What Are SNApps?

We wanted to write an article that provides a clearer explanation of what Loki SNApps are, how they work, and how you can get involved.

So what are SNApps? The simplest way to describe it would be – SNApps are private websites or web services. That might not sound very impressive, but let’s consider what usually happens when you visit a website.

Imagine you want to view a page on Wikipedia. Traditionally you would type “wikipedia.com” into your internet browser, the browser then connects to a DNS server and resolves the name of the website “wikipedia.com” into an IP address (103.102.166.224). This IP address is your point of contact when you request information from Wikipedia.

If that’s the traditional way the internet works, what’s wrong with it? Why are SNApps better?

The real issue here is that everything on the internet has an IP address, and these addresses are unique identifiers (similar to your street address) which can give away a lot about someone’s identity. As we said before, when you connect to a website you need to know the IP address of that website. Usually you never actually see the IP address of a website because the internet uses a system called DNS which matches the name you type, “wikipedia.com” for example, to its IP address. Suffice to say, most of the internet is just a collection of IP addresses communicating with other IP addresses.

Internet Service Providers and Hosting providers have lists which assign real-world identities to every website IP address. This means that every website you visit has an owner and an associated real-world identity. Recently we have started to see a spate of censorship at the ISP and host level. An ISP might be pressured by an activist group or legally compelled by a government to alter or block their DNS records or revoke hosting services. We have seen this happen extensively over the last few years with a number of services like Wikileaks, [1] Gab, [2]  Lifesite, [3] and The Pirate Bay. [4]

How do SNApps fix these issues?
  1. SNApps never expose the IP address of the Server that hosts the website, and additionally, all traffic between the user and the website is encrypted. All the hosting provider can see is encrypted traffic moving to and from the Server. State level actors and activists cannot pressure the hosting providers, because they don’t know what the IP address of the Server is either, which means that nobody except the operator can know where SNApp is hosted.
  2. SNApps do not use traditional DNS servers, making the censorship of naming servers impossible. Instead, Loki uses public private keypairs which create addresses like http://i4irznec3pkdh7gay6xsmkyyqag4q8643kut739by17cuiwdnxqo.loki. We are also considering integrating a naming service on the blockchain to create an immutable human readable DNS records. This will be called the Loki Naming System (LNS).
Why are SNApps better than Dapps?
  1. They are free;

Unlike many Dapps or Dapp platforms, SNApps are completely free to use. This greatly reduces the barrier to entry for users who lack the ability, or who want to use the system without needing to engage in the cryptocurrency aspect of the project. It also makes Lokinet a much more realistic competitor to already established and free mixnets like Tor and I2P.

  1. SNApps are easy to code and launch;

SNApps are not written in a special programming language that developers need to learn before they can launch their own SNApp. SNApps can be written in any programming language- as long as you can serve content to the internet, Lokinet can serve it too. This means existing applications don’t need to be modified to work in special ways to work with Lokinet. We will be releasing a guide soon with instructions on how to get your first SNApp up and running.

  1. SNApps don’t interact with the blockchain;

Dapps usually require their state execution to happen consistently over all of the nodes that process the blockchain, which means in order to alter a Dapp you usually need to engage in an onchain transaction. This can be slow, inconvenient and costly depending on a number of factors outside of the Dapp’s control. SNApps never interact with the blockchain directly and do not require any onchain transactions in order to provide services to their users.

  1. SNApps are not decentralised.

Because most Dapps make use of the blockchain when making meaningful state changes, they lack a single point of failure. SNApps do not have this same protection. Although SNApps are hosted inside a decentralised network of Service Nodes, they are centralised servers run by an operator and are designed to protect against external censorship pressure rather than internal failures.

The TL;DR

SNApps are like private websites where no one can work out the IP address of the operator. They don’t require any special programming languages, and anyone can set up a SNApp. It’s just like hosting a website on the internet, except all data traffic flows through Lokinet first.


References:

[1] “WikiLeaks website pulled by Amazon after US political … – The Guardian.” 1 Dec. 2010, https://www.theguardian.com/media/2010/dec/01/wikileaks-website-cables-servers-amazon. Accessed 5 Nov. 2018.

[2] “Gab loses hosting provider following Pittsburgh mass … – Engadget.” 28 Oct. 2018, https://www.engadget.com/2018/10/28/gab-loses-hosting-provider/. Accessed 5 Nov. 2018.

[3] “LISTEN: Todd Starnes interviews Steve Jalsevac on LifeSite web ….” 3 Nov. 2018, https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/listen-todd-starnes-interviews-steve-jalsevac-on-lifesite-web-hosting-. Accessed 5 Nov. 2018.

[4] “The Pirate Bay shutdown: the whole story (so far) – Engadget.” 16 Dec. 2014, https://www.engadget.com/2014/12/16/pirate-bay-shutdown-explainer/. Accessed 5 Nov. 2018.