Understanding Smart Contracts, and Their Relation to Blockchain & Bitcoin

Reading Time: 4 minutes

It seems Bitcoin and all the hubbub about cryptocurrency is ‘back on’ now, and there’s a renewed general interest in mining for digital currency. The one takeaway anyone who’s developing an interest in this should take is that this is not a way to get rich quick, and that bitcoin mining is much more labour-intensive than you think. Blockchain technology is integrally important to managing cryptocurrencies, so f you’re still not dissuaded and you’d like to start amassing cryptocurrency for yourself then you’re encouraged to read on.

Here at 4GoodHosting, we join every other Canadian web hosting provider in understanding the way many of our customers have real interest in taking advantage of everything that’s there for discovery in the digital world. It’s likely more than a few are taking more than a passing interest in cryptocurrency mining, so today we’ll share some information these folks are going to find valuable.

Smart contracts have the potential to be one of the most useful tools associated with blockchain, and it’s almost certain that they’re going to take off right along the cryptocurrencies they’re designed to manage. So what exactly are smart contracts then?

No Administration Required

Smart contracts are self-executing, business automation applications that run on a decentralized network, such as blockchain. The appeal of them is specifically in the way they’re able to remove administrative overhead. Indeed, smart contracts are one of most attractive features associated with blockchain technology. Blockchain functions as a database, and confirms that transactions have taken place, while smart contracts execute pre-determined conditions at the same time. They’re not unlike a when a computer executes on “if/then,” or conditional, in programming.

The way all of this works is once certain conditions of a smart contract are met – and related to our discussion here that’ll be two parties agreeing to an exchange in cryptocurrency – they can automate the transfer of bitcoin, fiat money, or the receipt of a shipment of goods that makes it possible for them to continue on their journey.

The workings of that will reveal a blockchain ledger that stores the state of the smart contract.

Tokens and Smart Contracts

The different applications for smart contracts are pretty much endless. Let’s take the insurance industry; an insurance company could use smart contracts to automate the release of claim money paid out for events like large-scale floods, hurricanes or droughts. Another example would be when a cargo shipment enters a port and IoT sensors inside the container relay a confirmation that the contents have been unopened and stored properly along the entirety of the journey.

This means a bill of lading can then be issued without any manual – and time consuming – inspection of the goods being required.

As mentioned, smart contracts are also now creating the basis for the transferring of cryptocurrency and digital tokens. Which function as a representation of a physical asset or utility. The best-known example these days is Ethereum blockchain’s ERC-20 and ERC-721 tokens. Both are smart contracts.

However, don’t think all smart contracts are tokens. It’s possible to have smart contracts running on Ethereum that trigger an action based on a condition without an ERC-20 or ERC-721 being involved.

How Smart Contracts Mimic Business Rules

For all intents and purposes, smart contracts are business rules translated into software. If you compare them to business rules automation software or stored procedures, smart contracts can support automating processes stretching across corporate boundaries and involving multiple organizations in ways the automation software can’t.

The major functional difference is that rules can be applied not only within the corporation that coded the smart contract, but to other business partners approved to be on the blockchain.

Importance of Good Data, and ‘Oracles’ in Smart Contracts

Smart contracts are great, but each one is only as good as the rules that dictate its automating processes. Quality programming is crucial, as is the accuracy of the data fed into a smart contract. The nature of smart contract rules make it so that once they’re in place, they can’t be altered in any way. After a contract is written, no on – not even the programmer – can change it.

If it tuns out that the data isn’t true – and being on a blockchain doesn’t necessarily make it so that it is – the smart contract will be unable to work properly.

Why is this? Well, data fed into blockchains and used for smart contract execution is sourced externally, and from data feeds and APIs most notably – a blockchain is not able to ‘fetch’ data directly. Real-time data feeds for blockchains are referred to as oracles.

Little Disputability with Smart Contract Data

Oracles have traditionally transmitted data from a single source, and as such there is no data that’s entirely trustworthy. It can be benignly or maliciously corrupted due to faulty web sites, cheating service providers, or even by unintentional mistakes.

The way regular contracts function today can be problematic. This is because one party may perform a task, but after that the other party may decide not to pay, or there may be assumptions made by one of the parties about complexities of the contract that may not even be true.

The issue here is that those contracts are not rigorously enforceable, but smart contracts are. A smart contract is deterministic, and can absolutely be enforced as long as the events related to its contractual clauses happen.

