substratum displayed on world map

What is Substratum?

What is Substratum (SUB)?

Substratum aim to disrupt the internet as we understand it today, no small task. Their website states that “We are the foundation of the decentralized web.” They aim to achieve this through “an open-source network that allows anyone to allocate spare computing resources to make the internet a free and fair place for the entire world.” Cool right? But what does that actually mean?

At the heart of what substratum is trying to achieve is decentralization.  Decentralization like we’ve seen with Bitcoin is about taking away the power from large central bodies and distributing it to the masses.  With bitcoin the blockchain aimed to disrupt financial institutions such as banks, Substratum with their distributed network aim to replace centralised ISPs and hosting with user owner distributed infrastructure.

How does it function?

In a traditional client server computer relationship you would have lots of clients and a centralized computing system.  Centralized computing is how most computer networks are structured today, at work for example all your files and email will be held in a centralized corporate data centre accessible to all clients.  At home when you are accessing the internet you will be accessing through a handful of ISPs and those websites will be hosted on centralized powerful machines capable of dealing with large requests. This is a many to one relationship, lots of users accessing web content held on a central system.

Centralized Network

A decentralized network creates a many to many relationship, lots of clients accessing lots of sources. Substartum propose to create the distributed network through incentivizing many computers to join the network by rewarding them for contributing compute and storage resources in exchange for the Substrate token. The decentralized computing hosts running the Substratum network do not need to be specialised computers, anyone with any spare computing capacity will be able to contribute

decentralized network

What is the use case for Substratum?

Substratum is about creating an accessible and equal internet for all.  Internet filtering is common in oppressive regimes with certain sites blocked or in more extreme cases like North Korea the entire internet blocked from the general population.  Through the Decentralization process Substratum aims to make the internet more difficult to filter and therefore a more accessible and fairer platform.

Substratum use cases extends beyond that of oppressive regimes to the west where net neutrality is under threat. Net neutrality means that everyone on the internet is treated equally so whether you are a large multinational organisation or an individual you would be treated equally by ISP’s. Until recently ISP’s have been stopped by law from differentiating between users to block content, charge premiums or give preferential access.  However the net neutrality laws in the USA look likely to change following a vote by the FCC to abolish the rules governing net neutrality.

Technical Details

Infrastructure components

Substratum infrastructure consists of two key components.  Hosts and nodes, let’s deal with hosts first. The role of the host is to store the data,  this is where the decentralized websites and applications data is stored. Hosts are roughly analogous to servers and storage in a traditional computing infrastructure.

Nodes transmit the data,  their job is to ensure that the data is retrieved from the host by the web client, ie end user requesting it.  These Substratum nodes perform operations to calculate the fastest way to get the information delivered to a client and it is possible for a request to be split across a number of nodes to speed up the delivery.  In summary hosts hold the data and nodes deliver it.

Request moving through Substaum host to node to end user

Substratum DNS

The next part of the puzzle is DNS,  which stands for Domain Name System.  Whilst the terminology may be unfamiliar DNS is in fact likely something that you are using everyday. DNS is a hierarchical naming system that provides a friendly address to access computers and other devices connected to the internet. Everything connected to the internet requires an IP address, this is a number which uniquely identifies and locates the system. When you type in the friendly DNS name you are familiar with, like google.com, into your web browser your computer will request the IP address from the DNS server and send your request to the address.

Substratum looks to build on traditional DNS with an implementation they’re calling Substratum DNS. When a DNS request is made by a client the user’s IP address is used to identify the closest nodes.  A node is selected that is not only geographically close but also contains the correct information The request is then sent to the node to be served. If the node chosen for fulfilling the request doesn’t have all the information it can work together with others to complete the request.

Substratum Node

There is no mining since supply is not going to be increasing, you can however earn SUB coin by becoming a node and allowing your compute resources to be part of the Substratum network. To become a host you need to install the node software on your machine, the software is compatible with multiple device types including Windows, Linux and Mac.  It is not yet possible to download the Substartum node software since it is still in beta.  If you do want to run a Substrum node before general release you can register for the beta.

The resources allocated are done so in an intelligent manner so if the computer is in use resources allocated to Substratum will be scaled down, however if the machine is sitting idle resources can then be more fully allocated to contribute to the network.  You can also set rules restricting when you will contribute to a the network, for example just participate during the evening.

You will need port 80 and 443 open on your computer.  For those that are not familiar, ports are used in computing to identify protocols and define how they communicate.  As protocols operate on well known ports for example HTTP port 80 and secure web traffic HTTPS port 443 only those ports specifically required need to be enabled. By allowing only necessary ports to be open you are reducing your attack surface.

Those using Substartum to host their website will be charged not a static hosting fee but for the resources consumed.  This will help to keep the relationship between the rewards being paid for those hosting in sync with resources demanded. As more demand grow so will the payments incentivizing more to join the network.

Blockchain

The Substratum network uses its own blockchain for hosting the decentralized web,  but the Substrate coin is an ERC-20 token based on Ethereum.

Since Substarum is a decentralized network and there is no centralized governing body the appropriateness of material is determined by those that use it.  Material can be voted up or down and once consensus is reached inappropriate material can be removed.

Development

Upon launch, Substratum will support the following languages and libraries:

  • HTML/CSS
  • JavaScript (jQuery, Bootstrap)
  • PHP/MySQL (WordPress, Magento, Joomla)
  • ASP.NET  
  • Python (Django)

On March 13th Substratum announced the release of version 0.2.0 of the product.  This version is to be initially released to 100 beta testers and then rolled out to further testers in batches of 100. This process will continue until enough data has been gathered by the team, the intention is then to make the release public beta  in the next version.  Once the public release is made the source code will be open sourced so that developing the decentralized web can become a community project.

Opportunities

  • Interest in the decentralized web by influences – Tim Berners Lee has expressed an interest in the decentralized web and a return to his original vision for the web as an open format for all
  • Increased interest in privacy security – Security is becoming a mainstream concern with stories such as the Meltdown bug being reported by major news outlets.  Centralized computing systems present a clearer target for attackers versus a decentralized network which is less prone to a single point of failure
  • Reduce censorship – Censorship is a real challenge for those living in countries whose government censor content.  Substratum could allow access without the need for a VPN or additional equipment 
  • Net Neutrality – Interest in an equal internet has gone mainstream in the USA following the vote to remove the net neutrality rules  

Threats

  • Cloud computing – Cloud computing is growing at a more significant rate than ever before.  This is a key industry trend getting a lot of focus from CTO’s persuading the industry to move in the opposite direction to decentralization will be a challenge 
  • Dynamic filtering – Internet filtering can be applied at many different levels.  Substratum will need to develop a suite of tools to combat this decentralization alone will not be enough.  Also this will be a moving target as those that wish to censor will continually improve their technology
  • Development – The IT industry is currently focused on an client server structure.  The availability of sites and apps to take advantage of decentralization will take time for expectation and skills to develop
  • Taking on the giants – The net is dominated by a small number of ISP’s and web giants. Anything that threatens their dominance and bottom line will lead to them fighting hard with their significant budgets

Which wallets can you use with Substratum?

Since the substratum substrate is based on Ethereum any ERC-20 compatible wallet will work with it for example:

  • MyEtherWallet
  • MetaMask
  • Ledger Nano S
  • Trezor

How to buy Substratum?

Substraum can be bought from the following exchanges:

  • Binance
  • Kucoin
  • OKEx
  • HitBTC
  • COSS
  • Tidex
  • Radar

This post is not financial advice and please be aware of the risks of investing in any cryptocurrency.

Resources

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GitHub

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