I was talking about bitcoin on some forum and at some point I was explaining that all transactions are public. I gave bitcoinexplorer.com as an example of a website where people could have details about any transaction.
At this point there was a misunderstanding, for one of the guys I was talking to thought bitcoinexplorer.com was part of the system, that during a transaction, both parties had to refer to this website in order to perform the transaction. Of course, I had to explain that this is not the way bitcoin works, that bitcoin doesn't need any website to function properly.
However, this made me think of something.
Right now there are a few websites that are very useful to the bitcoin project. bitcoin.org and its forum of course, Bitcoinexplorer.com, bitcoinwatch.com and others.
Would the use of bitcoin be really the same without those websites ? Isn't bitcoinwatch.com quite reassuring for instance, since it allows a user to check that "everything is right" by comparing his block number to bitcoinwatch's block number ?
So, if governments decided to shut down all bitcoin related websites and forums, then bitcoin would need to work in "silent mode". People would have to trust their client only. They would communicate via encrypted email about their chain length, making sure it is more or less the same. It would be the same system, but I guess it would surely "feel" different.
I'm pretty sure it would work fine, but we should be mentally prepared to use bitcoin in such a "silent mode".