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Big tech and government censorship will no doubt exert a vice grip on information during the upcoming U.S. midterm elections.

The good news is that there are a growing number of decentralized blockchain apps and services that can help citizens retain their free speech rights and fundamental freedoms.

Looking for permanent file storage for a one-time cost that can’t be taken down? The blockchain has it.

How about a website domain which can truly be owned, not rented, and which can’t be shut down by a webhosting company? They’re on the blockchain too.

Permaweb File Storage

Arweave is one leading example that uses blockchain technology to allow people to permanently store and access digital files.

Arweave is a blockchain network utilizing a crypto wallet and an app. Users can set up a wallet and fund it with the blockchain’s native AR token (which can be purchased on an exchange like Kucoin, or swapped for via DeFi swap app, and sent to the wallet).

From there, users can pair their wallet with an “ArDrive” app to upload digital files such as photos and pdfs. 

The ArDrive interface has a similar look to storage apps like Google Drive or MEGA.

There is a one-time purchase cost to upload and store the files on the blockchain network.

Folders and files can be designated as “private” (ie. only available to users with a special link) or “public” (browsable by anyone).

Storage currently costs about five cents per megabyte. It’s not exactly cheap as far as the upfront cost. But that cost is one-time only, and the file is on the blockchain permanently.

Unlike Amazon or Google storage, files uploaded to a blockchain via ArDrive can’t be shut down by a tech company. Used in tandem with a blockchain based website, users can create websites with information and file links that are censorship resistant.

For large datasets, Filecoin is a blockchain based solution that effectively creates a market and incentive for decentralized storage providers and users.

Filecoin positions itself as a decentralized and censorship resistant alternative to Amazon Web Services cloud storage and similar services.

Its pricing, depending on access needs to data, currently falls between one dollar and 25 dollars a year for one tebibyte of storage.

A tebibyte (a more precise storage term than terabyte) provides enough storage for:

  • 79 hours of broadcast-quality video; or
  • Nearly 143,000 digital photos; or
  • 2,199 hours of CD-quality recording.

DApp Development Tools

More ambitious projects including DApp development are being aided by useful tools and projects rooted in the decentralized blockchain technology.

One such project is Spheron.  Migrating an existing app to Spheron can be done quickly, and comes with important benefits, including:

  • Infinite storage and bandwidth
  • 5x Cheaper than centralized providers
  • No new code required
  • 99.99% Uptime
  • 100% Censorship, Hacking, Outage, Track Proof
  • Transparent, Immutable and Cryptographically Verifiable

Spheron boasts that it works with dozens of frameworks, allowing everything from host WordPress built websites, to running web apps built with frameworks like Ruby On Rails, to quickly porting apps written in common programming languages like Javascript and Python.

Website Domains With Unstoppable Domains

Anyone who has “purchased” a domain name via a service like GoDaddy or Bluehost, knows that domain names are not really owned, but rented. Users must periodically pay a fee to retain the rights to the domain name.

Domains are issued by an entity called ICANN, and the system is ultimately controlled by corporations and governments that maintain and regulate the system.

With crypto powered permissionless blockchains have come alternate domain systems.

Unstoppable Domains, meanwhile, utilizes the Ethereum and Polygon blockchains to issue various domains with “.blockchain”, “.crypto”, “.x”, “.dao” and other address classes.

Purchased domain names take the form of NFTs (non-fungible tokens) that can be stored in a crypto wallet.

Once purchased, these domains are truly owned, and do not need to be reregistered.

Even the Ethereum Name Service, another blockchain alternative to the ICANN / DNS system, only offers “.eth” domain names for set periods of time. So Unstoppable Domains NFT domains are uniquely valuable.

Since both these blockchain solutions are not utilizing ICANN protocols, web browsers have to be built with functionality to find and display Unstoppable Domain and ENS based sites.

Fortunately, there are extensions for popular browsers like Chrome. And the Brave web browser offers native support.

There are full tutorials on how to set up a basic website utilizing these domains, together with the decentralized IPFS storage protocol (see here and here).

And as noted earlier, ArDrive data links can also be part of a website built using these blockchain technologies.  

Why the “Open Internet” Needs a Web3 Revamp

Whether it’s China’s “Great Firewall,” or the West’s “soft censorship” nexus of government and big tech aligned political suppression, the past few years have made it clearer than ever that the “open internet” is subject to political clampdowns.

China abused human rights and used internet censorship in 2020 as it crushed a popular uprising in Hong Kong. In 2021 the regime did its best to crush cryptos by going after bitcoin miners, and implementing a CBDC yuan packed with granular surveillance and control features. 

It has also wielded control of digital information to suppress popular dissatisfaction with its “zero COVID” lockdown policies, as well as a growing housing and mortgage crisis.

Western countries have exerted their own authoritarian abuses, enlisting legacy tech companies in the process. The Hunter Biden laptop, “Zuckerbuck” election law manipulations, the COVID War, the Canadian Truckers Convoy protest, and most recently, the Russia - Ukraine conflict, have all provided numerous examples of suppression.

Part of the problem is that private corporations and the government exert vast power over the communication and financial infrastructure.

At the individual consumer level, a person or organization can be banned for violating the usage stipulations of a social media company or fundraising platform.

The centralized nature of control also means governments can direct companies to shut down a social media account or a digital bank account.

On a more macro level, the architecture of the legacy internet can be throttled by countries and global authorities to prevent whole citizenries from accessing verboten information and content.

Eli Dourado, a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Growth and Opportunity at Utah State University, says that centralized authorities have increasingly leveraged legacy internet and financial system protocols to control political dissent.

“Outside of ICANN, governments like China and Russia have continually proposed rearchitecting the Internet at the International Telecommunication Union, the UN agency that hosted the WCIT. They have also been active in cybersecurity standards at the International Electrotechnical Commission, with cybersecurity being a convenient excuse to bake authoritarianism into network architecture. The two countries recently issued a communiqué calling for internationalization of Internet governance, stating that ‘any attempts to limit their sovereign right to regulate national segments of the Internet and ensure their security are unacceptable.’”

Web3 technologies are building a decentralized infrastructure based on permissionless computer nodes operating in peer-to-peer networks.

The networks have no single point of control or failure—sort of like what the legacy internet was meant to provide. 

Web3 is still in relative infancy, but aspects of decentralization, permissionless participation, and user ownership of assets are all promising aspects of what its future may hold.

And at least some significant apps and tools can be taken advantage of right now.

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  1. andrej 2 months ago

    ArDrive drawback: One needs a Twitter account to start. I don’t have a Twitter account and I don’t intend to.

  2. Joe Doran 2 months ago

    FYI Twitter not needed to use ArDrive. Use ArConnect wallet. This video provides a useful how-to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qS8eZ23na-8

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