Edge Computing, IoT and future of Smart Contracts

Within the next 5 to 7 years we should see a massive growth in IoT connected devices spurring greater use of smart contracts. It’s projected that the majority of the estimated 46 billion industrial and enterprise devices connected in 2023 will be dependent on edge computing. Addressing standardization and deployment issues will be crucial.

How smart contracts will benefit here is by offering a standardized method for accelerating data exchange and enabling processes between IoT devices. Essentially they’ll be removing the middleman – the server or cloud service that acts as the central communication spoke for requests and other traffic among IoT devices on a network.

Add this to blockchain ledgers decreasing the time required to complete IoT device information exchange and processing time, and the collective promise between both technologies becoming prominent is something to definitely keep an eye on. With the focus on process efficiency, supply chain and logistics opportunities smart contracts will almost certainly become more ubiquitous in the years ahead.

Chrome Users Encouraged to ‘Rat Out’ Deceptive Sites with New Add-On

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Rats have always had a bad rap, and among all the many negative things associated with the rodents is the fact that ‘rat’ is no longer only a noun in the English language. It’s now also a verb. To ‘rat’ out someone or something is to make someone in position of power or authority aware of what that thing or person is doing when they shouldn’t be doing it. An example could be when you were kids and telling the school principal the names of the students you saw scratching their names into the side of the gymnasium.

They’re sure to be punished for it, but only you and the principal will ever know who exactly ‘ratted them out.’

Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re like any quality Canadian web hosting provider in that we don’t need to be prompted to stay on top of interesting developments in the digital world. We do it quite naturally, and we also have an at-least somewhat vested interest in maintaining a functional integrity for the World Wide Web.

All of which makes this recent news entirely newsworthy for our blog here.

Introducing the Suspicious Site Reporter

Google this week started requesting help in identifying suspicious websites, and to that end is making an add-on that lets them ‘rat out’ suspicious URLs through their Chrome browser. They can add the Suspicious Site Reporter, and what they’ll then see is a new flag-style icon on the top bar of the browser. When they come across a URL that’s fishy looking, all they have to do is click on the icon to report unsafe sites to Safe Browsing for further evaluation by the overlords at Google.

Safe Browsing is a ubiquitous term between Chrome, Mozilla’s Firefox, Apple’s Safari, and Android when users are steered away from sites that contain malicious or deceptive content. Google uses robots to scan the web and compile lists of websites that host malware, harmful downloads or deceptive ads and pages. Software developers then have the option of plugging into an API to integrate this list into their own applications.

In honesty, rival browser makers have done this for years, but it’s a fact none have the prestige or visibility that Chrome currently does.

What this ‘see, identify, and click’ results in is a warning that then tells user following in the footsteps of others that the intended destination is shady and proceeding further towards it is inadvisable. With Chrome, you can expect to see an alert reading ‘Deceptive site ahead’ and some explanatory text about why it’s being regarded that way.

So here it is that you don’t need to feel any discomfort about being ‘a rat.’

Different Designations

Some industry experts have stated they find some of the information in the pop-up box deployed after clicking the Suspicious Site Reporter to actually be suspicious on its own. One of them gave the example of visiting a national news organization’s site, and seeing the reason it was flagged as being ‘Haven’t visited site in the last 3 months.’

There’s another good and valuable warning that is issued when the browser is being steered toward a site with a deceptive URL, which is a common trick of hackers and phishers. There’s more than a few people who wouldn’t catch ‘go0gle.com’ instead of ‘google.com’, to use one example. For all these individuals, there will be a warning that helps you get back to safety.

This new feature was launched with Chrome 75, the current version that debuted June 4. As has been the case for a while though, Google commonly rolls out new Chrome features in stages in response to quality control interests.

If for some reason you Chrome 75 doesn’t have it, the Suspicious Site Reporter add-on can be downloaded from the Chrome e-store.

Shoelace, Google’s Well-Funded Foray into the World of Social Media

Reading Time: 3 minutes

There’s a whole lot in the news these days about the perils of too much time spent on social media, and particularly so for young people. As is the case with everything, moderation is the key and it’s only when you overdo it that the situation becomes harmful. Like it or not, social media has become an all-pervasive aspect of our lives for many of us, and we’re not hesitant about indulging in it in the slightest. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat may have a new kid on the block soon, and he’s the protégé of one of the biggest players in the Internet world – Google.

Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re like any other leading Canadian web hosting provider in that we can’t help but see and hear firsthand about just how omnipresent social media is in the lives of people. This news regarding Google’s entry in the world of SM is noteworthy because it’s very much a situation where the company’s deep pockets will ensure that if it’s not a success off the hop, it will be eventually after however many tries are necessary.

