What is a decentralized VPN and how does it work?

A VPN is a secure connection between your computer and the VPN provider’s server. It adds another layer of protection to your internet connection, providing bonus privacy and security.

So if this is what a regular VPN does, what does a decentralized VPN do? How is it different?

Read on to find out how decentralized VPNs work, how they stack up against a regular VPN, and if a decentralized VPN is right for you.

How does a VPN work?

Before you dive into how a decentralized VPN works, first think about how a regular VPN works.

A classic VPN creates a secure tunnel between two parts of the Internet. Think of it like this: a tunnel that goes under a mountain. Both sides are connected with a direct path through the mountain. In this case, the mountain is the Internet.

You use a VPN to increase your online security and privacy. A VPN uses strong encryption to protect your data in transmission from prying eyes. Anyone who spies on your data will have a hard time understanding what you are doing, as well as where your internet traffic is coming from (thus protecting your location and potentially your associated identity).

When you connect to a VPN service, data moves between your computer and the VPN service servers. Between your computer and the VPN server, your data is strongly protected. Once your data leaves the VPN server, it is back in the wild. The website’s server will not know the originating IP address and therefore will not trace you to a single location. However, if you log into your Facebook account even using a VPN, they still know it is your Facebook account.

How does a decentralized VPN work?

So where a classic VPN connects you to a server, a decentralized VPN (also known as dVPN or P2P VPN) connects you to a network node. The decentralized VPN node can be a server, a desktop, a smartphone, a laptop or even a tablet.

centralized vs decentralized vs distributed network

The owners of these devices allow access to their hardware in exchange for payment, usually in the form of an associated VPN network credit. Once they bank the decentralized VPN network token, they can start using the decentralized VPN service on their own, keeping the decentralized VPN economy moving and, for the most part, circular. Decentralized VPN nodes offer and advertise an amount of bandwidth available on the network, and if the offer is good and the node is trusted, users can accept the offer.

But if there is no centralized authority or controlling entity, how does decentralized VPN service work?

For the most part, decentralized VPN nodes can set prices individually, offering an amount of bandwidth to the network in exchange for a set number of network tokens. There are no fixed charges to join the network or advertise bandwidth. Plus, since there is no upfront charge, you only pay for the decentralized VPN bandwidth you use.

Decentralized VPN vs Regular VPN: What’s the Difference?

The biggest difference between a regular VPN and a decentralized VPN is the network configuration.

With standard VPN, you connect to a proprietary server owned and controlled by the VPN service. There are many logless VPNs that do not collect data about your internet activity while you are connected to their service. Some logless VPN services have even gone so far as to invite third-party auditors to confirm their log-less claims.

Even still, the biggest point of failure of a regular VPN is its network configuration and the trust you need to place in a service taking control and protecting your internet data. If it turns out that the company was collecting your logs from the start (or if you were using a cheap or free VPN service to start), all the data that you thought was private and secure has been recorded.

Related: Reasons You Should Stop Using Free VPNs Right Now

A decentralized VPN eliminates this point of failure with its distributed network of independent nodes. Data is unlikely to pass through the same node frequently, and there are more potential nodes to choose from (although this depends on how many decentralized VPN nodes are available on the network, so it’s not without its problems).

Second, a decentralized VPN is an implementation of a decentralized application (dApp). Since dApps are open source and run on a blockchain, the code they use is open to review and allows anyone with technical knowledge to assess privacy and security credentials. of service.

Is it worth using a decentralized VPN?

A VPN should improve your online privacy and security. So the biggest question you face is whether a decentralized VPN is more secure than a regular VPN?

When you weigh the facts, a dVPN seems like the safest option at first glance. Who wouldn’t want better privacy, more anonymity, and a reduced threat of data tracking?

However, things are not as clear as they might appear. As decentralized VPN services are still relatively new, there aren’t many options available to users. And of these options, even fewer are fully operational and capable of providing consistent dVPN service.

DVPN Orchid

Right now, Orchid is one of the most active decentralized VPN services. You can sign up for the service, purchase network credits, and instantly start using the decentralized VPN. The connection speed is good overall, however, unlike a regular VPN, you don’t choose the location of the dVPN server. Therefore, it is a bit of luck when it comes to exit nodes which will be a problem if you are trying to access a service in a specific country.

In my brief test, it connected me to a device located in North Carolina, which is definitely not where I’m writing from, so it’s a good start!

At the time of writing, there is no published number of Orchid dVPN nodes. The Orchid app has been downloaded over 100,000 times for Android, but no statistics are available for iOS or macOS.

Path to Neutrality

Launched in 2022, Neutrality Way aims to become the first free decentralized VPN, echoing the regular free VPN services available today, but with an important twist: Neutrality Way cannot track and log your data in exchange for the service.

Neutrality Way solves this problem by creating the first decentralized VPN that does not require “trust” and operates transparently from the Ethereum blockchain, uses fully open source code, and offers the unlimited data and time-based access plans that VPN users are used to it.

The decentralized free VPN service will be partially subsidized by its premium plans, with a small number of network tokens earmarked for the running costs of the free dVPN. While the free version is a lightweight option, Neutrality Way hopes its existence will help onboard more users.

VPN or dVPN?

Whether you switch to a decentralized VPN will likely depend on the service offered. If a dVPN allows the same range of choices as a conventional VPN in terms of selecting a node in a specific location, more users are likely to make the switch, especially if prices remain low.

In the meantime, it might be worth the wait for more dVPN services to come online, increasing your options and hopefully your security and privacy with them.

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