomes probable for users to accommodate censorship-resistant websites. To put simply, no third-party entity will be able to block or restrict any of the sites’ activities.

Features of Unstoppable Domains

Unstoppable Domains implements an array of traditional blockchain technology’s functionalities into its Internet solution. Some of which include the following:

  • Private Keys: First and foremost, there is always a need for users to construct a private key. With this, they are able to properly manage and access their domains. In order to create one, a user has to enter their strong password. Doing so will provoke the generation process of a key. As soon as the user’s session concludes, this key will cease to exist on the browser’s memory. The development team ensures users that the private keys fully function on several blockchains. Consequently, users can utilize them for accessing their domains on various blockchains networks.
  • Smart Escrow: The smart escrow essentially makes a promise regarding private keys. It guarantees that the user’s activities on the browser trigger the verification of the private key. In addition, its intent is to eradicate the consequences that come from someone losing their private key. As such, the smart escrow builds a ‘back-up key’. This is something that the user can use as a substitute whenever they misplace the private key. It is handy and saves the user a lot of heartaches.

Tachyon

Tachyon is a project that lives by four important factors: “Democracy. Privacy. Security. High Speed.” According to its whitepaper:

The existing lack of trust and security in internet privacy, along with the aging infrastructure, inhibits the internet in providing the speed and reliability required by current network-based, Web 3.0 services such DeFi and other complex applications. To bring a new solution in resolving these issues, Tachyon Protocol utilizes the existing and widely accepted platform, while eliminating the very idea of centralized servers…”

This project is a collaborative effort between two existing platforms: X-VPN and V SYSTEMS. The former is a popular VPN service provider that boasts its user count surpassing 50 million. The latter is a blockchain solution that provides developers with a platform that will launch their DApps. By working together, these companies would successfully analyze the drawbacks of the current VPN and internet architecture. What’s more, their efforts would lead to the conception of an idea that could win in the long-run.

Tachyon is of the belief that there needs to be a complete overhaul of the Internet protocol. To them, this overhaul is long overdue, so they aim to replace it with a brand new one. The protocol they have in mind is one that ensures faster speed, stronger security, privacy, and adaptability. To achieve this, the startup conjured up an alternative protocol that will create the appropriate ecosystem for establishing a decentralized VPN.

Tachyon’s underlying technologies

  • Tachyon Booster UDP (TBU): Tachyon states that its TBU, the transport layer that initiates blockchain implementation, DHT, and UDP, is very fast. Technically speaking, it is roughly 200% to 1000% faster than any conventional protocol suite. It facilitates a 90% connection rate on a considerably weak network with 95% stability. This is regardless of how intricate the environment of the network may be.
  • Tachyon Security Protocol: This protocol supplies ECDHE-ECDSA end-to-end encryption simulation in order to help protect users’ personal data. To carry this out, it inputs random data to conceal the content of messages from those who are nosy. Likewise, this protocol performs a handful of blockchain’s security features. One of which includes the use of public and private keys for the purpose of decrypting information.
  • Tachyon Anti-Analysis: This feature retains the anonymity of users by way of introducing the technique of ‘multi-path routing’. This is another way of illustrating that a piece of information separates into different IP packets. Then, it is sent into several different paths. In addition, it implements multi-relay forwarding in order to circumvent any potential middlemen attacks.

Substratum

This project boasts on their website that they are “the foundation of the decentralized web.” Substratum is an open-source network that permits the allocation of spare computing resources. This will help in making the Internet a free and fair place for everyone worldwide. Much like Tachyon, the main idea that powers the Substratum network stem from a specific need. That being a decentralized Internet that will let users benefit from total freedom on the Internet. 

Concerning the issue pertaining to privacy and net neutrality, the team behind this project would introduce encryptions. With these, the system will be able to effectively remove any influence of both Internet service providers and governments. Similarly, there will be a different approach from fully overhauling existing Internet infrastructures. Instead, this network aims to wholly integrate the functionalities of blockchain into ones that already exist. This method should contribute to the overall ease-of-use and full adoption of the Substratum ecosystem.

The network relies heavily on a distributed node model for solid security and scalability. Each node operates as a routing point for content, specifically between the website’s host and the users. As such, the architecture eradicates the conventional need for VPN or Tor when accessing content from websites that Substratum hosts.

