First Steps Toward Implementing Distributed Permanent Web With IPFS

According to Neocities Founder Kyle Drake and Brewster Kahle, a programmer and Internet entrepreneur known for founding the Internet Archive, the Internet Credit Union, Alexa, and the early supercomputer company Thinking Machines, HTTP is obsolete. It’s time for a distributed, permanent web based on IPFS.

“Today I’m making an announcement that begins our long journey to the future of the web,” says Drake.

A web that is faster, more secure, more robust, and more permanent.

The InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) as a Replacement for HTTP

IPFSThe InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) is a peer-to-peer distributed file system that seeks to connect all computing devices with the same system of files, notes the IPFS website. In some ways, IPFS is similar to the Web, but IPFS could be seen as a single BitTorrent swarm, exchanging objects within one Git repository. In other words, IPFS provides a high throughput content-addressed block storage model, with content-addressed hyperlinks. This forms a generalized Merkle DAG, a data structure upon which one can build versioned file systems, block chains, and even a Permanent Web. IPFS combines a distributed hashtable, an incentivized block exchange, and a self-certifying namespace. IPFS has no single point of failure, and nodes do not need to trust each other.

IPFS is still in the alpha stages of development, but the first deployment efforts are ongoing. Neocities has collaborated with Protocol Labs to become the first major site to implement IPFS in production. All Neocities web sites are now available for viewing, archiving, and hosting by any IPFS node in the world.

Today’s Web is very quickly becoming centralized, as billions of users become dependent on a small handful of services. The Web is also fragile, because it relies on a centralized distribution models, with servers that come and go. If a server goes down for any technical or commercial reason, or is taken down by the authorities, all the web pages stored on that server disappear.

But the Internet was designed to be much more robust and resilient than that. “The internet was designed so that if any one piece goes out, it will still function,” said Kahle in a presentation. “The internet is a truly distributed system.”

What we need is a Next Generation Web; a truly distributed Web.

Kahle believes IPFS is the replacement to HTTP (and many other things), and he says now’s the time to start trying it out. Users can already install IPFS on their computers, and use it to save and serve Neocities sites. If IPFS becomes popular, it might become the first operational implementation of the distributed, decentralized Web.

Project Maelstrom, a BitTorrent project intended to build a whole new decentralized and free Internet that works like BitTorrent, started public beta testing in April and released preliminary open source development tools, but it doesn’t seem to have progressed much to date.

See this Hacker News thread for an interesting ongoing discussion.

Images from Shutterstock and IPFS.

Giulio Prisco is a freelance writer specialized in science, technology, business and future studies.