Decentralized websites rely on decentralized networks rather than centralized servers to preserve and verify the data’s integrity. Decentralized websites offer a more private, secure and censorship-resistant alternative to standard websites by utilizing peer-to-peer (P2P) networking, cryptography and blockchain.
This article will explain how to host a decentralized website, and the benefits and challenges of decentralized hosting.
What is decentralized web hosting?
A web server distributes the website’s files to its clients in a standard network setup for hosting websites. This allows larger organizations or governments to decide what content is displayed, which takes away the freedom that the World Wide Web initially provided. This gave rise to decentralized web hosting — a new approach to hosting websites that stores website files on various nodes or computers instead of a single central server.
With decentralized web hosting, there is more security, redundancy and censorship resistance. Blockchain technology, peer-to-peer networks and other distributed systems are used in decentralized web hosting to guarantee that website files are continuously accessible, regardless of network outages or other disruptions. It is a topic of great interest for those worried about internet censorship, privacy and the centralization of web hosting infrastructure.
Web3, or decentralized hosting, is important because it represents a fundamental change to how websites and web applications are hosted and accessed. The traditional web hosting model has several drawbacks, including the potential for downtime, security vulnerabilities and the risk of censorship or control by third-party intermediaries.
Additionally, Web3 hosting offers new business models and revenue sources, such as micropayments and decentralized content distribution networks, along with higher security, resilience and resistance to censorship.
How to host a decentralized website
Creating and distributing website files over a network of nodes requires Web3 technologies and tools when hosting a decentralized website. The following explains how Web3 hosting works:
Create website files
First, use Web3 tools and technologies to construct the website files. Use systems like Swarm — a distributed storage system built on the Ethereum blockchain — or the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS), a P2P network for storing and sharing data.
Choose a domain name
Once the website files are created, pick a domain name for the website. To register a domain name on the blockchain, utilize a decentralized naming system like the Ethereum Name Service (ENS).
Store files on the network
Network file storage is the next step. Use IPFS or Swarm to store network files. To do this, the files must be divided into smaller parts and distributed around the network. Ensuring the files are stored in various places increases their security and resilience.
Point domain name to website files
The domain name needs to be pointed to the website files once stored on the network. To do this, a Domain Name System (DNS) record must be created that links the domain name to the network location of the website’s files.
Once the domain name has been pointed to the website’s files, test the site to verify that everything is operating as it should. Access the website using a Web3-capable browser, such as Brave.
Related: A beginner’s guide to the privacy-focused next-generation Brave browser
An example of a decentralized website include OpenBazaar, which is a decentralized e-commerce platform that enables users to trade goods and services directly between themselves. It uses the Bitcoin blockchain for transactions, and the IPFS network to store and share user and product data.
How does a decentralized website work?
A decentralized website, also known as a Web3 website, works differently from traditional websites that are hosted on centralized servers. Here’s how it works:
- Website creation: With Web3 tools and technologies like Solidity, IPFS and Swarm, a user develops a website. The website’s files are divided up into small chunks and kept on separate network nodes.
- Domain registration: With a decentralized naming system, such as ENS, the user registers a domain name for their website, which is then kept on the blockchain.
- Website access: A user uses a Web3-capable browser, such as Brave, to request access to a website. To retrieve the webpage files, the browser requests them from the network.
- File retrieval: The network’s nodes cooperate to find the website files and deliver them to the user’s browser. This process does not experience delay because there is no need to wait for a central server to answer if the files are kept in several places, making this process quick and effective.
- Smart contracts: To manage user interactions, the website may use smart contracts, which are self-executing computer programs that run on the blockchain. Payments, voting and data storage, are just a few of the operations that smart contracts may automate.
- Delivery of content: Without using any middlemen or centralized servers, the website content is sent directly to the user’s browser. This lowers the risk of data breaches and hackers because the user’s data is not kept on a single server.
Related: What is decentralized storage, and how does it work?
Benefits of decentralized web hosting
Decentralized web hosting offers several advantages over traditional centralized hosting, including increased security, reduced costs, and greater control and privacy. More security is provided via decentralized hosting for users and website owners. Website files are spread throughout a network of nodes, making them more resilient to hacking and server outages than centralized servers. As there is no single point of failure, this also lowers the chance of data breaches and other security risks.
Traditional hosting can be more expensive than decentralized hosting since it requires more costly server infrastructure and maintenance. Small businesses and individuals wanting to host a website without paying a lot of money may find this especially helpful.
Additionally, decentralized hosting gives website owners and users more control and privacy. That said, users can control their data and decide how it is shared and utilized because no single entity is in charge of the network. This can aid in preventing privacy infractions such as data mining — the process of discovering patterns and insights from large data sets using machine learning and statistical methods.
Challenges concerned with decentralized web hosting
While decentralized hosting offers several benefits, it is important to consider the technical, infrastructural and regulatory challenges before deciding whether it is the right choice for your website.
Decentralized hosting necessitates a level of technological know-how that many website owners might not possess. Decentralized websites can be more challenging to set up and keep updated than a regular hosting service.
Moreover, Web3 hosting uses a network of nodes to store website files, but these nodes may have capacity and performance restrictions. In comparison to centralized hosting, this could lead to slower website loading times and decreased scalability.
Decentralized hosting is a newer technology, so there isn’t much consensus on protocols and best practices yet. Because of this, it could be more challenging for website owners to select a decentralized website hosting service that suits their requirements.
The legal and regulatory landscape for decentralized hosting is still developing for website owners and decentralized website hosting providers, which may cause uncertainties. Addressing concerns about liability, data security and other legal matters is necessary before opting for a decentralized web domain.
Centralized vs. decentralized web hosting
Centralized and decentralized web hosting are two different approaches to hosting websites. Here are the key differences between the two:
Overall, decentralized hosting may be preferable for larger websites with more sophisticated security and scalability requirements, whereas centralized hosting may be a better option for small to medium-sized websites that don’t require a high level of protection or control.
The future of decentralized web hosting
Decentralized web hosting is a means of developing a more open and democratic internet where users have more control over their data and avoid the privacy and security issues connected with centralized hosting.
The growing interest in blockchain technology, the development of decentralized infrastructure, increased adoption of peer-to-peer networking, rising demand for privacy and security, and the emergence of decentralized social media platforms are some of the key trends and developments influencing the future of decentralized web hosting.
Blockchain technology, which offers a safe and decentralized method of data storage, is frequently linked to decentralized web hosting. One may anticipate seeing more decentralized web hosting solutions across a broader range of sectors as blockchain technology gains popularity.
To support decentralized web hosting, developers are constructing more complex decentralized infrastructure. This includes decentralized databases, content delivery networks and domain name systems.
Peer-to-peer networking, which enables users to share files and data without depending on a central server, is the foundation of decentralized web hosting. Users may expect additional uses for decentralized web hosting as peer-to-peer networking improves dependability and effectiveness.
The need for privacy and security is growing, and more individuals are looking for alternatives to centralized hosting as their concerns grow about privacy and security online. Decentralized web hosting appeals to many consumers because it provides a safer and more private way to store and distribute data.
Social media sites have come under fire for centralized user content and data management. Decentralized web hosting makes it possible to build social media platforms that are more democratic and decentralized, and allow users more control over their data and content.
That said, with its ability to provide increased security, reliability and control over data, decentralized hosting will likely become an increasingly popular choice for businesses and individuals in the future.