Vital components of Substratum

  • Substratum Host: Substratum Host permits the deployment, running, and management of users’ website resources on the network. These resources often include basic factors like the domain name and databases. Website owners are able to pay for hosting as well, though in a way that is more beneficial and cost-efficient. Owners pay nodes that are responsible for transmitting their contents to visitors by way of a pay per click format. This payment option surpasses the traditional monthly subscription model. Something that, for the record, centralized hosting platforms typically utilize.
  • Substratum Nodes: These are entities that function as the link between website visitors and the hosts. Basically, nodes deliver the content of the website that the network hosts to users and they receive payment for it. Running a node requires you to own a mid-end CPU and RAM.
  • Multi-Routing: To ensure security, the network has a function that divides the content of a message between an array of nodes. This feature makes it extremely difficult for attackers to have full visibility of traveling data. This is even after they successfully take control of one or more nodes.
  • One-Click Software: This feature makes it very easy to navigate the Substratum network. The reason for this being that users do not need to obtain any programming skills before accessing the network.
  • AI-Enabled Router: Substratum offers an AI system that will identify the closest nodes. With this, content is able to reach web users at a faster rate.
  • Custom-Developed Compression Technology: When it comes to the latency issue, Substratum implements a custom-made technology that will effectively loosen any congestion.
  • SDK & API: Substratum makes the process of deploying applications on its network exceedingly simple. This is possible by way of providing a Software development kit (SDK) and API for developers.

OAN

Originally called AION until July of 2017, the Open Application Network (OAN) is public infrastructure. Its system presents a brand new design space that is specifically for Open Applications. Open Apps are “programs that put users back in control and are universally accessible across platforms.” By using Open Apps, developers have the ability to hook into pre-existing platforms like Twitch and Uber.

The intent of this network is to connect the current big tech platforms with an open application building environment. It plans to do so with two major focuses: 1) user control, and 2) cross-platform accessibility. Above all else, what they want is to provide the tools for building alternative platforms that give users a sense of ownership and control. Most importantly, it gives users a strong sense of privacy.

By rebranding itself as OAN, the network enables developers to place the control of the platforms being used back into the hands of the users.

Censorship

Living in the West, it’s easy to think that Internet censorship is not as much an issue here as it is elsewhere. That is to say, there are talks about it, but it is not exactly a pressing issue that we need to worry about. Countries like China are where Internet censorship is most prevalent, right? While that is somewhat true, there are some progressively overbearing government regulations that are starting to creep in. Ones that may threaten Internet freedoms in the West as well.

The reasons as to why exactly oppressive governments want Internet control and surveillance vary. Whatever they may be, what they ultimately come down to is one specific desire: sustaining power. Most of the time, the greater the level of control and surveillance, the greater the following will be:

  • The capability of identifying and silencing political opponents.
  • Total control of the in-flow of information and ideas that could potentially undermine the current order. A notable example includes ideas of feminism in societies that are considerably more traditional/patriarchal/religious. Another is scenes of outsider prosperity.
  • Control over communication that takes place between individuals and groups.
  • Obstruction of public dissent, which includes media diversity.
  • Utilization of personal information as a way to influence elections by way of propaganda and advertising. Alternatively, to have the ability to manipulate electoral boundaries.

It is important to add that the rationale is to supposedly “stop or catch criminals.” However, what is seen as criminal behavior in these countries is usually quite loose or extensive. This can often include actively protesting the regime.

Fighting this oppression

China is infamous for its dominance over the internet. They do not allow certain social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to operate in the country. Last year, China made a move to ban VPNs purely because VPNs facilitate the bypassing of restrictions on their internet access. Doing so is possible by connecting to the Internet through a server in another, less strict country.

There are several countries that are taking a wide variety of censorship measures towards complete control. Russia, for example, is blocking the messaging app, Telegram, following the company’s refusal to share encryption keys with the Federal Security Service.

As it turns out, censorship is not limited to just governments. In fact, there are a lot of social networks that are participating in the difficult task of policing their platforms. There have been plenty of high-profile cases pertaining to this. One of which is the ban of the conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones, from YouTube. Likewise, there is also the ban of Kathy Griffin from Twitter, among several other public figures. Whether you support these bans or not, censorship is evident.

While there are governments closing in on Internet freedoms, there are still others in full support of this freedom.

Back in 2017, France annulled a provision that would criminalize the regular conference of websites. Specifically, websites that seemingly provoke or glorify terrorism. Meanwhile, the government of Canada promises to rectify certain elements of the Anti-Terrorism Act. This would allow information-sharing across government agencies for an array of purposes. Moreover, Italy made an announcement concerning the launch of an online portal that will report ‘fake news’ to law enforcement.

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