Exploring the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS): How It's Changing the Web
Understanding the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) and Its Mechanics photo
By: Natali

Understanding the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) and Its Mechanics

Table of Contents

As the internet evolves, people start looking for decentralized web concepts. However, up to the late 2010s,’ the internet was heavily centralized: each site had a single authority point that could censor the content wherever they wanted. It worked with a major audience but didn’t please tech-savvy users.

Thus, they decided to develop their own internet protocol. It doesn’t have blackjack and fancy entertainment, as someone may think. It\s more about the freedom of sharing information without excessive modern social media censorship and safety from hackers.

In this article, I’ll answer “What does IPFS stand for?” and show you how it can change the internet for good. So, prepare your glasses, you’ll have a lot to read! Today, you’ll get IFPS explained in detail like none has ever done this before.

What is the IPFS (InterPlanetary File System)?

It is a peer-to-peer hypermedia protocol designed to revolutionize the web by fostering a decentralized architecture. Unlike the traditional web that relies on centralized solutions, IPFS leverages a vast network of interconnected users to distribute and manage data. This paradigm shift offers many advantages, including enhanced censorship resilience censorship, improved data accessibility, and reduced reliance on costly centralized infrastructure.

With the IPFS blockchain, you don’t need to worry about the content addressing, as this file system uniquely identifies files using their cryptographic hash values, known as Content Identifiers (CIDs), instead of their location.

With this file system, you will always have an immutable record of file modifications. You don’t need to worry about constant backups, which often glitches. It relates to Windows- and Linux-based systems. Blockchain removes the need for manual backup.

IPFS protocol employs a distributed hash table (DHT) indexing system. It speeds up the search for needed pieces of content since this system quickly finds the nearest nodes for holding related content. Traditional indexing mechanisms search the whole system, spending valuable time. Blockchain speeds up the research.

Another vital factor for an IPFS server is that it replicates data across multiple nodes within the network, ensuring fault tolerance. If some nodes get broken, you can still access the needed info. If a centralized server gets damaged, you will lose access to your data forever.

Thus, IPFS’s decentralized nature can solve most challenges of centralized servers. This file system democratizes the web by distributing content storage and retrieval across a vast user network. That way, it achieves its phenomenal speed and censorship resiliency at the same time.

The Need for IPFS

Traditional HTTP web protocols are designed for centralized web browsing. In this situation, website or service content is usually stored on a few large servers. This architecture has multiple considerable limitations:

  • Single Point of Failure. The entire website can go down if one of these servers gets broken. Dishonest rivals often order DDoS attacks to overload the service’s central server. It can cost a business for companies that rely on their web services.
  • Censorship. Centralized sites are censorship-prone as governments and other organizations can easily censor services stored on centralized servers. It blocks the freedom of speech and expression.
  • High Costs. Maintaining the network of centralized servers isn’t cheap. Thus, many companies rent cloud servers from huge provers like Amazon. They are still not so affordable, but at the same time, businesses lost full control of their servers.

IPFS crypto is a decentralized web protocol addressing the HTTP limitations. IPFS stores content on a network of interconnected devices. This approach has multiple advantages over traditional systems:

  • Resilience. If one device drops, the content is still available on other devices. Thus, IPFS is much more resistant to DDoS attacks and other issues with a single failure point.
  • Censorship Resistance. Information on the IPFS systems isn’t stored in a single server; thus, censoring content here is far more challenging.
  • Low Costs. IPFS is far cheaper than HTTP storage. Network costs are distributed among all participating devices.

Core Principles of IPFS

As I previously said, enhanced content addressing is one of the most distinctive features of the IPFS network. The traditional web relies on location-based addressing, where files are identified by their URLs, specifying their physical location on a server.

This approach is inefficient since retrieving a file from a distant server can be resource-intensive. It may take minutes or even hours. Another flaw of the central server approach is its fragility. If the server with needed info gets broken, you’ll lose all data stored there. Last but not least is the possibility of centralization.

IPFS file system addresses these limitations by employing content addressing, where files are identified by their unique cryptographic hash, known as a Content Identifier (CID). A CID is generated by hashing the contents of a file, ensuring that the same file will always have the same CID, regardless of its location. This approach is highly advantageous, as it provides you:

  • Integrity. The CID guarantees the file’s integrity; any file modification will result in a different hash.
  • Efficiency. The network can quickly locate the nearest nodes hosting the file with the matching CID.
  • Decentralization. Here, content is not tied to any specific location, making it more resilient to censorship and control.

Another distinctive feature of IPFS is the decentralization. The traditional web is heavily centralized, with large corporations like Google and Amazon controlling a significant portion of the infrastructure. IPFS distribute content storage and retrieval across a vast network of interconnected devices. It enhances the privacy of your network, making it censorship-resistant and resilient to DDoS attacks.

How Does IPFS Work?

IPFS is utterly different from traditional HTTP systems. I will prove this by showing how information is stored, retrieved, and updated here. First of all, let’s talk about file storage. When a file is added to the IPFS network, it is first broken down into smaller chunks of data. Each chunk is assigned a unique hash value as its identifier.

The hash value of each chunk is combined with a codec identifier to form a Content Identifier (CID). It helps to identify the files within the network. The CID acts as the file\s address on the IPFS web3 network, regardless of its physical location.

And now it’s time for a Merkle DAG! Don’t be afraid of its name; it is not as scary as you think. Once CIDs of all chunks are arranged in a Directed Acyclic Graph (DAG) structure, its state is called the Merkle DAG. It represents the file\s structure and relationships between scattered chunks.

Individual nodes on the IPFS network store a subset of the file\s chunks. The IPFS protocol efficiently locates and retrieves the chunks from the nearest available nodes to reconstruct the complete file.

