A totally peer-to-peer (P2P) internet seems like a far-off reality. The web as we know it today relies on a number of centralized servers and platforms — and the blockchain protocol makes it possible to bypass these intermediaries when sending digital currency, or any form of data. In fact, this is one of the innovations that helped make Bitcoin the most popular cryptocurrency to date. Digital currency is far from the only P2P blockchain application, however. Because it was designed with disintermediation in mind, P2P-friendly developers are using blockchain technology to build software that aims for web decentralization.
P2P has been around longer than Bitcoin and the blockchain, as we can see here. Using this protocol to restructure the internet is fairly new, but there are already a number of tools based on this concept. Here are a few P2P blockchain apps that have emerged recently. It’s impossible to predict whether tools like these will form the basis of an entirely new web, as some proponents say, or just fill a niche market. For now, they’re certainly interesting to explore.
IPFS, or the Inter-Planetary File System, is a system for decentralized web applications that uses blockchain protocol to archive and sustain digital files. Billing itself as the “permanent web,” one goal of IPFS is to solve the problem of web fragility by harnessing the same technology that makes the blockchain ledger difficult to manipulate or erase. This is the reason behind the name: the inventors of IPFS have aimed for it to be so sturdy that it could even withstand transmission into outer space. Here on Earth, IPFS is being touted an alternative to HTTP (hypertext transmission protocol), a current core technology of the web. This may become more useful as the volume of data on the web continues to exponentially increase and issues of data management that are difficult to solve with HTTP keep growing.
Filecoin is a project from the same team that developed IPFS. Filecoin is both a platform for storing data and its own eponymous cryptocurrency. Filecoin is earned by hosting files: the program’s mining software allows users to exchange their unused storage space for the currency, which can then be exchanged for US dollars, Ether, Bitcoin, and other currencies. This differs from IPFS in that it’s incentive-based, although it shares many of the same benefits, including stability and resistance to censorship.
Sia is another protocol that uses the power of blockchain to decentralize data storage and transmission. Like Filecoin, Sia features its own cryptocurrency — Siacoin — which can be mined with its software. The Sia website makes the project’s goals very clear: “the long-term goal of Sia is to be the backbone storage layer of the internet,” it says. Right now, its competition is the current internet structure (i.e. dropbox, google drive), but in the not-too-distant future, the potential of Sia may only be threatened by similar programs.
For something a bit more lighthearted, there’s Etheria. Etheria is a Minecraft-like video game based on the Ethereum blockchain: the “world’s first decentralized virtual world,” as it says. In Etheria, players own tiles and “farm” them for building blocks, which is a process similar to cryptocurrency mining. As with Minecraft, the idea behind Etheria is just to build new things in the virtual world, although future versions may include more gaming features.
Because it is based on Ethereum, Etheria is strongly resistant to censorship and takedown by any state, company, or individual, including its developer. It requires a bit more tech savvy than Minecraft to set up, but as a P2P blockchain-based video game, it’s breaking new ground. Along with other games, like Beyond The Void and Spells of Genesis, it may become part of the first generation of blockchain gaming.
This is just a small sample of what’s out there in the P2P blockchain universe. There’s still plenty of room for creative minds to develop ideas for this technology. Whether this is the destiny of the Internet as we know it or simply a new avenue for development and connection, it’s exciting to see it grow.