Comprehensive Guide to Understanding IPFS Technology
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 8 min read


  1. What is IPFS technology?
  2. How does IPFS work?
  3. IPFS versus HTTP
  4. Benefits of using IPFS
  5. Common use cases for IPFS
  6. How to use IPFS?
  7. IPFS and Blockchain

Picture this: You're on a road trip and your route is constantly changing due to roadblocks, traffic, and detours. Now, imagine if you could completely avoid these obstacles by making your own path. This concept isn't just for road trips—it's the core idea behind IPFS, also known as the InterPlanetary File System. In this blog, we're going to dive into understanding IPFS and its role in decentralized web. So, buckle up, and let's explore the exciting world of IPFS technology.

What is IPFS technology?

IPFS is a protocol designed to make the web faster, safer, and more open. It's like a giant, interconnected map of data where each piece of information has its own unique address—sounds cool, right? This system allows for efficient data storage and retrieval, and it's a big step towards a decentralized web.

But what does "decentralized" mean? Think of it like this: instead of information being stored in one place (like a warehouse), it's spread out across various locations (like a bunch of mini-stores). This means that even if one location goes down, you can still access your data from another one. Pretty neat, huh?

Key Features of IPFS:

  • Distributed P2P System: IPFS operates on a peer-to-peer network where each node stores a copy of the data. This makes the system resilient and robust.
  • Content Addressing: Unlike traditional web protocols that locate data by where it's stored, IPFS identifies data by what it is. This unique approach is called content addressing.
  • Version Control: IPFS keeps track of all file versions, so you can easily go back and view previous versions of a file—kind of like a time machine for your data!

By understanding IPFS and its role in decentralized web, you're taking the first step towards a more open, efficient, and resilient web. And who knows, maybe you'll even become a part of this incredible journey!

How does IPFS work?

Alright, let's dive into how IPFS works. Remember the road trip analogy from earlier? Well, stick with me, because we're going to keep using it.

Picture the internet as a city. Traditional web protocols like HTTP work like taxi services—they take you from point A to point B, but they control the route. If a road is blocked or traffic is heavy, your journey slows down or even stops. IPFS, on the other hand, works more like a bicycle. You can chart your own course and bypass any obstacles in your path.

So, how does IPFS do it? Here's a step-by-step breakdown:

  1. Breaking down the data: IPFS takes your data and breaks it down into smaller blocks. Each of these blocks is given a unique identifier known as a hash.
  2. Distributing the blocks: These blocks are then spread out across the IPFS network. This is what we mean when we talk about a decentralized web.
  3. Finding the data: When you want to access a file, IPFS uses the hash to locate the data blocks. The beauty of this system is that it retrieves the blocks from the closest nodes, speeding up the process and reducing the load on the network.
  4. Reassembling the data: Once all the necessary blocks are found, IPFS reassembles them to form the complete file.

So, there you have it! That's how IPFS works. It's like building your own road to your destination, without worrying about roadblocks or traffic. And, by understanding IPFS and its role in decentralized web, you're getting a glimpse into the future of the internet.

IPFS versus HTTP

Now that you've got a handle on how IPFS works, let's see how it stacks up against HTTP, the current king of web protocols.

HTTP operates in a central server-based model, which means that when you request a file, it's like asking a library for a book. You go to the library, get the book, and bring it back. If the library is far away or if there are too many people asking for books at the same time, it slows down the process. And if the library closes or loses the book, you're out of luck.

On the other hand, IPFS operates in a decentralized model. It's like having a copy of every book in your neighborhood. If you need a book, you don't go to the library—you simply borrow it from your closest neighbor. This method is faster and more reliable because the book is always available from someone nearby, and if one person loses their copy, there are many more to borrow from.

But it's not just about speed and reliability. By understanding IPFS and its role in decentralized web, you'll see that it opens up new possibilities. For example, it can help save bandwidth, a major concern as more and more devices connect to the internet. It also makes the web more robust, as files don't depend on a single server that can fail or be censored.

Does this mean HTTP is going away? Not anytime soon. But the more we understand IPFS and its role in the decentralized web, the clearer it becomes that it provides a compelling alternative, one that could reshape how we share and access information online.

Benefits of using IPFS

Now that we've compared IPFS to HTTP, let's dig into the actual benefits of using IPFS. Understanding IPFS and its role in the decentralized web is more than just a technical exercise—it could have real, tangible benefits for users.

Firstly, IPFS provides increased speed and efficiency. Since files are stored and accessed from multiple nodes, the system doesn't get bogged down when there are a lot of requests. Think of it like a highway with multiple lanes: even if there's a lot of traffic, cars can still move forward.

