IPFS and Its Drawbacks

Arcana Network
6 min readDec 7, 2023

IPFS stands for InterPlanetary File System. It’s a way to store and share files that’s different from the usual internet method.

Think of it like a big, community-driven file cabinet where everyone can store and pick up files.

Normally, the internet uses a client-server model. It’s like going to a specific store (server) to get what you need (data).

Your computer (client) asks for information from a server, which is located in a specific place.

Why IPFS?

The old way, using servers, isn’t great for sharing really big files, like videos.

IPFS is like a new method where instead of going to one store, you can get bits of what you need from many places (peers) around you.

IPFS vs Traditional Internet:

Traditional Internet

Centralized Data Storage:

  • How It Works: On the traditional internet, data is stored on centralized servers. When you access a website or download a file, you’re connecting to a specific server located in a data center.
  • Example: Visiting a website like YouTube means your computer is requesting data from YouTube’s servers.

Location-Based Addressing:

  • Addressing System: The traditional internet uses URLs (Uniform Resource Locators), which are essentially addresses pointing to the physical location of servers.
  • Implication: If the server hosting the content is down or if there’s a network issue between you and the server, you can’t access the content.

Scalability and Performance:

  • Bottlenecks: Popular websites or services can experience slowdowns or crashes due to too many users accessing the same server simultaneously.
  • Content Delivery Networks (CDNs): To mitigate this, CDNs are used to distribute copies of data across various locations, but this is still a centralized approach.

Security and Privacy:

  • Vulnerabilities: Centralized servers can be vulnerable to attacks, data breaches, and censorship.
  • Control: Service providers have control over your data, which raises privacy concerns.

IPFS

Decentralized Data Storage:

How It Works: IPFS stores data on a network of peer-to-peer nodes. Instead of retrieving content from a single server, you download bits of data from multiple nodes that have the file.

Example: Accessing a file on IPFS means your computer connects to several other computers that have parts of the file and downloads it from them.

Content-Based Addressing:

Addressing System: IPFS uses content-based addressing. Each file is given a unique hash (a cryptographic fingerprint). You access files based on what they are, not where they are.

Implication: This ensures that as long as the content exists somewhere on the network, it can be accessed, regardless of the original source’s status.

Scalability and Redundancy:

Distributed Nature: IPFS can potentially offer better scalability as the network distributes the load across numerous nodes.

Redundancy: Multiple copies of the same file can exist across different nodes, offering resilience against node failures.

Security and Privacy:

Reduced Central Points of Failure: Decentralization means there’s no single point of attack, which can enhance security.

Privacy Concerns: While IPFS encrypts data in transit, data at rest is not encrypted by default, requiring users to implement their own encryption for sensitive data.

Drawbacks of IPFS:

Availability Issues:

  • Problem: If a file isn’t popular or frequently accessed on IPFS, fewer nodes (computers in the network) might store it. This can make it difficult to access that file when needed.
  • Impact: Essential data might become inaccessible if not stored or replicated by enough nodes in the network.

Performance Variability:

  • Problem: Retrieving data from multiple nodes can be slower than traditional server-based downloads, especially if these nodes are geographically dispersed or have limited bandwidth.
  • Impact: Users might experience inconsistent download speeds, which can be particularly problematic for large files or in urgent situations.

Complexity for Users:

  • Problem: IPFS introduces a new paradigm for file storage and sharing, which can be complex for users accustomed to traditional internet usage.
  • Impact: There’s a steep learning curve, potentially limiting its adoption to more tech-savvy individuals.

Content Moderation Challenges:

  • Problem: The decentralized nature of IPFS makes it difficult to control or moderate the content being shared.
  • Impact: Potentially harmful or illegal content could be distributed without easy ways to remove or block it.

Resource Intensive:

  • Problem: Running a full IPFS node requires significant computational power, storage, and bandwidth.
  • Impact: This can deter individuals from participating, especially those with limited resources, reducing the number of available nodes.

Lack of Incentivization:

  • Problem: Unlike blockchain networks that often have token-based incentives, IPFS does not provide direct rewards for hosting and sharing files.
  • Impact: This lack of incentive might lead to fewer nodes contributing to the network, affecting its efficiency and reliability.

Privacy Concerns:

  • Problem: Files stored on IPFS are not encrypted by default, potentially exposing sensitive data.
  • Impact: Users must take additional steps to ensure privacy, adding complexity and possibly deterring use for confidential data storage.

Dependency on Network Participation:

  • Problem: The effectiveness of IPFS is directly tied to the number and reliability of its nodes.
  • Impact: If the network doesn’t have sufficient active nodes, the system’s overall functionality can be compromised.

Complex File Updates:

  • Problem: Updating content on IPFS is not straightforward. Each update changes the file’s hash (unique identifier), complicating version control.
  • Impact: This can lead to difficulties in maintaining and tracking the latest versions of files.

Scalability Concerns:

  • Problem: As the number of users and the amount of data on IPFS grows, maintaining performance and efficiency becomes more challenging.
  • Impact: The network might face scalability issues, affecting its ability to handle large-scale adoption and large volumes of data.

Benefits of IPFS

Decentralization:

  • Eliminates Central Points of Failure: IPFS’s decentralized structure significantly diminishes the risks of server outages and targeted cyber-attacks, leading to a more resilient and stable network.
  • Democratic Data Access: By decentralizing data storage, IPFS fosters a more equitable digital environment where data is less prone to manipulation or control by any single authority or organization.

High Redundancy and Availability:

  • Robust Against Failures: The architecture of IPFS, where files are distributed across numerous nodes, ensures a high level of data availability. This redundancy means that even if some nodes become unavailable, the network as a whole continues to function effectively.
  • Enhanced Durability: This approach not only safeguards against data loss but also contributes to the longevity and persistence of information over time.

Data Integrity and Versioning:

  • Tamper-Proof: The cryptographic hashing of files on IPFS provides a robust mechanism for ensuring data integrity. This feature is crucial for maintaining trust in the authenticity of data.
  • Efficient Version Control: IPFS’s inherent versioning capability allows for more sophisticated data management, enabling users to track historical changes and revert to previous versions if necessary.

Efficient Content Delivery:

  • Faster Retrieval: IPFS excels in content delivery speed, particularly for widely requested files, by sourcing data from the nearest or most readily available nodes, thus reducing wait times significantly.
  • Bandwidth Optimization: The system’s efficiency in using bandwidth not only speeds up data transfer but also reduces the overall load on the network, contributing to a more sustainable digital ecosystem.

Improved Security:

  • Reduced Risk of DDoS Attacks: The distributed nature of IPFS inherently mitigates the impact of DDoS attacks, which are more effective against centralized targets.
  • Secure Data Transmission: The protocol’s emphasis on secure data transmission ensures that data remains protected as it moves across the network, safeguarding against interception and unauthorized access.

Cost-Effective:

  • Lower Infrastructure Costs: IPFS’s reliance on a distributed network significantly cuts down on the need for expensive, centralized data storage infrastructure, making it a more economical option for content distribution.

Global Accessibility:

  • Borderless Access: IPFS breaks down geographical barriers to content access, providing a global platform for information sharing. This is particularly impactful in regions where access to centralized server-based content is restricted or unreliable.

Conclusion

IPFS is like a new way of sharing files that helps with some problems of the old internet, especially for big files. But it also has its own challenges, like being a bit complex and depending on lots of people using it well. It’s an exciting idea, but there’s still work to be done to make it better for everyone.

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Arcana Network

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