So what’s there to know about this new Shoelace, and what can those interested in it expect if they decide to give it a whirl. Let’s have a look at that here today.

The Skinny on Shoelace

Admittedly, Google has never had any success developing a social network, but they’ve definitely persevered with the effort. Following the shutdown of platforms like Orkut, Google Buzz, and Google+ Google has decided the time is right to test out yet another social network, an as mentioned this one’s called Shoelace.

Google’s experimental Area 120 product development workshop has been behind the building of it, and Shoelace is a hyper-local social networking app (for Android and iOS) that takes a different approach – it aims to connect people based on shared interests in specific events and in-person activities. Advocates of it have suggested that Shoelace promises to be a social network that encourages people to spend less time on their phones, and more of it engaging in real-life activities with like-minded people NEAR you.

All About the ‘Loops’

This is where Shoelace’s name comes from – users will be able to create their own ‘loop’ which will essentially be listings for events that can be shared with others on the app, and with a secondary focus of possibly promoting the making of a new friend or two along the way.

If, however, you don’t have any of your own events to suggest, it’s possible to designate your interest in a variety of categories with Shoelace. It will then use that info to recommend a number of ‘hand-picked’ activities the app believes you might have an interest in. The idea of course being that as you participate and engage in greater numbers of activities, you develop a social network of people who have the same interests and the same participation tendencies.

Crews Too

Users will also be able to create profiles that allow sharing tidbits about themselves, learning about others in their ‘crews,’ and making it easier to organize and be prepared for upcoming events. Part of Shoelace’s listing on the Google Play Store states that the most recent update to the app added the ability to share Loops using a hyperlink, and the belief is that once people get the hang of that it could make it even easier to get the word out about upcoming activities.

As of Now, Big Apple Only

Keeping in mind that it’s still a prototype, the current situation is that Shoelace is only available in New York City. Google has said its goal is to bring Shoelace to cities across the U.S. in the future, and it’s also true that they’re even taking requests for suggestions as to which places it should bring Shoelace to next.

In addition, access to Shoelace is invite-only for now.

Whether or not Shoelace truly takes off remains to be seen, but it deserves some credit if for no other reason then the fact it looks to be a social network that’s promoting a social life that’s not contained within the device pretty much exclusively. It’s a nice conceptual departure in that regard, and many insiders think that if it does take root then we’ll likely see many of its features and ideas incorporated into Google Maps or other Google services before too long.

2 Weeks To HTTPS Becoming a Necessity for Websites

Reading Time: 3 minutes

It’s July 9th and two weeks from today the web is officially going with full HTTPS as requisite, and that’s a development that’s been a long time in the making. Securing traffic on the internet is an obvious priority, but of course there are people who are strongly opposed to having a secure web.

Two weeks today Google will be uniformly labeling any site loaded in Chrome without HTTPS to be not secure. Most webmasters will be on top of this and accordingly usage of HTTPS is exploding right now. In the 6 months up to a recent report, 32% growth in the use of HTTPS was seen in the top 1 million sites. Mozilla tracks anonymous telemetry via Firefox browser and recorded big growth (75% page loads) in the rate of pages being loaded over HTTPS. Chrome too, at around the same 75 percent.

We’re a Canadian web hosting provider who’s always got our thumb on the pulse of the industry, so it’s important to relate that quite a few popular sites on the web still don’t support HTTPS (or fail to redirect insecure requests) and will soon be flagged by Google. Plus, let’s clear up a few emerging myths about HTTPS:

  • It’s a Hassle
  • I Don’t Need It
  • It’s Gonna be Slow
  1. It’s A Hassle

No, it’s pretty darn simple. You can protect your site with HTTPS in a matter of seconds for FREE. Sign up for Cloudflare or using a CA such as Let’s Encrypt. We can assist you with any other web security and accessibility concerns you may have beyond https encryption of your website.

  1. I Don’t Need It

Well it turns out, you do – particularly as it relates to the safety and privacy of those visiting your site. Without HTTPS, anyone in the path between your visitor’s browser and your site or API can peer in on (or make modifications to) your content without you needing to be made aware of it. Governments, employers, and even especially internet service providers can and have been overseeing content without user consent.

If having your users receiving content unmodified and safe from maliciously injected advertisements or malware is a priority for you, you are advised to move your website to HTTPS.

Add the fact that the major browsers like Apple, Google, Mozilla, and Microsoft, are restricting functionality to only work over HTTPS. Google will soon block unencrypted mobile app connections automatically in their upcoming Android version. Apple has announced that apps must use HTTPS, but there has been no official announcement of this yet.