File retrieving in IPFS distributed storage can look complicated. However, in reality, it provides the needed security for the system. To retrieve a file, a user should provide the file\s CID to an IPFS node. The node queries the Distributed Hash Table (DHT) to find the locations of nodes (other computers) storing the file\s chunks.

The requesting node contacts the identified nodes and retrieves the needed chunks. The Merkle DAG structure allows for efficient chunk retrieval, as the node only needs to download the chunks it doesn\t already have. Once all the chunks are retrieved, the IPFS node verifies their integrity using the Merkle DAG structure and reconstructs the complete file.

But do you have to update files here? Is it possible? Yes, you can modify any file in the IPFS! Just remember that ALL modifications are in the blockchain. So, if you change a document on your office blockchain, don’t call your chiefs and team leads slur words. Even for the joke, as they can read it.

Once you modify a file, you’ll see a new version with a new CID. The old version remains on the chain. The new file version is replicated across the IPFS network, ensuring multiple nodes store the updated content. This redundancy enhances data availability and resilience.

Once in a while, IPFS nodes perform garbage collection to remove outdated chunks no longer referenced by any files. It optimizes storage usage and network efficiency.

IPFS vs Traditional Web: A Comparison

Earlier in this text I already compared these two approaches. However, I understand that those comparisons may not suit some readers. Thus, I’ve gathered distinctive features of the concept in the comprehensive table.


Traditional Web Protocols (HTTP, HTTPS)


Data Storage

Centralized servers

Distributed network of interconnected devices

Data Addressing

Location-based addressing (URLs)

Content addressing (CIDs)

Content Retrieval

Server-client model

Peer-to-peer (P2P) model

Data Integrity

Reliance on server integrity

Cryptographic hashing and Merkle DAG

Censorship Resistance

Susceptible to censorship by server owners

Highly resistant due to decentralized nature


Vulnerable to server outages and downtime

Highly resilient to node failures due to redundancy


Limited by server infrastructure

Highly scalable due to distributed architecture


Reliant on expensive server infrastructure

Cost-effective due to distributed nature

As you see, IPFS is more innovative in every approach. Nevertheless, I think that we will see both HTTP and IPFS at least for the next 2-3 decades. Some businesses may value complete system isolation over speed and effectiveness, and it’s OK.

Benefits of Using IPFS

IPFS offers a multitude of advantages over traditional web protocols. It includes improved speed, enhanced security, and network scalability.

IPFS nodes cache frequently accessed content, so you don’t need to download data from the source repeatedly. This approach also prioritizes content from the nearest nodes, minimizing latency and improving download speeds.

IPFS\s distributed nature eliminates single authority points, making the network censorship-resilient. The cryptographic hashing and Merkle DAG ensure data integrity and prevent unauthorized modifications.

IPFS\s distributed storage model can handle large volumes of data without overwhelming any single node. It makes the network more scalable and resilient to DDoS attacks.

IPFS\s modular architecture pushes users to customize their networks and for customization and integration with various applications and services.

Challenges and Limitations of IPFS

Despite its numerous advantages, IPFS faces many challenges that it needs to overcome. Blockchain technology still needs to be more scalable; thus, storage can meet poor bandwidth during peak times. IPFS\s redundancy and versioning can lead to increased node storage requirements compared to traditional web protocols. General users don’t need to worry about anything.

Another huge concern is security. Balancing data privacy with efficient content retrieval and replication will be challenging. IPFS\s open nature makes it susceptible to the spread of malicious content and potential security vulnerabilities.

Last but not least are adoption barriers. IPFS is still a new concept. Thus, a learning curve for new users may take weeks or even months. Most people don’t like to study and prefer sticking with time-proven solutions. Developers should consider it and create user-friendly interfaces similar to traditional sites and applications.

Real-World Applications of IPFS

You can already see the IPFS in many real-world applications that are changing the world. Brave browser integrates IPFS to enable users to access decentralized websites directly from the browser, bypassing traditional web servers.

Social platforms like Steemit and Peepeth use IPFS to store and distribute content, promoting censorship resistance and user control. You can even find decentralized storage platforms! Try Filecoin and Storj to test the power of IPFS for this job.

IPFS can facilitate the distribution of open educational resources, making knowledge more accessible and democratized. Independent media and journalists can also use this technology to publish and distribute content without relying on centralized platforms.

The Future of IPFS and the Decentralized Web

IPFS won’t replace the HTTP protocol, as they are aimed at different audiences. Nevertheless, I think that it can reshape the internet and become a second standard protocol. IPFS\s file storage model protects against data loss due to node failures, ensuring data availability.

IPFS makes the web more decentralized, showing that there is no need to rely on centralized servers. It provides more data control to users and boosts censorship resistance. This concept can also provide robust content integrity with cryptographic hashing and Merkle DAG mechanisms. They can ensure data integrity and prevent unauthorized modifications.

IPFS is still in its early development stages but can potentially revolutionize the web. As this technology matures and gains wider adoption, we will see how major players like TikTok, Meta, or Google implement IPFS solutions.

Wrapping Up

IPFS meaning hides more than just a blockchain concept. The InterPlanetary File System represents a paradigm shift from the traditional centralized web. It provides a new, decentralized, and distributed content storage approach.

We can achieve a more fair and censorship-resilient web by implementing IPFS’s core principles, such as content addressing, decentralization, and the Merkle DAG. It benefits us by providing faster connection speeds and enhanced security, scalability, and flexibility.

People can use this IPFS in social media, open education, and even independent journalism. As this technology evolves, we will see even more real-life examples. However, to achieve it, we should make IPFS services user-friendly and scalable for larger audiences.

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