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What is Freenet?

In 1999, Ian Clarke, a student of computer science and artificial intelligence at the University of Edinburgh, submitted his final year project titled “A Distributed, Decentralized Information Storage and Retrieval System”. Though this paper was not published, it served as the foundation for another collaborative paper he worked on with fellow researchers, published in 2001 as “Freenet: A Distributed Anonymous Information Storage and Retrieval System”.

After receiving a B grade for his original paper, Clarke shared his work online. It was widely circulated and discussed by peers and volunteers, eventually evolving into what is now known as Freenet.

In simple terms, Freenet is a free and decentralized peer-to-peer platform specifically designed for anonymity and censorship resistance. Users can anonymously share files, create and publish free websites, and participate in forums accessible only through Freenet.

The core objective of the Freenet project remains unchanged: to provide anonymity and resistance to censorship.

What is Freenet


How does Freenet work?

Freenet functions through the encryption and distribution of data across multiple nodes on various machines. Essentially, users collectively provide free hard drive space for storing and retrieving information. Similar to other peer-to-peer platforms, users utilize a program to request information and share files, akin to a combination of a browser and a file-sharing client.

Files are fragmented and dispersed among numerous nodes. Thanks to its encryption, identifying the origin or destination of a node request is exceedingly difficult.

How can I access Freenet?

Getting started with Freenet is straightforward: download the installer from the Freenet website, which is compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux. Once downloaded, follow the provided step-by-step instructions to set up and access Freenet.

For optimal security and privacy, it’s advisable to use a dedicated browser when browsing Freenet, preferably one focused on privacy and security such as Firefox, Pale Moon, or IceCat.

After installation, Freenet will launch through your default browser, where you’ll be prompted to choose a security level:

  • Low security: Suitable for regions where Freenet is legal. While safer than other peer-to-peer options like Bittorrent, there might still be some vulnerabilities to consider.
  • High security: Recommended if you intend to establish your own Freenet darknet for enhanced security. This option is also ideal for small groups of friends who regularly share content and connect.
  • Custom security: Users have the flexibility to select their preferred security settings. This option allows for complete customization, albeit with a slightly longer setup process.

Is Freenet safe and secure?

Yes, like Tor, Freenet is designed to be decentralized, which enhances its resilience against attacks. However, unlike Tor, Freenet operates as a self-contained system. This means it doesn’t function as a proxy, and accessing websites or services on the surface web such as Facebook, Instagram, or Gmail isn’t possible. Due to its complete decentralization, there are no central servers, thus eliminating any single point of failure.

Freenet offers two distinct security levels:


This mode allows users to automatically connect to nodes that support Opennet. Essentially, users can connect to Opennet nodes without prior acquaintance with other users on Freenet. Although Opennet nodes are relatively easy to block and offer limited anonymity, they are somewhat centralized. It’s worth noting that Opennet nodes may be accessible to law enforcement, hence the strong recommendation to use a VPN while using Freenet in Opennet mode.


In Darknet mode, connections are manually established exclusively between users who know and trust each other. Darknet connections are harder to block, provide better anonymity, and are fully decentralized.

📚 Also Read: What Is the Dark Web (Dark Net): Everything You Need to Know

Is Freenet worth using?

In theory, yes. However, in practice, widespread adoption may be limited. While Freenet provides a secure means of communication and information sharing, its utility may be more apparent for small groups utilizing its darknet connections.

Nevertheless, for those seeking accessibility coupled with anonymity and security—potentially even more so—distributed and federated social networks present compelling alternatives to mainstream Big Tech platforms, offering robust platforms for free speech.


Freenet exemplifies the power of decentralized networks in providing secure and censorship-resistant communication. Despite its origins as a student project, Freenet has grown into a valuable platform for anonymous information sharing. While its adoption may be modest compared to mainstream options, Freenet remains a crucial tool for individuals and small groups seeking privacy and security online. As technology advances, Freenet serves as a reminder of the importance of preserving digital freedoms in an interconnected world.


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