In brief

  • Opera now supports IPFS and .crypto domains, the cornerstones of a decentralized internet.
  • Opera is the first major browser to add support for these features.
  • It also expanded its easy-crypto payments features to more countries.

The popular web browser Opera today integrated the InterPlanetary File System, a protocol that distributes web hosting and file sharing across a network of thousands of computers. Opera, which has 360 million users worldwide, is the first major browser to integrate the protocol.

Opera also added support for non-custodial .crypto domains—censorship-resistant domains that let users access websites that are entirely hosted on the blockchain, rather than on centralized servers, like Amazon Web Services. 

In addition, Opera expanded its service that enables easy crypto-purchases using Apple Pay directly from the browser’s crypto wallet. It first launched last week through a partnership with Wyre. Opera’s new update expands this service to more countries in Europe, as well as Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, and Switzerland.

Opera, founded in 1995 in Norway, first launched support for blockchain in December 2018, when it implemented a built-in crypto wallet and dapp explorer into its mobile browser. In the last half of 2019, Opera increased its monthly active user base by 40% compared to the previous year. 

Can’t be stopped

Brad Kam, co-founder of San Francisco-based Unstoppable Domains, which was founded in January 2018, told Decrypt that .crypto domains are significant because they’re the first domains that aren’t hosted on the traditional domain name system—the one that maintains .coms, .co.uks, and .govs. 

All of those domain names are maintained by ICANN, the global non-profit that runs the centralized web. ICANN provides these domain names to registries, like Verisign, which are in turn resold by registrar companies, such as GoDaddy. 

The problem, said Kam, is that the registrar controls your domain name for you, and can withdraw your access whenever it wants. ICANN can also tell Verisign it’s not allowed to use .com domain names, too.

Not so for .crypto domain names. Unstoppable Domains mints the domain names, but domains are hosted on the public Ethereum blockchain, and only the owner of a private key of a .crypto domain can control the site. 

“Blockchain domains are to domain names as cryptocurrencies are to regular currencies. The main difference is that you no longer have a custodian,” said Kam. 

The result? A censorship-resistant Internet, primed for hackers, activists, and the privacy-oriented. “It changes the power balance,” Kam told Decrypt. With .crypto domain names, “no one can turn off any one website.”

You can use .crypto domains to access sites hosted on IPFS. These special websites can only be accessed through the Ethereum blockchain, and browsers have to be configured to support them natively. 

On some browsers, IPFS websites can be accessed through browser extensions. Unstoppable Domains launched a Google Chrome extension earlier this month, and IPFS runs their own, but Opera is the first major browser to natively support it. 

Dapps will finally become...dapps

Kam expects that the crypto community will be the first to jump on the bandwagon. Using the technology, decentralized applications finally become...decentralized, “making a dapp really a dapp,” he said. Kam thinks activists will join next. Then, once the infrastructure improves, the regular world will ultimately adopt the technology, he said. 

He also thinks that the decentralized web will one day become cheaper than the centralized web. “Instead of having Amazon Web Services (which sells you server space), IPFS essentially turns web hosting into an Uber marketplace, where anybody who has storage on their computers can contribute and sell that space. The supply of available space will go up so dramatically; that means costs drop,” he said. 

IPFS sites aren’t particularly popular, but Kam said that they are becoming more accessible. Last month, Unstoppable Domains launched a suite of website editor tools “kind of like a decentralized Wix,” said Kam. Developers have so far created over 1,200 websites using the tools, he said. 

A whole new internet 

Since .crypto websites can’t be deleted by centralized organizations like ICANN, Kam predicts that IPFS and decentralized domain names will cause the internet itself to splinter. Barring government firewalls, “everybody is plugging into this one version of the internet,” he said. “That's not how it's gonna work in the future.” 

Instead, browsers will decide what sites they will and will not display—Google Chrome could run a different kind of internet than Safari, for instance.  “The browser chooses your internet, you choose your browser. That's a huge amount of user control power that does not exist today,” he said.