What is IPFS
The usual way to access websites is to use the HTTP or HTTPS protocol (the standard internet protocols used today). The browser uses a URL (universal resource locators) to access these websites, which are located on a centralized server (host). Your physical distance from the server affects how long it takes to load the page. This means that the website has one address and one centralized place where it is located and from where it is loaded to everyone who accesses that site (unless it uses a CDN).
Instead of URLs and central servers, the IPFS protocol is more similar to BitTorrent. The files of the website are located on the computers of the users themselves, from where they are shared using a URI (universal resource identifier). When you use this protocol, you choose whether you want the site data to be stored on your computer or just want to access these sites.
Advantages and disadvantages
The main benefit of IPFS’s decentralized hosting is reducing the time required to load web pages. Because you access them from nearby computers rather than remote servers, loading time can be drastically reduced.
Another important benefit of IPFS is that it could reduce or even eliminate the need for centralized servers. Websites would no longer crash for all users if the server stopped working because its data would be on the entire network.
This kind of decentralized hosting also makes censorship more difficult. Because site data is located on many different computers, which are almost certainly located in different countries around the world, finding and eliminating such sites is almost impossible.
However, it also means that problematic websites will be even harder to remove. Here, we do not mean “silencing” opposing political views, but real dangers such as human trafficking, child abuse, as well as terrorist activities. All these dangers would be harder to find and eliminate.
Another big problem of IPFS is privacy. If you decide to host sites, the network will assign you a unique identifier, which can be seen. This unique identifier can be used to see what you are accessing and what other users are hosting. If you do not host but only browse such sites, others may see your IP address, which is also a big problem.
Internet decentralization technology is finding increasing interest, both among users and among companies. Cryptocurrencies are the first to bring this technology into the mainstream, and we are glad that the trend continues. However, there are clear problems and dangers, which we must not forget just because we are hyped up for new technology.