Secondly, IPFS can make the web more resilient. As we mentioned before, if a server goes down in a central server-based model, the file is lost. But in IPFS, files are distributed across many nodes. So even if one or two nodes disappear, the file is still accessible.

Thirdly, IPFS can lead to more equitable access to information. In a centralized model, those who are closer to the server have an advantage—they can access files faster. But in a decentralized model like IPFS, files can be accessed quickly no matter where you are in the world. It's like having a local library in every town, rather than one big library in a far-away city.

Finally, IPFS can promote greater security by leveraging blockchain technology. Each file in IPFS has a unique fingerprint, and transactions are stored on a public ledger. This makes it harder for files to be tampered with or for transactions to be faked.

So, by understanding IPFS and its role in the decentralized web, you can see how it could lead to a faster, stronger, fairer, and safer internet. Sounds pretty good, right?

Common use cases for IPFS

So, where might you see IPFS in action? Let's take a look at some common use cases for IPFS to further your understanding of its role in the decentralized web.

The first use case is decentralized applications (dApps). These are applications that run on a P2P network of computers rather than a single server. Because of IPFS's decentralized nature, it's a perfect fit. It's like having a team of players spread out across the field, rather than just one goalkeeper trying to block all the shots.

Next, there's file storage and sharing. With IPFS, you can store files across multiple nodes, making them more secure and accessible. It's like storing copies of your key in several safe places—you won't be locked out if you lose one.

IPFS also has a major role in content distribution. Websites, streaming platforms, and other content-heavy services often deal with high traffic and large files. With IPFS, they can distribute content more efficiently. It's like having multiple pathways to deliver goods, rather than relying on a single, congested route.

Finally, IPFS is also used in archiving and preservation. Because of its ability to store files across multiple nodes, IPFS is great for preserving important information. Think of it as a time capsule that's buried in several locations—no matter what happens, the information will be preserved.

These are just a few examples, but the possibilities with IPFS are vast. After all, who doesn't want a web that's faster, more reliable, and more fair?

How to use IPFS?

Now that we've covered what IPFS is and where it shines, let's talk about how you can actually use it. Don't worry, we're going to make this as simple as possible—promise!

First, you'll need to install IPFS on your computer. It's a bit like setting up a new game console. You'll need to download the right version for your operating system, run the installer, and follow the prompts. Easy peasy!

Once you've got IPFS installed, it's time to add some files. This is where things start to get a bit more interesting. To add a file to IPFS, you use the 'ipfs add' command in your command line interface (CLI). It's a bit like telling your dog to fetch a stick—you give the command, and IPFS fetches the file.

When you add a file, IPFS will give you a unique hash for that file. This is the file's address on IPFS. Think of it as the file's home address in the decentralized web. You can share this hash with anyone, and they'll be able to access the file on IPFS—no matter where they are in the world.

Finally, to retrieve a file from IPFS, you use the 'ipfs get' command and the file's hash. It's the digital equivalent of going to the file's home address and picking it up.

And that's it! You're now ready to start exploring the decentralized web with IPFS. Remember, this is just the start of your journey into the world of IPFS. There's so much more to discover and understand about IPFS and its role in the decentralized web, so keep exploring, keep learning, and have fun!

IPFS and Blockchain

Alright, let's dive a bit deeper into the relationship between IPFS and blockchain. You might be thinking, "What does a file-sharing system have to do with blockchain?" Well, the answer is—quite a lot!

Blockchain and IPFS go together like peanut butter and jelly. They both play critical roles in building a decentralized web. While blockchain keeps a record of transactions, IPFS takes care of storing and sharing data.

You can think of blockchain as a ledger that records who owns what. But it's not very efficient at storing large amounts of data. That's where IPFS comes in. Instead of trying to cram all the data into the blockchain, you can store it on IPFS and put the IPFS hash—a unique identifier for the data—on the blockchain. This way, the blockchain remains lean and mean, while still keeping a record of where all the data lives.

Many blockchain-based projects already use IPFS. For example, Ethereum, a popular blockchain platform, uses IPFS to store data for decentralized apps (dApps). They work together to create a more secure, private, and censorship-resistant web.

So, understanding IPFS and its role in the decentralized web isn't just about file-sharing. It's about reimagining how we store, share, and access data in a world where privacy and control of our digital lives are becoming increasingly important. Both IPFS and blockchain are key pieces of this puzzle, and they need each other to build the kind of web we want for the future.

If you're interested in diving deeper into the world of decentralized technology after reading our comprehensive guide to understanding IPFS, we highly recommend checking out the workshop 'Start Your web3 Journey' by Tom Glendinning. This workshop will provide you with a solid foundation in web3 technology and help you explore the exciting possibilities of decentralized applications and systems.