A hacker stuck in a world of conformity.
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There has been a huge growth to ZeroNet lately (perhaps started out in the end of February or beginning of March) that has really impressed me. We went from 70 peers or so on a good day to a whopping 800+ average in just a few weeks! Some people say it was because of Play and its fine torrent collections, others say that it was a movement away from other darknets such as Freenet or I2P, but regardless of what it really was, the bottom line is this: never has P2P software been so strong as it is now. This is a truly amazing feat.
With that said, this change also meant that a lot of beginners have flocked here, and may be slightly lost as to how does ZeroNet work. Looking to give back to this awesome community, I've decided to put some advice here based on my experience with it so far (I've been using it since around June 2015) that I gather everyday. I'm by no means the most experienced person around here of course, so if you have more advice to give, please feel free to add it in the comments to this post! I pulled some stuff from the official documentation so make sure you look into it as well.
When you run
python start.py without any options, ZeroHello will flag two warnings for you, saying that your port 15441 is closed and that Tor has not been enabled. Many people upon seeing these have asked the forums if these are actual requirements; they are not.
Porting forward only makes ZeroNet more efficient, and helps discoverability when you start hosting a site. If you do not open your ports, however, don't worry: your sites are still reachable, and your posts are still publishable. Don't think about porting forward just because of ZeroNet!
Although not necessary either, Tor users can benefit from an extra layer of privacy by routing ZeroNet through Tor, which makes ZeroNet behave similarly to a hidden service. You do not need Tor Browser to route ZeroNet through Tor, although that is actually a good idea, especially if you don't like clicking on clearnet links.
Of course, to enjoy ZeroNet to the fullest you should host an instance yourself. This is the recommended way, and involves cloning the ZeroNet GitHub repository, installing dependencies and running the start script. However, if you're away from your main machine or just want to quickly peek into ZeroNet, you can use an inproxy. Connecting to the inproxy means that you can access ZeroNet from the normal internet, much like how sites such as https://onion.to do with Tor.
Care should be taken, though, as most of these proxies do not offer HTTPS and, unlike the locally-hosted ZeroNet, your connection is not encrypted at all. With that said, here are a few inproxies that I know of:
This page lists a few more of them.
Note that most of them also depend on the traffic of port 43110, which some firewalls have a hard time allowing. But otherwise it's a pretty convenient way to check upon Zites when you're on the run.
You need to authenticate by creating a user. The user can be completely pseudonymous, but is necessary to even post in relatively anonymous places. There are two bit ID providers on ZeroNet as of now:
Keep in mind that, as it says on their pages, this authentication only works for sites that accept their mechanisms: in the case of ZeroID, that isn't much of a problem as that site basically grew together with the rest of ZeroNet, but might be for the newer ZeroVerse.
Also, notice that you don't need to register at all just to host a site and blog there.
Unlike Diaspora or GNUSocial, you don't need to! Because all content of ZeroNet is mutable, you can simply post it and change it later on! This makes draft proofing from MarkDown much easier to do. Just write a blog post and edit it until perfection.
There was a time long ago when that used to be the case, but nowadays the optional files policy means you don't have to host content you don't want or need to see.
Due to optional files, only the core stuff (index.html, the accompanying embedded images, CSS, JS, etc) is downloaded. Remaining stuff, such as images found in posts, files uploaded by other users and stuff you haven't "discovered" about the site need not to be downloaded unless you explicitly request them.
Site seeding these days is much easier now that 800+ peers surf ZeroNet any given time. You just need to make your site known, here a few things you can do:
Which leads me to...
Yes, but they need work :(
As of now you can only search for a site's title and maybe a few tags that roughly describe what kind of content is expected there, but we still can't get any kind of webpage crawling and searching for page content like in Tor.
You can also find a lot of other interesting stuff chucked into the forums archives, but as they don't have a built-in search mechanism, your best bet there is plain old
Ctrl+F page searching.
It's late, I'm tired, and yet there are a lot of other things to be said about Zeronet. Help me out in the comments!