We all know how the current internet works in the centralized world. Basically, there is a centralized data server containing all the information. We have already discussed the drawbacks of centralized internet in our previous articles. In this article, we will focus on sharing files on the internet in both centralized and decentralized worlds.
As the internet became widely accessible around the world, it entangled into our daily lives more and more. Today, the internet has turned into an immense and complex web of data that communicate using the Hypertext Transfer Protocol, also known as HTTP. The enormous and increasing volume of information transmission has put the HTTP system under considerable pressure. For example, when someone visits a web page, HTTP has to connect to the centralized servers and loads the content. The size of contents is another source of pressure because large-size contents usually need higher bandwidth allocation. In a centralized world, if a server does not respond or is taken down, a web page will not work properly or might even become inaccessible during the server down. Moreover, censorship is always a threat to centralized servers.
Decentralization is a relatively new approach to overcome these problems. One of the most well-known decentralized file-sharing systems is Torrenting. It has been used for sharing and distributing large files like videos as an answer to HTTP obstacles. However, even Torrenting is not flawless. This method works based on a peer-to-peer system, and each user operates as a node in the network. Once a user stops providing their service, they will be out of the sharing system. Therefore, the network cannot guarantee that there will always be enough volunteers for providing service and sharing files.
We can overcome the limitations of early versions of Torrenting by using blockchain technology. In blockchains, the system is also peer-to-peer, but participants are rewarded for their service and participation in operating blockchains. This rewarding system will ensure a constant and reliable providing service and participation in the network.
What is peer-to-peer?
When using centralized servers, the users type their request in a URL; HTTP then connects to servers, retrieve the contents, and delivers them to users. This model is called the client-server model.
As discussed above, decentralized file-sharing systems use the peer-to-peer model. In this model, every participant is a node in the network, and files are distributed across the network of these nodes instead of being stored on a centralized database. Each piece of a file holds a unique cryptographic hash and the network finds the required data by users using these unique hashes.
This function of this model clearly shows its advantages over the client-server model. Distributing a file to numerous nodes in a network protect it from alteration. The server down issues are also solved because if a few nodes go down, there are still other nodes that can deliver the data. The speed of transmitting files is also higher, even for large-size files, because distributing files across numerous nodes frees up bandwidth. Moreover, this model is not susceptible to censorship. It is impossible for governments to block access to distributed files on a network, while a centralized database can be easily censored by simply blocking its IP address.
Decentralized file-sharing platforms
There are many decentralized file-sharing platforms, and BitTorrent is probably the most well-known one. It started working in 2001 based on the peer-to-peer model and was acquired by the Tron network in 2018. BitTorrent has developed its new file-sharing platform based on the Tron blockchain network. This new platform is called BitTorrent File System, or BTFS, and its purpose is to overcome the limitations of the BitTorrent version. BTFS incentivized based and rewards participants in tokens for their contribution and service to the network. Another BTFS’s feature is providing a decentralized file storage solution for DApps running on a blockchain. Many developers store DApps files in a centralized way because file storage on a blockchain is expensive. BTFS has introduced an accessible and affordable decentralized file storage to address this issue.
In addition to sharing files, BitTorrent has developed a platform for live broadcasting called DLive. This platform allows users to create their own broadcasts or browse through and watch countless genres of contents. Users are again rewarded for their contribution to the network.
Another platform for sharing files is the InterPlanetary File System, or IPFS. We have introduced this project in our previous articles. It is a revolutionary search engine on the EOS blockchain. It was launched in 2015, and it aims to replace HTTP and build the next generation of the internet, Web3.0. Similar to BitTorrent, it allows users to both receive and host content.
The IPFS has been used to overturn the Turkish government ban against Wikipedia. The Wikipedia website was blocked in Turkey from April 2017 until January 2020, when the Constitutional Court of Turkey ordered the band to be lifted. However, the decentralized world did not wait for any court decisions or activists and deployed Wikipedia on IPFS, calling it “Uncensorable Wikipedia.”
These benefits are proof of why decentralization and Web 3.0 are the future of the internet.