The Brave browser has taken a big step towards decentralizing the Internet with an update that pioneers a peer-to-peer protocol for hosting web content.
Why is it important, and how it might affect the future of the Internet?
Brave is a free and open-source web browser based on Chromium, blocking ads and website trackers programs and loads pages much faster than all its competitors. Moreover, it has its own cryptocurrency, which the user (if desired) can receive for viewing internal browser ads. After upgrading to version 1.19, the browser will work through the IPFS protocol. It is a new and well-known technology that could eventually supplant the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and Secure Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTPS), which dominate the current Internet infrastructure.
Known as IPFS, which stands for Interplanetary File System, the peer-to-peer protocol allows users to download content from a decentralized network of distributed nodes rather than from a centralized server.
How does it work?
The HTTP protocol is designed for browsers to access central servers' information, while IPFS is like torrents. When a user enters a link, and the site is loaded not as a single block from a central server, many small blocks are collected into a web page thanks to a network of distributed nodes. IPFS creator Juan Benet described that the system "does to sites what bitcoin did to money" — instead of the central bank issuing money, the users themselves generate it. He even planned that thanks to it, sites could exist without servers, which would significantly save resources and money.
What are the benefits?
Everything is quite simple here - since the browser loads the site, not from a central server, but with these smallest blocks, pages are loaded much faster. And don't forget about the savings mentioned above. But perhaps more importantly, IPFS can make web content more resilient to crashes and censorship. Governments and large companies can block access to certain Internet resources - part of Wikipedia is not available in Thailand, about 100 000 blocked sites in Turkey, users from China exist on their own, "separate" Internet.
If all browsers were now using the IPFS network, we would not have a situation with Parler, to whom Amazon has disabled hosting or blocking Donald Trump on social networks. Such decisions could not have been made by several people who are at the head of companies.
Brave now has 24 million users, and it is still far from Chrome and even Firefox, but it can be our future.