The idea of a decentralized BitTorrent site has been knocking around some time now. Freenet has been around since 2001, and in 2014 The Pirate Bay announced that it was working on a new “PirateBrowser”,
“The goal is to create a browser-like client to circumvent censorship, including domain blocking, domain confiscation, IP-blocking. This will be accomplished by sharing all of a site’s indexed data as P2P downloadable packages, that are then browsed/rendered locally.”
This PirateBrowser has yet to materialize, and has now been beaten to the punch by a platform known as ZeroNet – decentralized, open source software compiled in Python that aims “to build an Internet-like computer network of peer-to-peer users.”
Basically, this allows websites to be hosted across all users via P2P (in the same way that BitTorrent files are shared among all downloaders), making it theoretically impossible to take down. Accounts, file transfers, and websites are authenticated using Namecoin cryptocurrency techniques.
ZeroNet is much easier and quicker to use than Freenet, but provides no anonymity per se – it is solely a platform for sharing decentralized websites. You can, however, achieve a high degree of privacy by using a VPN while connected, or can take advantage of the built-in “Enable Tor for every connection” feature.
ZeroNet has been designed to make it easy to mirror existing websites on its distributed network, but currently the most notable website available on the platform is Play, a torrent site that offers movies from RARBG.
Play is at the moment limited only to movies (mostly available in SD, 720p and 1080p formats), but as a proof of concept it works admirably well. Unfortunately, it is rather bare-bones, with no advanced features such as user comments or live streaming.
The website utilizes simple Magnet links, which are opened in your regular BitTorrent client, and can therefore be as easily traced as regular BitTorrent files, so it is essential to protect yourself with a good P2P-friendly VPN.
It should be stressed that Play is a torrent site (illegal) hosted on the ZeroNet distributed network (perfectly legal), and there is no direct affiliation between the two.
Head over to the ZeroNet.io website and follow the easy install instructions (on Windows simply download and unzip the ZeroNet bundle, then run zeronet.cmd – no permanent installation required!).
Once done, the ZeroNet landing page will load in a tab of your favorite browser. You can now visit Play! A more detailed presentation on how ZeroNet works is available here, and if you require any assistance, you can ask on this reddit group.