IPFS is fascinating. Expect to hear a lot more about this groundbreaking new tech in this blog. Over the upcoming weeks and months, we’ll discuss its philosophical underpinnings, why it even exists, what it consists of, how all of its pieces connect together and how to develop on top of it. All of it.
All. Of. It.
It’s going to be a wild ride and we’ll all be enriched by participating in the conversation. Yet, before we do any of that, here’s a question of the utmost importance:
WTF is IPFS?
Seriously, wtf is it? We’re dealing with complex tech here and discussing IPFS is like opening a can of worms with a black hole spitting fire from its event horizon. Yet, fundamentally, IPFS has a simple, yet audacious aim: to re-architecture the entire internet by replacing http.
Addresses on websites are often prefixed by HTTP. The goal of IPFS is to completely replace the HTTP protocol as the foundational layer of the internet.
You’ve heard it right. The whole web. In fact, our current version of the web is sometimes called Web2, and IPFS, its natural development, Web3.
But why re-architecture the whole web? Isn’t it fine as it is?
The web is not fine! In fact, you might already be impacted by its design flaws.
So, what’s wrong with the status quo of the web?
The current internet is SLOW and cannot support the upcoming wave of innovations and users.
The internet seriously needs more bandwidth. Think about the streaming 8k videos. We already need fast internet for that, but what about 16k and beyond? The demands on the web keep increasing and, let me tell you one thing, serving such content costs big $$$.
Companies like facebook, google and others, spend billions to support their web architecture and deliver its content to you. The costs are offloaded to users of course in various ways of course, and many applications that could have been useful for humanity cannot see the light of day because of this barrier.
But big files aren’t the only issue affecting the web. Think about the proliferation of devices connected to the internet: your computer, your phone, your tablet, even the television. As an increasing amount of devices are connected to the internet, so is the overhead required to serve those them.
And to make matters worse, the amount of devices connected to the web is expected to keep increasing. Not only are we talking about the masses of users coming from newly industrialized countries such as India, but from new concepts such as the internet of things. The internet of things aims to connect everything that’s around you, whether it’s the cars, the door of your house, the lights, the energy meters, etc… That’s an even bigger load on the internet.
We need an alternative that will scale exponentially, be efficient and be blazing fast.
We need IPFS.
The other problem is security. How do I know that the content I am asking for is the content I asked for? What if an entity tampered with, let’s say, an image?
It may sound trivial at first glance, but the more technology progresses, new threats such as deep fakes, will highlight this problem.
Yet there are more immediate threats than that. How do I know the website I am connecting to is the right one, and not a phishing attack by a malicious hacker? Currently, we have a system of certificate authority in place to prevent such events to occur, yet they require trust in a third-party that can easily be compromised.
The current system is fundamentally flawed.
Another important problem with the internet is that it is heavily centralized. Let’s take the example of the monolithic facebook. Surely, such massive companies operated by the combined brainpower of our planet’s most brilliant engineers should work all the time and never crash…think again.
Even facebook cannot be spared from breaking down and when that happens we are hit with the 404 page we all are so familiar with. The fundamental problem is that our current web implementation is based on the client-server model. Basically, a client, the browser, asks for data to a central server, such as facebook’s servers, and the server supplies the data.
This works wonderfully when no problem occurs, but when there’s a sudden influx of users, or a natural catastrophe, a hack, or even a simple bug in the code… It will crash.
And nobody can access their content anymore.
Finally, the internet is prone to censorship. You might not care that much about this aspect. In fact, the reasons cited above should be more than enough to convince anyone that the internet needs to be fixed. Yet, it’s worth taking a moment and think about how much the internet influences us and the power such influence confers to internet censorship.
We are informed by the internet, we socialize on the internet, we bank on, we play on the internet and we work on the internet. One would be pained to find an area of life the web did not encroach upon.
Internet censorship could mean one of two things. Content could be censored by a megacorporation or even a government. That would be equivalent to letting someone else do the thinking for you by deciding which content and, therefore, which thoughts will be allowed in your mind.
That is scary in itself, yet the second type of censorship is even scarier: the ability to censor humans out of the internet. Imagine a content creator cut off from Youtube, or Medium, or Twitter. He loses his livelihood. Imagine you are removed from linkedIn, you cannot network anymore. Imagine you cannot use email? As the internet becomes ever more prevalent, so are the consequences of being disconnected from it.
The solution is IPFS
IPFS is an amalgamation of innovations that put together will solve many of humanity’s tech problems. It is similar to bitcoin in that sense, except that, instead of revolutionizing finance, it will revolutionize the internet and, by doing so, our lives.
Stay tuned for more!
In the next series of articles, we’ll see what solutions IPFS proposes to each of those problems. It will be a great way for you to be introduced to the terminology and concepts of IPFS.