What is IPFS?

IPFS (InterPlanetary File System) is a decentralized and distributed protocol designed for storing and sharing files in a peer-to-peer network. It provides a way to address and retrieve content based on the content itself rather than its location on a specific server or network. As of 2023, IPFS is the most popular platform for storing files in a decentralized form. Along with along with libp2p and Smart Contracts, IPFS is a key building block of decentralized computing.

Key features of IPFS include:

  1. Content-addressable: In IPFS, each file and all its contents are given a unique cryptographic hash, which serves as its address. This enables efficient content retrieval and ensures the integrity of the data.

  2. Distributed file system: IPFS forms a global, distributed file system where files are stored across multiple nodes in the network. This decentralized approach eliminates single points of failure and allows for greater availability and resilience.

  3. Versioning and deduplication: IPFS supports versioning of files, allowing different versions of the same file to be tracked and accessed. Additionally, it employs deduplication techniques to eliminate redundant copies of data, optimizing storage efficiency.

  4. Peer-to-peer networking: IPFS utilizes a peer-to-peer network model where each node in the network contributes storage and bandwidth resources. This peer-to-peer architecture enables direct communication and content sharing between nodes without relying on centralized servers.

  5. Content discovery: IPFS uses a distributed hash table (DHT) for efficient content discovery. Nodes in the network maintain a shared index of content, enabling fast and decentralized lookup of files based on their unique content addresses.

  6. Data integrity and security: IPFS ensures data integrity through cryptographic hash functions. Files are immutable, meaning their content cannot be modified without changing their unique address. Content can also be encrypted for added privacy and security.

  7. Offline and resilient access: IPFS supports offline access to previously retrieved content. When a file is accessed, it is cached locally, allowing subsequent access even when disconnected from the network. This feature enhances resilience and enables content availability in remote or disconnected environments.

IPFS has various use cases such as distributed file storage, decentralized web applications, content delivery networks (CDNs), and archival systems. It aims to provide a more open, decentralized, and censorship-resistant infrastructure for the web and other distributed applications.

Why is it important for decentralization?

IPFS is important for decentralization for several reasons:

Overall, IPFS promotes decentralization by providing a distributed, resilient, and censorship-resistant infrastructure for storing and sharing data. It empowers individuals, reduces reliance on centralized authorities, and fosters a more open and collaborative digital ecosystem.

How is IPFS Different from Torrents?

PFS (InterPlanetary File System) and torrents are both decentralized file sharing systems, but they have some key differences:

  1. Addressing and content discovery: In IPFS, files are addressed and retrieved based on their content hashes. Each file is given a unique cryptographic hash, and nodes in the network use this hash to retrieve the file. This content-based addressing enables efficient and decentralized content discovery. In contrast, torrents use a combination of a central tracker and a distributed hash table (DHT) for peer discovery. Torrent files contain metadata and trackers that help peers find each other.

  2. Data distribution and storage: IPFS is designed to distribute and store files across multiple nodes in a peer-to-peer network. Each node contributes storage resources and can serve as a source for sharing files. Files in IPFS are divided into blocks, and the blocks are distributed across nodes. This distributed approach enhances data availability and resilience. Torrents, on the other hand, distribute files using a swarm of peers. Peers download and upload specific file chunks from each other, forming a decentralized network. However, torrents rely on seeds and peers to provide the complete file, and if there are no active seeds, it can be challenging to download the file.

  3. File integrity and immutability: IPFS uses cryptographic hashes to ensure the integrity and immutability of files. Each file’s hash is derived from its content, and even a slight change in the content will result in a different hash. This ensures that files are tamper-proof and allows for easy verification of file integrity. In torrents, file integrity is maintained using a hash tree structure called a Merkle tree. However, once a torrent file is created and distributed, the content of the file cannot be changed or updated.

  4. Protocol and ecosystem: IPFS is a broader protocol that aims to provide a decentralized and content-addressable web. It enables not only file sharing but also decentralized web applications and distributed content delivery. IPFS is designed to be compatible with other web protocols and can be used as a building block for various applications. Torrents, on the other hand, are primarily focused on file sharing and downloading.

5.Incentives and governance: IPFS does not inherently provide incentives for nodes to contribute storage and bandwidth resources. However, there are initiatives like Filecoin built on top of IPFS that introduce incentives for nodes to store and retrieve files. Torrents rely on a tit-for-tat mechanism, where peers contribute bandwidth by uploading to others in exchange for faster downloads. The governance of IPFS is community-driven, while torrents operate without a centralized governance structure.

Overall, IPFS and torrents have similarities in their decentralized nature and file sharing capabilities. However, IPFS offers a more versatile and extensible protocol for decentralized web applications, emphasizes content addressing, and aims to create a broader decentralized web ecosystem.

Accesing IPFS Through JavaScript

To access IPFS through JavaScript in the browser, you can utilize the IPFS JavaScript library, which provides an API for interacting with IPFS nodes. Below is an example of how you can use IPFS in the browser. To experiment check this notebook on Scribbler: IPFS in Browser

Include the IPFS JavaScript library in your HTML file:

<script src="https://unpkg.com/ipfs/dist/index.min.js"></script>

Initialize IPFS and connect to a running IPFS node:

const ipfs = new IPFS();
ipfs.on('ready', () => {
  console.log('Connected to IPFS node');

Add a file to IPFS:

const fileContent = 'Hello, IPFS!';
ipfs.add(fileContent, (err, result) => {
  if (err) {
    console.error('Error adding file to IPFS:', err);
  } else {
    const fileHash = result[0].hash;
    console.log('File added to IPFS:', fileHash);

Retrieve a file from IPFS:

const fileHash = 'QmXpSwrQqNWTmwB8XvuHZBEhN1z5cy4P5CkNezkmk9vvgV';
ipfs.cat(fileHash, (err, data) => {
  if (err) {
    console.error('Error retrieving file from IPFS:', err);
  } else {
    const fileContent = data.toString();
    console.log('Retrieved file content:', fileContent);

Interact with IPFS using other available methods such as ls, get, or addFromURL according to your specific needs. By utilizing the IPFS JavaScript library, you can leverage IPFS functionality in the browser to interact with decentralized file storage, retrieve content by its hash, and perform various operations provided by the IPFS protocol.