Web3, the next evolution of the internet, requires a truly decentralized infrastructure that goes beyond what IPFS (InterPlanetary File System) can offer on its own.
While IPFS provides a distributed file system, it falls short in addressing other critical aspects of Web3, such as decentralized governance and consensus mechanisms.
Web3 promises to transform the internet and make it a much better place for the people who use it. With decentralized applications, users will gain more control, with less lock-in risk than there is with centralized models and more control over their online identities and data.
There are many other benefits besides this, with Web3 also promising greater transparency into how transactions occur and how decisions are made. It can also potentially enable more customization and personalization of online interactions, greater privacy for users, and less online censorship.
Finally, there’s the promise of more equitable access to financial services through DeFi, where people can buy products and services, secure loans, and invest, without needing to secure approval from a centralized authority first.
Given the numerous advantages it provides for consumers, it’s easy to see why so many people have become advocates of Web3. Already, Web3 is gaining rapid traction, with a growing universe of decentralized applications transforming these benefits into reality.
Yet, as real as Web3 is, it won’t truly live up to its promises without a decentralized infrastructure to support it. And that’s precisely where the dream of Web3 currently falls short, for much of the infrastructure that supports it remains under the control of centralized entities.
The Interplanetary File System
Today’s internet is, by and large, a centralized network. Much of its data is stored on servers in massive cloud server farms, owned by big internet companies. Anyone who wants to access the information on those servers – browse the web, in other words – is required to make an HTTPS connection from their browser. The server itself handles all of the requests to access the data it holds.
This is a simplified model of how the internet works, though many internet providers scale by using content delivery networks to cache server content closer to end users.
The Interplanetary File System, or IPFS, aims to change this state of play by implementing a decentralized network. It’s modelled on Git, the version control software that acts as a distributed system for software repositories. With Git, every developer who has cloned a repository retains a copy on their computer, including its entire history. If the central repository is deleted, any of these copies can be used to restore it. IPFS takes the same concept and applied it to file storage and data retrieval.
The IPFS is made up of all of the computers, or nodes, connected to it. Nodes help to store data and make it accessible to anyone who requests it. For example, if someone requests a webpage, a copy of it will be cached on their node. As more and more users request the same webpage, more and more cached copies are created. Subsequent requests to access that webpage can then be fulfilled by any node, or combination of nodes, that has a copy of the file. In this way, the burden of fulfilling requests and delivering that data is shared among many nodes.
Problems with IPFS
IPFS has been embraced by the Web3 community, with decentralized social media, DAOs, DeFi protocols and NFTs all leveraging the distributed file system to host their data. However, the IPFS model is still not fully decentralized, as there’s currently no easy or trustless way to ensure IPFS content is always available.
Because IPFS still relies on centralized pinning providers and gateways, there’s still the danger that content can become accessible. It means IPFS is still fairly centralized, and censorship remains a big risk. At present, the bulk of the IPFS network is controlled by corporate entities (the pinning providers), which goes against the very ethos of Web3 decentralization.
It’s an important problem that needs to be solved if Web3 is ever to become truly decentralized, but the good news is that a solution is in the offing, and it’s all thanks to Fleek Network.
Fleek Network started out as a decentralized content and application delivery network to speed up the delivery of Web3 content and apps. It’s a trustless, censorship-resistant alternative to CDNs like Cloudflare where anyone can contribute bandwidth by running a cache node.
Because it’s origin agnostic, Fleek Network enables anyone to accelerate content from any underlying storage protocol in a fully transparent way. It creates a public record of the world’s bandwidth and the content being served, in the same way, that smart contracts enable transparency in financial transactions.
Enabling True Decentralization For IPFS
Fleek Network aims to decentralize IPFS further by providing a connective layer that sits atop all storage protocols, including all blockchains, Filecoin, Arweave and others. Because Fleek Network’s nodes also act as IPFS gateways, this allows them to fetch data from IPFS even if those files aren’t yet cached on the Fleek Network.
In this way, it makes all Web3 files addressable by a single content identifier, or CID, rather than treating them as separate, redundant cold storage that can only be accessed via custom logic/routing.
The network works by storing a map of every uploaded content CID to its original location in perpetuity, ensuring that every bit of content is always retrievable, so long as a valid origin exists. In this way, content can still be accessed even if it falls off of IPFS. IPFS effectively becomes storage layer-agnostic, meaning decentralized applications and services are free to build on the storage layer of their choice.
The Benefits Of Web3
Fleek Network’s implementation of IPFS will provide benefits to Web3 that go far beyond increasing its decentralized and trustless nature and preventing censorship. When using an IPFS pinning provider, content can become unavailable if it falls off IPFS, or if the provider ceases operations. With Fleek Network, the content will always be re-fetched from its origin as defined by the mapping, preventing this from occurring.
In addition, it’s a model that also ensures better performance and cost efficiency for IPFS usage and retrieval. As a native edge and content delivery network, Fleek Network nodes are much faster at delivering content than traditional IPFS nodes and gateways.
As a final benefit, Fleek Network’s proof-of-delivery primitive will ensure that all data retrieved from the IPFS is fully verified and delivered via decentralized infrastructure.