What is IPFS?

by | Nov 4, 2021

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In our earlier blog post titled – All You Need to Know About Web 3.0, we discussed the history of the web, problems with the current state of the internet and how can we fix that with web 3.0. We discussed how web 3.0 will be built on open-source software and in a trustless manner without having a trusted third party and will be accessible to everyone without a governing body or centralized entity through a permissionless model.

In essence, web 3.0 is not just the next generation of the internet, but it is a leap forward, a fundamental disruption. Talking about web 3.0, today we’ll delve into a core aspect of web 3.0 – Interplanetary File System a.K.a IPFS.

So, what is IPFS and how is it different from the current state of internet protocols such as HTTP or HTTPS.

What is the InterPlanetary File System?

By the definition, the InterPlanetary File System is a protocol and peer-to-peer network for storing and sharing data in a distributed file system. Now, let’s understand it in a simple language and an example. Before we delve deeper into the concept of IPFS, let’s first answer the question – Why IPFS?

Why IPFS?

Traditionally, as in the current state of the internet, information on the web is stored in specific locations such as server farms, usually owned by the website/platform owner. Meaning the user’s data is in hands of a corporation or entity behind the given platform. For example, all the user-generated data on a social media platform or service agency, or search engine is stored in server farms owned by the given entity.

With data being the most valuable asset in the 21st century, we end up giving too much power in the hands of these big tech monopolies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Therefore, there’s a need for a paradigm shift in the way we store our data and take the power back from the corporations and hand it back to the users. That’s why we need open protocols such as Interplanetary File System.

How Does it Work?

Now, let’s understand how IPFS works. For example, when you go online and try to access a specific website such as Wikipedia, you’d have to type the URL of the given website in the address bar on your browser. Meaning you’ll type in an address starting with either HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) or HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) which will redirect you to a web page stored on that website’s server.

Whereas with IPFS, if you try to access the same web page through an IPFS gateway, you’d still see the same page, but it’s not stored on a specific server. This web page will be made available for you to access through a peer-to-peer network in which it is distributed to you through a mesh of computers on the network that have saved the copy of that web page.

Basically, all the information on IPFS is shared among the network participants and the data storage nodes on the network are incentivized to keep the data secure and accessible for everyone else. With a peer-to-peer network, IPFS allows users to access content that from the nearest node on the distributed network. Thus significantly reducing the latency and increasing the bandwidth available to access any content.

On one hand, HTTP downloads file from one server at a time, while on the other hand, the IPFS retrieves the pieces of data from multiple nodes in a peer-to-peer manner enabling substantial bandwidth savings. Besides bandwidth savings, IPFS offers a few more benefits over HTTP. Let’s have a look at them.

Benefits of IPFS over HTTP

1. Decentralized

Today’s web is centralized where the power is consolidated among a few monopolies threatening the progress of small players. Whereas IPFS awakens the true spirit of the original vision of an open web through distributed computing.

2. Resilient

The current state of the web is highly dependent on the backbone which often results in the complete breakdown of connectivity and services. The recent downtime of Facebook and Instagram is an example of such a breakdown. Whereas IPFS powers the creation of a resilient network without any downtime or server breakdown even during natural disasters.

3. Preservance

Today’s web has a major issue of dead links with less than 100 days of the average lifespan of a web page. Thus requiring the need for internet archives such as Wayback Machine to fight the disinformation. IPFS, on the other hand, makes it simple to power a resilient web with data mirroring and content addressing.

Head of Content Marketing @ HyperLinq. His love for Chai and mountains precedes everything. Often wonders about things like, "why $1 earned through leverage feels 100x better than $1 earned selling your time?"

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