  1. It’s Gonna be Slow

The last common myth about HTTPS is that it’s not speedy enough. This belief is a holdover from an era when SSL/TLS might have had a negative performance impact on a site, but that’s not the way it is today at all or ever. HTTPS is also now required to enable and enjoy the performance benefits of HTTP/2.

Here’s two untruths to consider:

1) It takes incrementally more CPU power to encrypt and decrypt data; and

2) establishing a TLS session involves nothing more than 2 network round trips between the browser and the server.

HTTPS content from the edge – 10-20 milliseconds away from your users in the case of Cloudflare – SSL/TLS enabled sites are superior. And even when they are not served from an edge provider they still function at a high level. Advanced users should also consider using HSTS to instruct the browser to always load your content over HTTPS, saving it a round trip (plus page load time) on following requests.

Containerisation, or Not: How to Choose for Your Hosting

Reading Time: 4 minutes

There’s an expression that goes ‘nothing stays simple for long’ and gosh darn if that isn’t just so true for so much of nearly everything in the world of economics and commerce. As is nearly always the case, it’s the way things develop interconnectedness and interdependencies very naturally means that what was once kind of basic eventually becomes at least somewhat complicated.

So it is with server hosting too, and what used to be just fine for a particular company or organization with regards to hosting their website. Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re obviously like any other Canadian web hosting provider at the forefront of the industry in that this is one of the more front and centre issues for us as it pertains to providing our customers with the type of web hosting service that actually suits them best.

All of this leads to what we’ll discuss here today, and the term is ‘containerisation.’ The term on itself means to break up a mass of any objects or material and separate them into a number of containers. What exactly those containers are could be any of thousands of different potential ones, but all of them will have the quality of having some type of exterior on at least 3 of 4 sides to create a barrier than ‘contains’ the ‘contents’ exactly as desired.

Decisions, Decisions

As far as servers, it was in fact a simple choice once upon a time – dedicated, or shared. That’s often still the basic decisions, but for ever greater numbers of customers there are additional considerations about what’s going to accommodate your website most ideally.

So what is containerisation, and would it be a good fit for you? And is there a specific type of server hosting required to run containers? How about the term ‘serverless’, what needs to be known there?

Lets have a look at all of this today.

Functionalities and Options

If there are no other external considerations, an application would be run via a web hosting package or dedicated server with an operating system and a complete software stack. But now, there are other options.

Operating-system level virtualisation is the far-too-long and awkward term that containerisation replaced. Containerisation uses a platform like Docker to run isolated instances, which make up the containers. But what exactly is the container then?

It’s a package of software that includes everything needed for a specific application, and the collection of it allows it to operate like a separate server environment. Because they share a single OS kernel, multiple containers can run on one server or virtual machine (VM) and have no effect on each other in any way. Most users identify with the container as being much like its own unique environment, and irrespective of the host infrastructure.

Containers are able to perform tasks that would require a whole server or VM if they weren’t around, and they also have the benefit of consuming far less resources. Being lightweight and agile allows them to be deployed, shut down and restarted at a moment’s notice, and they can also be transferred easily across hardware and environments.

Containers are also standalone packages, and that means they behave reliably and consistently regardless of the local configuration.

Orchestrator Needs

Safe to say Kubernetes is the most popular choice as a container orchestrator. There are several out there, but Kubernetes gets the highest marks for anyone running a large numbers of containers in a production environment because it automates the deployment, scheduling and management of containerised applications. Automatically scaling containers across multiple nodes (servers or VMs) to meet current demand and perform rollouts seamlessly is a huge plus, and it also promotes a sort of self-healing with containerised applications – if a node fails, Kubernetes restarts, replaces or reschedules containers as needed.

Working Considerations

Traditional web hosting solutions make it so that you can choose whether to run your containers in a shared environment, and where the best value for the money is if you have relatively small workloads not utilizing resources of a whole cluster of nodes (VMs or servers). Those with larger workloads or regulatory obligations to meet may find that a dedicated server environment – perhaps with your own cluster – may be required.

Serverless computing involves the orchestrator automatically stopping, starting and scaling the container on the infrastructure best situated to handle demand at that time. The benefit of this is that the developer has even less to be concerned about; code runs automatically, and there’s no need to manually configure the infrastructure. Costs are kept down because all instances of a container automatically shut down when demand for it trickles off or ends entirely.

