IPFS is quickly emerging as the standard storage method for data in the Web3 ecosystem. Between the protocol’s distributed manner, content addressing format, and data publicity, IPFS allows for data to be uploaded and shared easily. Simply provide someone with the IPFS CID that was returned upon uploading the file, and they can access that file from around the world without needing to log into an account or input any information.
Among the most common use-case of IPFS currently is the storage of NFT collection assets and their associated metadata files. The most popular of these collections include JPEG images, sometimes unique 1/1 images or other times randomly generated collections containing tens of thousands of individual pieces in a collection.
These JPEG files usually have a coordinating metadata file in the form of JSON that details the image’s attributes, such as its rarity in the collection, unique traits that provide perks like community access or in-game items, or any other configurable metadata field associated with the image.
Other common use cases of IPFS include hosting decentralized websites or hosting decentralized applications. IPFS supports uploading folders of multiple files, such as the files that make up a static website, which can then be hosted simply by uploading the folder to IPFS and accessing the folder’s CID through an IPFS HTTP gateway. Here’s an example of a static webpage hosted on IPFS.
While these are the most popular uses of IPFS currently, they barely scrape the surface of what IPFS can be used for. Here are 5 uses cases of IPFS that you haven’t thought of yet.
1. Distributed Package Management
Package managers, like NPM, are typically stored and managed in a centralized manner. By hosting software packages on IPFS, they can be stored in a distributed manner that is publicly available. Any changes to the package’s versions, like a bug fix, will be reflected by a new CID value, allowing for verification of updates and tracking package development.
2. Hosting Software Containers
Software containers, like Docker containers, are available through registries like the Docker registry. This is similar to pulling a package from NPM, but for software containers rather than packages. By using IPFS to host your own registry, there isn’t any domain hosting configuration, DNS management, or user permission management. Simply use the IPFS CID with an IPFS HTTP gateway inside a curl command rather than use a docker pull command to download the container’s image.
3. Decentralized eCommerce websites
Through packages like DeCommerce, spinning up your own eCommerce website is as simple as uploading the DeCommerce folder to your Filebase bucket, then navigating to the IPFS HTTP gateway URL of your folder’s CID. Since you’re equipped with all the necessary webpages and configurations, you can spend time customizing the CSS files to style your website and upload your products, rather than spending time managing a domain, SSL certificates, or figuring out how to accept crypto payments (which DeCommerce comes equipped with by default!).
4. Decentralized Operating Systems
Along with decentralized software packages and containers, decentralized operating systems are another form of software that can benefit from being hosted on IPFS. A handful of decentralized, blockchain-based operating systems have emerged, but storing the data for these operating systems on their native blockchain is typically against best practices since it can be expensive and have high latency. For this reason, many layer-1 blockchains will either store data externally, like on IPFS, or they’ll use a layer-2 chain to handle data storage. Therefore, decentralized operating systems that run on a blockchain can highly benefit from being hosted on IPFS while they communicate externally with the blockchain network.
5. Decentralized Peer Reviews of Academic Research Papers
In addition to JPEG art being minted as NFT collections, pieces of writing such as blog posts, eBooks, and whitepapers have begun to gain traction as NFTs as well. Written content benefits from being minted on a blockchain since it verifies who the original writer of the content is, allowing for easier clarification when it comes to copyright, plagiarism, or other duplication of writing. Any text document or Microsoft Word document can be hosted on IPFS and then referenced inside of a smart contract that is deployed on Ethereum or Polygon, creating a permanent record of that piece of writing being created by the author.
For academic papers, this is a real game changer. Users can mint their research papers as an NFT that uses PDF or text documents hosted on IPFS, and then gain a verifiable reputation for their research and any peer reviews they contribute to other researchers. In addition to the smart contract’s verifiable address, the IPFS CID can be used as an additional form of verification that the content was created by the original author and hasn’t been altered since publication.
Filebase: Geo-redundant IPFS Pinning
To properly benefit from any of these use cases, though, the files and folders you upload to IPFS must be pinned. If data isn’t pinned to IPFS, it isn’t stored long-term. By default, data uploaded to the IPFS network is only stored in a node’s cache storage. To maintain the resources on the network, an automatic process known as the garbage collection process occurs. This process clears the cache storage of nodes to maintain their local resources. If you use IPFS for anything other than temporary storage, like any of the use cases listed above, unpinned data will break your entire workflow.
By default, all files and folders uploaded to an IPFS bucket on Filebase are pinned with 3 copies stored across 3 unique geographic locations in the United States, London, and Frankfurt. Using this infrastructure, 2 out of the 3 IPFS nodes can be inaccessible or down due to an outage, maintenance, or other reason, and the file will still be accessible.
Redundancy and accessibility are especially important for hosting software, websites, and assets, which rely on reliable infrastructure for users to make purchases, download packages, or view NFTs.
You can sign up for a free Filebase account to get started with your IPFS journey today.