Brave is now the first web browser to use Integrated support for InterPlanetary File System (IPFS). IPFS is a peer-to-peer hypermedia protocol and provides a different way of creating and using the Internet than the HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) and HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol over Secure Socket Layer) protocols that have been used for decades.
This is a notable change for Brave users, affecting browsing speed, connection stability, privacy, and even legislation. However, it could even affect the future of the Internet in general if other browsers follow Brave’s lead. Before we dive into why IPFS support matters, let’s explain how it works and what makes it different from HTTP / HTTPS.
What is IPFS?
When you use HTTP or HTTPS, your browser uses Universal Resource Locators (URLs) to access websites from centralized servers. Their physical proximity to the servers affects how much bandwidth is used and how long the page takes to load.
Instead of URLs and servers, IPFS distributes website data over a network. The data is accessed using URIs (Universal Resource Identifiers). More information about how IPFS works can be found here on good announcement post, but in simple terms, it’s similar to BitTorrent and Blockchain. Each computer or mobile device – known as a “node” – temporarily stores some of the data on a website. So when you access a website over IPFS, you are downloading the data from other nearby nodes on the network. Users can also access IPFS content through a “public gateway” if they do not want to act as a local node.
The pros and cons of IPFS
The most immediate impact of hosting IPFS remotely is that it takes less time to load web pages. Because you are accessing data from local nodes instead of remote servers, load times and bandwidth requirements can decrease, and file transfer and streaming speeds can increase significantly. When IPFS starts, the need for centralized servers can be completely reduced or even eliminated. Web sites would no longer crash for all users if a server were taken offline because its data would be spread across an entire network.
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Decentralized hosting also makes top-down censorship – from governments or web hosting companies, for example – much more difficult. However, this is a difficult subject. Undermining authoritarian content laws in countries where freedom of expression is not protected could make it much easier to find important information. However, it also means that problematic websites are even more difficult to remove. And I’m not talking about silencing the conflicting political views – real dangers like human trafficking, child abuse and terrorist activity would be harder to find and root out because there would be no central server to host the problematic websites or content.
There are also privacy concerns whether you’re acting as a local node on Brave’s IPFS network or simply loading IPFS content. When you are a node, the network gives you a unique ID. This ID is hashed but can be viewed by other users and can be used to see what others are hosting and accessing. The resources of your device and your personal network are also used when another user accesses the IPFS data you are currently hosting.
You can also choose not to be a node and simply access IPFS content through a public gateway. However, public gateways can view and log your IP address. Read more about how these issues affect Brave specifically – and find tips on how to reduce risk -.on Brave’s IPFS security support page.
These issues will need to be addressed if IPFS ever completely replaces HTTP / HTTPS. Currently, Brave uses IPFS alongside HTTP / HTTPS to increase speed and stability. However, this only affects content that is configured for IPFS hosting.
Using IPFS in Brave
Screenshot: Brendan Hesse
IPFS works in Brave version 1.19 or higher. To activate it, go to Settings> ExtensionsThen select your preferred IPFS method under “Method for Resolving IPFS Resources.” “Local node” will use your local node, “Goal” uses the public gateway and “Ask” This option allows you to choose every time you access IPFS content. “With special needs” turns off IPFS.
(Note: If you’ve set up a firewall using Windows Security or another program, you may be prompted to configure Brave’s IPFS node when using the Local Node option.)
Activate “IPFS Public Gateway Fallback” This option allows you to load IPFS content even if your local node is not working. As already mentioned, this makes your IP address traceable.
turn on “IPFS Companion” Adds an extension to Brave that allows you to control your local node settings and view connection status. If you don’t want to use the IPFS companion add-on, you can also configure Brave’s local IPFS node settings by going to brave: // ipfs. On this page you can turn your local node on or off and see how many peers are currently connected.
With everything connected, you can access IPFS content. This requires a URI. These will be hard to come by until more users, websites, and browsers adopt IPFS support. However, Brave has a sample URI that loads a wiki page for Vincent Van Gogh:
Just copy and paste that into Brave’s navigation bar to load the page. Note that IPFS is disabled when using Brave’s built-in Tor Private Browsing, as IPFS is a privacy compromise.