While most people still associate torrents with desktop clients, the browser-based WebTorrent equivalent is quickly gaining popularity.
Simply put, WebTorrent is a torrent client for the web. Instead of using standalone applications it allows people to share files directly from their browser, without having to configure or install anything.
This allows people to stream videos directly from regular browsers such as Chrome and Firefox, similar to what they would do on YouTube.
The technology, created by Stanford University graduate Feross Aboukhadijeh, already piqued the interest of Netflix and also resulted in various innovative implementations.
Most recently, Czech developer Michal Spicka created a the Web2Web project, which allows people to share entire websites using WebTorrent technology. This makes these sites virtually impossible to take down.
Michal tells TorrentFreak that he is fascinated by modern technology and wanted to develop a resilient, serverless and anonymous platform for people to share something online.
“In the past we’ve seen powerful interest groups shut down legitimate websites. I wondered if I could come up with something that can’t be taken down that easily and also protects the site operator’s identity,” Michal says.
For most websites the servers and domain names are the most vulnerable aspects. Both can be easily seized and are far from anonymous. With Web2Web, however, people can run a website without any of the above.
“To run a Web2Web website neither the server nor the domain is required. All you need is a bootstrap page that loads your website from the torrent network and displays it in the browser,” Michal tells us.
While there are similar alternatives available, such as Zeronet, the beauty of Web2Web is that it works in any modern browser. This means that there’s no need to install separate software.
The bootstrap page that serves all content is a simple HTML file that can be mirrored anywhere online or downloaded to a local computer. With help from Bitcoin the ‘operator’ can update the file, after which people will see the new version.
“If the website operator wants to publish new content on his previously created website, he creates a torrent of the new content first and then inserts the torrent infohash into a bitcoin transaction sent from his bitcoin address,” Michal says.
“The website is constantly watching that address for new transactions, extracts the infohash, downloads the new content from the torrent swarm, and updates itself accordingly,” he adds.
For Michal the project is mostly just an interesting experiment. The main goal was to show that it’s possible to make working websites without any central server involved, using WebTorrent and bitcoin.
He has no clear vision on how people will use it, but stresses and he’s not promoting or encouraging illegal uses in any way.
“I’m strongly against using it for anything illegal. On the other hand, I can’t prevent people from doing that. The moment will come when this project gets abused and only then we will see if it’s really that resilient,” he notes.