Beaker is a free and open-source web browser built to enable users to publish websites and web apps themselves directly from the browser without having to set up a separate web server or hosting their content with a 3rd party.
To quote one of the project devs, it has been built to “to give users more control over the Web”. We’ve covered several projects based on similar technology (e.g. PeerTube) but this one has a little more icing on the cake.
Referred to as “a peer-to-peer browser for Web hackers“, Beaker makes its file and website transfers using Dat, a hypermedia p2p protocol that allows decentralized file sharing. As a full-blown browser, it contains neither ads nor censorship, and it ships with a handful of features techies will be excited about.
The Dat protocol is favoured over HTTP for Beaker for 5 main reasons. It can sync archives from multiple sources; the URLs remain the same even when the archives can change hosts. All updates have checksums; changes are written to an append-only version log, and any archive can be hosted on any device. Although it uses Dat by default, Beaker supports connecting to traditional servers with HTTP so you can equally visit typical websites.
Browsing with Beaker
The files are stored in a local folder that you publish as a Dat website and make it accessible to other p2p users. During this time, the data is seeded to an active browser whose web pages are rendered using Chromium.
For each website visited, the specific page content requested is downloaded to your local machine and temporarily seeded. If it pleases you, you can seed a website for as long as you want using the “Create New” menu option.
What might be a drawback here is the fact that shutting down your computer takes your website off the web. One workaround for this is using a 3rd party hosting company like Hashbase. You can also request a friend to host your website/app data on his machine or create a permanent self-hosted homebase server.
Features in Beaker
- Free and open-source project available on GitHub.
- Chrome-style UI with an integrated file browser and terminal.
- Built-in address book for contacts.
- Built-in text editor with syntax highlighting and split-screen.
- Co-host websites using peer-to-peer hosting.
- Build p2p apps using several Web APIs.
- Comprehensive online documentation.
Beaker is an experimental peer-to-peer web browser whose new APIs allow users to build hostless applications without losing compatibility with the rest of the web. Anybody can be a server; a single site can be served from multiple computers, and all data is self-hosted.
On the other hand, Beaker is built using electron so I imagine there might be one or more performance issues on some machines. It doesn’t support browser extensions or profile backups, and it isn’t available on mobile phones (yet?).
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In any case, some folks are excited about a browser that combines GitHub’s features to give them the ability to fork virtually any website, make local changes to it, and then host it themselves. Others are waiting for more convincing features before they even test the app. Which boat are you in? Tell us what you think about this innovative browser in the comments section below.