10 Mar 2021

Distributed Web Hosting for Web 3.0 Websites

Distributed Web Hosting

As long as there have been websites and web hosting, all the content resides in one specific physical location. This used to be a server connected to the Internet that hosts web pages accessible via Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP or HTTPS). The websites resolve on specific Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. For example, HostColor's website is hosted on IP address 68.233.32.133. After introducing the Domain names and the Domain Name System (DNS), we all started using domains, which are globally unique names assigned within Domain Name System (DNS).

So, when we register a top-level domain name and get web hosting service, the domain uses DNS to point to a specific IP address of a host server where their website is hosted. Ever since the introduction of websites and web hosting, there have always been concerns about website availability. It has been hard to guarantee that a specific website will be accessible via public Internet 100 percent of the time. It is either the internet connectivity or the host server of the website is unavailable at a certain time frame, which might be a few minutes, a few hours, or even longer. There are many reasons for unavailability. The server that hosts a specific website might run out of resources. There might be a networking issue on the host's network.

Through the years, software companies and infrastructure solution providers developed various technologies to improve availability or even ensure zero downtime. Companies like HostColor, for example, use certain failover software automation apps to guarantee that the host servers would stay up and will continue delivering all the IT services, even in case of a heavy load. Content delivery providers like Akamai, Cloudflare, CloudFront, Cloud CDN, and other CDNs provide caching services that improve content delivery and increase the websites' availability. Until recently, however, there hasn't been a technology solution that would make it possible for any website to work in a distributed network of hosts. One of the reasons for that was the architecture and the design of the Domain Name System (DNS).

The introduction of the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) has made it possible for new generations of distributed websites and distributed web hosting. IPFS is a protocol and peer-to-peer network that makes it possible to store content and share data in a distributed file system. It uses content-addressing to uniquely identify each file in a global namespace connecting all computing devices. IPFS was initially released in 2015, but its first stable release was in September 2020.

IPFS is a network of server nodes that store and relay content using a common addressing system. This system relies on self-describing identifiers called Content IDentifiers (CID). A CID derives from the content. As of March 2021, the most popular IPFS based website is Wikipedia. It is on address https://ipfs.io/ipfs/QmXoypizjW3WknFiJnKLwHCnL72vedxjQkDDP1mXWo6uco/

Here Come The Distributed Websites

In 2018 Cloudflare announced an IPFS Gateway, described as an "easy way to access content from the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS). It doesn't require installing and running any special software on your server". This gateway is hosted at cloudflare-ipfs.com. In January 2021, Cloudflare announced Name Resolver for IPFS and Ethereum.

The CDN provider said, "we have been exploring alternative ways to resolve queries to responses that align with these attributes. We are proud to announce a new resolver for the Distributed Web, where IPFS content indexed by the Ethereum Name Service (ENS) can be accessed." A distributed website that uses IPFS can be hosted without Cloudflare. Still, the CDN provider has helped a lot by offering a free IPFS gateway. It provides a custom sub-domain that points to a website served hosted on IPFS based servers.

HostColor (HC) launches an IPFS based Distributed Web Hosting service in May 2021. We may announce our Distributed Website plans earlier, but our deadline is May 10, 2021. We are in an advanced stage of building and testing our global network of IPFS nodes for Distributed Websites (dWebsite). HC has a cluster of IPFS server nodes in 19 locations worldwide for hosting dWebsites in 4 U.S. locations (California, New York, Illinois, and Texas), 8 European sites (UK, France, Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Italy, Austria, and Greece), 5 locations in Asia (Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, India, and Dubai), Brazil (Sao Paulo), and Australia (New South Wales). We will start with three service locations and will be adding others on the go over the course of 2021.

At this time, the Distributed Websites will be static websites built with HTML and JavaScript that don't use databases and that don't have any server-side processing. A distributed database is still something we need to wait to see. Some blockchain-based projects are focused on distributed databases, however. Once there is a mature solution, we will test it and eventually add it to the dWeb hosting service.

There is one more important thing to consider. Many welcome the distributed web as a network that increases privacy and helps us publish content while the publisher's identity is fully protected. The purpose of HostColor's Distributed Web Hosting services is not to offer an identity proxy shield for publishers. We have always tolerated free speech and the idea for an open World Wide Web. At the same time, we believe that publishers should be responsible for the content they create and deliver. The purpose of the upcoming HC Distributed Website Hosting is to offer a better and faster Web 3.0 content distribution platform.