For the last couple of years discussion around censorship of websites in the West has become as prolific as the that around already established blockades in countries such as China and Iran. While meddling with the Internet’s DNS is the weapon of choice for censors, a new P2P system called ODDNS hopes to put control back in the hands of the people.
The Internet’s Domain Name System, which translates human-readable URLs into IP addresses so that web users can more easily find Internet sites, has become a battle ground for censorship during the last couple of years.
From residing almost exclusively in the awareness of computer engineers and nerds, recent attempts by various copyright holders to censor sites such as The Pirate Bay and introduce even more broad powers with the introduction of the SOPA legislation in the US, the existence and mechanisms of the Internet’s DNS have now broken through into the mainstream.
In a response to growing attempts at censorship, various alternative DNS systems have been proposed with an emphasis on those that can’t be meddled with by the authorities. The latest, called ODDNS, comes out of France.
As its name suggests, ODDNS (Open and Decentralized DNS) is an open and decentralized DNS system running on the P2P (Peer-to-Peer) model. It’s creator, web developer Jimmy Rudolf, told PCinpact he invented the system with two specific aims in mind.
The first, and of most interest to people fighting censorship, is to “show governments that it is not possible to prevent people from talking.”
The second, of interest to anyone who owns and maintain their own domain names, is to take back control of them. “I find it absurd to have to regularly pay for a domain name,” Rudolf explained.
ODDNS is an application which allows everyone running the software to share information about domain names with each other, a bit like how a P2P network functions. ODDNS can supplement or even replace regular DNS.
Because domain names and related IP addresses are shared among peers in the network, they can no longer be censored. Furthermore, buying a domain name from a registrar is no longer required since people running ODDNS can create and maintain their own.
Still under development, as expected the source code to ODDNS is licensed under GNU GPLv3. PCinpact reports that the current ODDNS website will be updated next week and the first beta release of the software will follow shortly after.
Of course the success of the project will sit on the developers’ ability to overcome the technical hurdles and, crucially, if they can encourage enough people to come on board and stay on board. The desire to stick with this kind of system will be driven by need so more censorship will become this and similar projects’ lifeblood.