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IPFS: A Beginner’s Guide
IPFS: A Beginner’s Guide

This article aims to break down the essentials of IPFS, making it easier for newcomers to grasp its capabilities, mechanics, and importance.

Lindsey Mazy avatar
Written by Lindsey Mazy
Updated over a week ago

IPFS stands for the InterPlanetary File System. It is a peer-to-peer network that allows you to store and share data in a decentralized fashion. Think of IPFS as a global, distributed hard drive where data is not confined to a single point, but spread across multiple nodes worldwide.

How Does IPFS Work?

Unlike traditional web storage, which depends on centralized servers, IPFS uses a network of individual computers (known as nodes). When you upload a file to IPFS, it gets broken into smaller pieces. Each piece is given a unique code, or Content Identifier (CID), which is like a fingerprint for that specific piece of data.

These pieces are stored on various computers in the network. To access a file, IPFS collects the required pieces from different locations. This design makes IPFS resilient against things like censorship and system failure. You can also "pin" files, which means marking them as important so they won't be deleted during routine cleanups.

Pinata's visual representation of IPFS vs HTTP

Content Addressing & CID

In IPFS, content addressing ensures every file is uniquely identifiable. This is done through the use of Content Identifiers (CIDs). A CID is generated based on the content of the file, ensuring that you're always retrieving the exact piece of content you're searching for. Even a single change to the file will result in a different CID, providing a reliable means of verifying whether content has been altered.

Example CID: QmRAuxeMnsjPsbwW8LkKtk6Nh6MoqTvyKwP3zwuwJnB2yP

IPFS Gateways

For those who don't run their own IPFS node, IPFS gateways serve as bridges between the standard web and the IPFS network. These gateways allow you to access IPFS content just like you would any other website.

You have two main options for gateways:

Public Gateways: Free, good for testing, but can be slow.

Dedicated (Private) Gateways: Faster and customizable, offered by services like Pinata.

Private vs Public IPFS Gateways

How Does IPFS Differ From Cloud?

Unlike cloud storage, where data is kept on centralized servers, IPFS stores information across a network of nodes, enhancing data security and accessibility. Each piece of data on IPFS receives a unique content identifier (CID), ensuring data integrity; if the content changes, so does its CID. This system mitigates risks associated with centralization, like server outages or data breaches, and ensures data remains accessible and unaltered, irrespective of the server's status or the user's location.


IPFS is changing how we think about storing and sharing data by offering a decentralized, peer-to-peer network. Whether you're curious about file sharing, decentralized apps, or blockchain-based art like NFTs, IPFS is a great place to start exploring.

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