DECENT 101: Is IPFS the Ultimate Storage System?

March 18, 2019

Since the invention of the modern Internet almost 30 years ago, it has served as the backbone of hundreds of technological inventions. It is unfathomable for most people to imagine life without the Internet since it has been entrenched in almost all of our daily habits.

The Old Testament
Once you peel back the layers of what the Internet actually consists of, you’ll see that the primary form of communication today is through the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (or HTTP, as it’s more commonly known), which is a request-response protocol. A client, for example, a web browser, sends a request to an external server. The server then returns a response message, for example, the DECENT homepage back to the client. This is a location-addressed protocol which means the data is identified by location rather than the data’s content. This makes it easier to distribute, manage and scale the capacity of both servers and clients.

However, this is problematic because users have to travel across the Internet to access specific pieces of data, even though sometimes the same data is available at a closer location. This has been improved recently with an increase in Internet speed, but can still be a fundamental problem since the client only needs to know where the data location is, not the owner of the data.

With HTTP, data is stored in centralized servers. This is useful and generally works very well until a server shuts down or is offline due to unforeseeable circumstances. Also, storing data on centralized servers makes it more vulnerable to hackers. Take for example the recent data breaches at Facebook, where 87 million Facebook accounts were leaked to a research group. Anyone with access to your server could, in theory, alter or hack your data, making it very susceptible to security and privacy breaches.

The New Testament
In November of 2018, a stable version of the Interplanetary File System (IPFS) protocol was released for the first time, originally created by the computer scientist, Juan Benet. IPFS addresses some of the problems that occur with the HTTP protocol, mainly that it uses content-based addressing instead of location-based. In IPFS, each file has a unique hash which can be thought of as a unique fingerprint. When you need specific data content, you simply ask the network for a copy of the specific hash, instead of its IP address.

In short, it’s a P2P file sharing system that isn’t reliant on local addresses, therefore making it more efficient than HTTP. Once you have downloaded the data through a specific hash, you obtain a copy of it and can provide it for future requests. As a result, this becomes a system which accelerates in speed as more files are shared because more people have a copy of it.

IPFS does have its drawbacks, however. For one, because there is no centralized server, updates and changes can’t be done internally. Instead, they have to be done on a base of continuous releases of new versions. A second challenge is ensuring that files are constantly available. When centralized, files are controlled by one party who’s incentivized to make sure the server is up and running. In IPFS, the data copies are kept on separate nodes. If these nodes are offline, these files won’t be available. Thus, IPFS can only sustain and grow based on the growth of users.

The Future of IPFS
When IPFS first debuted, the idea was to create a decentralized version of the existing Internet, based on the principles above. However, with the emergence and popularity of blockchain, a hybrid solution combining the best of both worlds has picked up steam. The implementation would be simple. IPFS is capable of storing large amounts of data. Blockchain is an immutable ledger of transactions where each IPFS link would be time stamped on the blockchain itself. This would benefit users who create their original content and constantly upload and download large blocks of content, like 1080p HD or 4K videos. Essentially, this example is how the DCore blockchain works.

DCore is integrated with IPFS which is responsible for the upload and download of content between seeders and users on the DCore platform. Our team has even gone as far as implementing a system where seeders are rewarded for storing and enabling the download of content as one of DCore’s main features. Like the Internet and HTML some 20 years ago, we firmly believe that IPFS can unleash the true potential of blockchain, especially for the content distribution and media industries.

The first step for any disruptive technology is building awareness of its existence. IPFS and its integration with blockchain technology is pioneering a new model for the decentralized age. Time will tell where we go from here, but as the first blockchain company to implement this model into our DCore platform, we are excited about the future.

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