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Welcome to The New Internet, Decentralized and Free

Welcome to The New Internet, Decentralized and Free

by Giulio PriscoDecember 15, 2014

Last week we reported that, in a post on the official BitTorrent blog, CEO Eric Klinker announced a private alpha test for a P2P web browser called Project Maelstrom, based on BitTorrent technology. Project Maelstrom is one of the ongoing initiatives aimed at building a new Internet that works like BitTorrent.

That is, decentralized and free.

Also read: BitTorrent Moves to Decentralize the Web

When you download a torrent and open it with a torrent client, something magic happens: you start downloading file referenced by the torrent not from a central server, but from all the users who have downloaded the file. Each user sends you bits and snippets of the file, and before you know it, you have downloaded the whole file. The BitTorrent technology for distributed file storage and Peer to Peer (P2P) transfers was one of the biggest developments in Web technology since the Web itself, and opened the way to a distributed, fully decentralized Internet.

BitTorrent is an ideal technology for P2P file transfers – once a torrent is released and seeded by many users, there is no way to stop the wave. But the weak link is the Web: if the authorities don’t like a website, they can take over the central server and shut it down. Examples: The Pirate Bay, Silk Road, and WikiLeaks. But if there is no central server, the authorities can’t take down the central server.

As reported by Reason magazine, BitTorrent CEO Eric Klinker said about BitTorrent’s Micro Transport Protocol:

It’s the best example we have of technology being used to solve what is perceived to be a policy problem. It’s only through the technology that the Internet’s rules are written.

Before announcing the developed of Project Maelstrom, BitTorrent launched the P2P chat application Bleep, currently in open alpha testing, which works through a server-less architecture built around a distributed hash table (DHT). Bleep is fully encrypted, with messages and other data only stored locally on users’ devices. Users can entirely delete their message history if they want. That shows how a distributed, peer-to-peer architecture like BitTorrent uses is more secure than one built on a cloud-based architecture.

Websites Streamed by Thousands or Millions of Personal Devices Worldwide.

BitTorrentBleep and Project Maelstrom are two elements of a new Internet, decentralized and free, which we will start using in 2015 and, hopefully, will take over the Internet of old and its intrinsic vulnerability to hostile actions. Imagine: websites don’t live on central servers that can be blocked, switched off or seized by bankers and bureaucrats, but are streamed by thousands or millions of personal devices worldwide. It is easy to see that, by extending this approach to message boards, it will be possible to develop free and anonymous communication platforms. Once that happens, there is not much that the enemies of Internet freedom can so, besides licking their wounds and denouncing those filthy free people.

I signed up to be a Project Maelstrom alpha tester, but I haven’t been invited yet. Not much is known at the moment beside the initial announcement, which doesn’t have many technical and implementation details. Fortunately, PC World has an article with more information about Project Maelstrom and BitTorrent’s vision for a P2P web, based on exchanges with BitTorrent’s communications chief Christian Averill and product manager Rob Velasquez. Some highlights below:

Maelstrom is based on Chromium, the same open-source project found underneath both Chrome and Opera. In order for publishers and developers to take advantage of Project Maelstrom, they have to publish their content as a torrent. Project Maelstrom will support normal web browsing via HTTP/S, so that users will be able to browse normal websites as well. The Maelstrom browser adds the additional support of being able to browse websites distributed via torrents.

The project is focused static on HTML and Javascript apps at the moment, but the developers plan to add support for web applications such as storefronts and productivity apps like Google Docs. HTTP requests can be made inside of a torrent and BitTorrent requests can be made inside of normal HTTP/S websites, which will permit mixing the two types of content. For example, an HTTP/S served blog could serve images or videos via a torrent and display them inline, or a torrent website could embed live tweets via an HTTP/S API.

Developers will be able to embed anything in a torrent website that can be embedded in an HTTP-served website, like Google Adsense, Facebook like buttons and video streams.

Not much more is known at the moment, but make no mistakes:  this is the beginning of a new and better Internet, decentralized and free.

Images from BitTorrent and Shutterstock.

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