Interplanetary File System (IPFS) is a revolutionary way of storing and transferring files. This is a peer to peer (p2p) system of sharing and storing files that seeks to alter the method of information distribution on a global scale. This system is also capable of tracking the versions of a file over time in a permanent manner.
But what is the need for such a system, and what is so revolutionary about it?
First, we should consider the conventional method and then why IPFS is preferable to the standard model.
The primary structure of internet communications protocols is that of the client-server. Within this architectural framework, HTTP is the standard means of communication. With this system, there is centralization in data storage on servers, which in turn can be accessed through client addressing determined by the locale.
The crux of this system is the intrinsic vulnerabilities in the domains of privacy and security, and as we shall see, it is far from ideal. Because it is a centralized system, whoever has control of the server has control of the data, meaning data can be altered or removed with impunity.
One can not fail to see the implications for the freedom of information, freedom of the press, and freedom of speech and expression generally. Any government or agent of authoritarianism can censor and distort information with facility, and effectively place a muzzle on the mouth of dissenting or alternative voices.
But this is not the only shortcoming of the conventional protocol. With HTTP, the ability to load websites and transfer small files is fairly simple and easy to effectuate; however, larger files with more data becomes problematic for this protocol.
The progression of technology means this protocol is moving ever closer to the cliff of the obsolete. This may not be apparent at the present but the significant fact is that we have already started the process of transferring and storing larger files.
With IPFS, the protocol is distributed so one need not trust in the assumed benevolence of the agencies in charge. With this protocol, each version of the data is permanently stored and accessible, securing the system with an immutable integrity. Furthermore, being distributed and cryptographically secure, the arsenal of weapons malicious hackers wield are by and large significantly disarmed.
Greater efficiency is built into the IPFS protocol as the system is content-addressed rather than location-based. With this, there is no need for information to travel long distances to access particular data because the IPFS system leverages proximity to data.
Yet what are some of these unique features that ensure these advantages and advancements over the HTTP-based client-server network? Here we should explore aspects of this new edifice. The first innovation to engage is the distributed hash tables (DHT).
DHT is a tool that permits efficient data dispersion throughout a network of nodes. DHT employs key-value pairs that enable the retrieval of a value by any node within the network by accessing the relevant key. With DHT, the network is not dependent on any specific nodes, and despite the failure of any one of them, it still can maintain the integrity of the overall network. Furthermore, DHT provides limitless scalability.
IPFS also utilizes the architectural framework of a Merkle DAG, which is a kind of combination of a Merkle tree with a directed acyclic graph (DAG). This is a way to validate and sort data blocks using cryptographic hash functions on the p2p network, in order to ensure the integrity of the data.
The Merkle DAG makes possible the storing and validation of data files while keeping all previous versions of the data accessible.
Next we shall consider a few of the many use-cases that have been implemented already by IPFS.
One such use-case is the application of IPFS to data analytics platforms such as Hadoop, in order to facilitate a reduction in fetching time for very large data sets. This use-case resulted in the improvement of data set decentralization.
Additionally, being interest based, it ensures the persistence of data sets so long as users store copies of them. It also adds efficiency to the overall performance for cross-region systems. The IPFS solution was discovered to be significantly faster when considering the time needed to ingest data sets.
IPFS is also a core technology for the application of decentralized identity. This is a way to efficiently effectuate the storage and distribution of information pertaining to personal identity. With decentralized identity, you are given control over your personal identity information, and may determine what is shared to any application, and you are imbued with the capacity to revoke the sharing of this information.
There are many use-cases that flow from IPFS. Blockchain is a significant use-case that provides a superb match for creating a future internet that is decentralized, speedy, and secure. With IPFS initiatives like PAC Global, these technologies greatly complement one another. As IPFS utilizes content addressing instead of location-based addressing, the blockchain is only required to store the multihash of the IPFS. This ensures the blockchain is not bogged down by the data, and that the correct data is able to be transferred and obtained by the network’s users.
Altogether, IPFS is an innovative leap forward for the internet and file sharing generally. Wedded with blockchain, it will provide a more efficient and fair network capable of quickly and efficiently storing and transmitting data. Moreover the decentralization it provides, coupled with its immutability, spells a future with information integrity.
C0-Authored and Edited by John Ryan
John Ryan is an independent writer and an avid enthusiast of blockchain technology. He received his University education at Northern Michigan University, as a history major, where he was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa Society for academic excellence. While in Michigan, he also trained as an athlete at the United States Olympic Education Center, where he achieved the status of a multiple-time University All-American in Greco-Roman wrestling. He has authored several plays and a collection of poetry. Some of his major areas of interests includes: Finance, Literature, and Religious Studies.
John is available to contact via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org