Another term often used when discussing containers is microservices. A traditional application is built and consist as one big block with a single file system, shared databases and one common language across its various functions. Where a microservices application reveals itself is behind the scenes where functions are broken down into individual components.

Examples could be a product service, payment service, or a customer review service. Containerisation technologies like Kubernetes provide platforms and management tools for implementation, and then allowing microservices to be lightweight and run anywhere they’re needed. Microservices can technically be built on traditional server hosting, but creating and maintaining a full microservices architecture creates a working reality where a container platform like Docker and an orchestration tool like Kubernetes are integral parts of making the whole operation work as intended.

Domain Names, and What Makes Them SEO-Friendly – 9 Factors

Reading Time: 4 minutes

It’s not as easy as saying that it’s only those looking to make money who will put a major premium on having good search engine rankings. Being high up on SERPs – or search engine results pages if you’re not familiar with that acronym – will be important for anyone who needs to have reliable visibility for their interests in being online, whatever those interests may be. If you’re one of them then you’re likely putting the bulk of your focus into keyword optimization. That’s the way it should be, and that should continue to be one of your priorities.

Many people aren’t aware of the fact that their domain name also plays a role in how well their website ranks in SERPs. Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re like every quality Canadian web hosting provider in that we know that the success of people with their online ventures is directly beneficial to us as well. It’s for this reason that sharing information on SEO-bosting domains is something we know might well be good for the both of us.

So that’s what we’ll look at here today, and hopefully the information is ideal for anyone who’s about to register a domain name or for others who might want to reconsider their current one based on what they learn here.

Factors Determining a Domain Name’s SEO Value

Everyone’s familiar with Google’s authority when it comes to anything related to the World Wide Web. They’ve stated that there are some 200 different factors that come into play for SEO, and it turns out that domain name is one of the important of them. Choosing the right SEO-Friendly domain name should be one of the crucial decision for your business.

So, without anything more in the way of fluff talk, let’s get right to them.

  1. Make it a Brandable Domain Name if Possible

This one will apply more to companies operating an ecommerce website or one that promotes your business more generally. If you can incorporate your company brand into your domain name, it’s definitely beneficial.

That needs to be mentioned, because some businesses avoid using their company name in the domain name of their website. Considering Google values branding more than keywords, they’re missing the mark if so.

  1. Make it a Unique Domain Name

The best product or brand names are generally going to be unique, and this correlates directly to a more likely availability of the domain name. Not only that, but it will be better received by the users as well, and in a very short period of time this will start boosting your SEO rankings too

  1. Target Keyword

Choose a domain name that contains keywords about your business, products/services, etc. However, if your domain name has natural keywords then it is also beneficial and advisable. And if this is overly challenging, here’s a suggestion that may catch you by surprise, but is actually really effective! Ask your kids to tell you what word they’d most naturally associate with your chosen industry.

  1. Exact Match Domains (EMDs)

Exact Match Domains all target keywords you’d like your website to rank for. If this something you can do, then it’s very helpful and really fast tracks you towards better SEO. Do keep in mind, however, that branding is not included in this method.

  1. Aim for Domain Name ‘Fluency’

Having the domain name of your website communicate the right message is important. People will have a better perception of what your business is all about, and what you’re offering, when you making your domain name have some relevance to the product, service, or overarching industry. Domain name fluency is the name given to this.

  1. Be Conscious of the Length of Your Domain Name

Industry insiders have never really come to a definitive answer to how short or too long a domain name has to be in order to have the length be detrimental to SEO. That said, we’ve spoken to a good many very knowledgeable people about this and the consensus is that you should never have more than 2 separate words in your domain name.

Which leads us to our next point very nicely..

  1. Avoid Hyphens in a Domain Name

Using hyphens in a domain isn’t uncommon, but the plain fact is that you shouldn’t do it. Why? Hyphens are associated with spammy websites. There are plenty of filters out there to banish spam URLs from SERPs, and if your domain name has a hyphen then your website may suffer a similar fate.

  1. No Numbers Either

Numbers are also inadvisable. This is primarily because if someone hears about your domain name and then remembers it later with their phone in hand or in front of the desktop or notebook they may well find themselves thinking if they are enter the digit or spell it out when entering the URL. Try it once and be unsuccessful and they may just decide to give up on it.

  1. Domain Extension

A domain name with an extensions that qualifies as a Top Level Domain (TLD) is very advantageous when it comes to SEO. A .com domain is still the industry standard for TLDs, so if your domain name of choice has that extension available it’s worthy whatever cost there is to acquire it.

It absolutely boost the credibility of your domain as well.