ACBob's ZimZam - Blog

The issues with a Centralized Internet

ACBob ◦ 2020-09-14 ◦ 4 Minutes read

This blog post has been rewritten as the previous iteration was rather embarrassing.

Although, you can still find the old version in the commit history.

Ah, the Internet. A wonderful place, full of mischief, Furries, Nazis, Nazi Furries and everything else you could possibly think of1. It's this great creation where you can talk to people, browse images2, and pretty much anything legal. However, we don't live in the utopias of our fiction, so naturally, there's some chinks in the Armour.

For example, as I had said previously, you could do pretty much anything legal. However, some individuals can also do things that... are unlawful. It's rather grim in some situations, so I'm dropping this point here. You can probably fill in the details yourself.

But we're not touching on those for now, nay, we are touching on the actual model of the Internet! I know, how exciting. - When I'd originally written this article3, it was not long after Cloudflare had a rather bad bump in the road, causing quite a bit of the Internet to disappear. Websites such as Google remained, but Discord, Patreon, Gitlab and even some of the Down Detector websites all disappeared.

So, how come Cloudflare being hit causes these seemingly disconnected websites to go off the map? A few ideas could spring to mind. But the actual reason is quite simple.

Imagine Cloudflare as a bridge troll. And the bridge connects to the site you want to go to. So, you go up to the bridge, and are stopped by the troll. The troll goes "Oi, are you a human?", You answer yes, and are let past. You connect to the site with the blessing of the troll, and reap the rewards of the contents.

Now, Imagine that the troll, Cloudflare, sleeps on the job. You go up to the bridge, and see that Cloudflare is nowhere to be seen. So you assume it's ok to go past. You go past, and then you're stopped by a magic barrier, as you didn't receive the blessing of the troll. This is what happens.

So that was a relatively simple example - to the point I'm not sure i got it across well - but what actually happens isn't that much different. Your computer goes up to the website, the website asks Cloudflare if you're ok, and goes from there. But when Cloudflare goes down - for whatever reason - It doesn't get a response. Promptly, the website panics, and gives up.

Now, this is only an issue because it's one point of failure. Maybe the website has a back-up server4, where it asks instead of Cloudflare, in the event it can't be accessed. Or maybe the website doesn't use Cloudflare at all.

We call this the 'Centralized Web'. Now, technically, this is stretching the definition. As you're still asking different servers for the content, rather than one server for all the content. But I'm going to argue that it's still applicable, as you're routing all that network through one pipe. - Pipe fails, server panics, so on.

But what if, instead of this, we had multiple points? In the bridge example, this would be like having a few bridges, Each with their own troll.

So you go up to the bridge. In a normal situation, you talk to one of the trolls, go through, yadda yadda. But in the example i gave earlier, where the troll has a sick day/sleeps in, There's other trolls and bridges to fulfill your request. Hell, if you've surplus trolls, they probably have the permission to grant your blessing with the other bridges, and can still fulfill your request.

In the real world, this would mean multiple servers. The surplus trolls would be from A -> B -> C, with A being you, and C being the server. Personally, i think this is a more sane system, and i would emplore people to seek it. It's more expensive, and probably doesn't work for most situations, but if you're a big service, say, Discord or Patreon, you could probably afford it, and it would make sense.

Naturally, it's only an issue if Cloudflare goes down, and that doesn't seem to be very often. But it's always nice to have. Besides, what if Cloudflare doesn't come back up one day?

...But that's for Cloudflare. I'd argue any Centralized system is bad. If you can be taken down with one strike, it's like packing your entire government into one building... and not expecting it to be blown up. - Although that's terrorism5. But arguably Terrorism is the fault of an unsuspecting government.

  1. There's even a website where you can rate feces. Although i wouldn't advise going to it on a School computer.

  2. I didn't mean those 'images', get your mind out of the gutter. Although, yes, you can find those types of images on the internet.

  3. The 17th of July, 2020.

  4. I'm not sure if this is possible, but if it was, this'd probably be the way I'd go, depending on how difficult it would be.

  5. Terrorism here being any issue with any system. - ...Not the greatest example, and it probably flags my site as worrisome.