Introducing ZeroNet

ZeroNet should look pretty similar to the regular internet while you are using it, but it works using torrent-like software combined with Bitcoin’s encryption. When you install the software you can connect with peers, and then download files which contain the code to run any website you want to visit – that site will then run locally on your own computer. When you leave that site, the files will remain on your computer so you can then start ‘seeding’ them – sharing them with peers who may wish to visit that site in the future.

This new decentralized system gets rid of the need to have a central server hosting the files and serving them up to every visitor who wants to view a web page. There are several advantages to this, including improved security and privacy for the site’s users and the fact that websites created this way are strongly resistant to any form of government censorship – the only way to remove a site from the network is if everybody who has ever visited that site either deletes the files or stops connecting to the network. Take a look at my other article on decentralized internet technologies for more about why we need to decentralize the net and the various different technologies being used to do it.

Connecting to ZeroNet

In order to be able to visit ZeroNet websites you will need to install the software from the ZeroNet Guthub page. Because it runs using the Python programming language you will also need to install that first. The instructions for installing both can be found on Github via the link above. If you are using Windows just go to the folder where your files are save and double click the to run the software – you may well find that your anti-virus software quarantines / deletes / blocks a file in the tools/upnpc folder: the file is used to open a port on your router for sharing the website files and to use the software you will need to tell your anti-virus to restore this files and ignore it in future scans – how to do that depends on the system you are using but often you are given these options from the little alert windows that tells you a problem has been found.

Website addresses will look different to what you are used to, they will all start with followed by a long string of numbers and characters which is the address of the site. Most of the time, however, you will just click links on webpages as normal to navigate around the ZeroNet.

Creating Your Own ZeroNet Site

Creating your own decentralized, peer to peer and censorship resistant website using ZeroNet is actually surprisingly simple. All you need to do is to shut down ZeroNet, then either type the command: siteCreate (or on Windows just open and type the command siteCreate). It will then create a website for you and provide you with the address and the private key. You can then visit your site as you would any other. Your site’s files can be found in the ZeroNet/data/{your zeronet site address} directory. You can edit them all your like to build up your website from scratch, or you can even grab a nice little ZeroNet blog template to use (you can get it from the ZeroNet blog which you will find on the main welcome page when you first launch ZeroNet). Once you have finished editing your site’s files just run the command: siteSign {your site’s address} and it will ask you for your private key. Once you’ve entered the private key all you need to do is run the command: sitePublish {you site’s address} and your website will be ready for the world to visit!