Bonum Certa Men Certa

The IPFS Dilemma

posted by Roy Schestowitz on Nov 20, 2023

Calling it Inter-Planetary is overambitious (it's not even used on the Earth's moon)


THIS post is not bashing IPFS. I've been a strong proponent of censorship-resistant hosting for a very long time, but herein we'll just consider the facts as objectively as we can. Sometimes truth (or reality) hurts. We previously did some articles explaining the pitfalls and limitations, especially for those wishing to run IPFS from their own home (so as not to be at the mercy of any party other than the ISP).

In 2020 we "joined" IPFS, starting with hosting from home, running on a Raspberry Pi 4 over copper. By 2021 it was already getting too much for the home network to cope with. According to IPFS developers, in 2021 there was a growing number of users and the unique weekly active IPFS node number was 230K+. It didn't take long for Web browsers like Opera and Brave to add support for IPFS (Firefox needed a plugin for it) and a year ago the core team said: "Active monthly users of IPFS-based dapps and tools has grown from 5 million to 50 million. The number of unique nodes continues to grow, making the network more resilient and distributed, and content more available. Meanwhile, performance is improving even as the network grows: it’s now 50x faster to find content across the network."

More 'traditional' corporate actors have been twisting this growth as a huge negative, occasionally taking note of frivolous DMCA notices (as we covered in Daily Links), never mind the legitimate ones which would be hard to obey because of how IPFS works. This will darken the image of IPFS among hosts, which can have a really bad effect - a chilling effects for server tenants. IPFS is very bandwidth- and CPU-hungry. It's designed for traffic-intensive datacentres or homes with beefy connections and decent hardware. As IPFS grows bigger scale becomes an issue - and yes, it's the same issue with so-called 'crypto' so-called 'coins'.

A FUD piece said that "[d]uring 2022, analysts from Unit 42 observed the rampant adoption of the InterPlanetary File System (aka IPFS) being used as a vehicle for malicious intent. IPFS is a Web3 technology that decentralizes and distributes the storage of files and other data into a peer-to-peer network."

"Like any technology, IPFS can be abused by malicious threat actors. However, because the hosted content on IPFS is decentralized and distributed, there are challenges in locating and removing malicious content from the ecosystem, making it akin to bullet-proof hosting."

Yes, even years ago we heard about some people leveraging IPFS to share child abuse files. That can be mitigated somewhat by not "pinning" any "content" that is not your own, but distributed hash table (DHT) packets/traffic still make this a "grey area". Consider the fate of with bridges crossing over to IRC.

All our objects for IPFS are in place and still grow every day (in number, not in size). For now we've left IPFS turned off, at least while we patiently assess the situation.

On the one hand, IPFS has great reach. To quote the above: "There was a significant jump in IPFS-related traffic at the beginning of 2022. Palo Alto Networks detected a 178% increase in IPFS-related traffic from the last quarter of 2021 to the first quarter of 2022, while VirusTotal reported more than 6,500% increase during that same reporting period."

The problem is, the image of (or perception around) IPFS grows darker. IPFS becomes known not only as an energy-hungry beast (resource hog that's a yoke on hypervisors) but also as a potential liability.

We'll probably get back to IPFS at some stage, but for now we encourage the use of Gemini instead.

It's not that the world isn't ready for decentralisation or that IPFS is inherently bad and/or even poorly implemented (efficiency did improve with more recent releases). It's just that it's innately risky if not dangerous to run a node, and it seems safe to predict it'll become more so over time. Authorities strongly dislike whatever they cannot control (Tor is a good example of it, especially in countries that cannot decipher it) and they use a sledgehammer to crush "dissent". In some countries they might literally use a physical sledgehammer inside a datacentre.

IPFS enjoyed the momentum and hype of "Web3" (before all the media spam about chatbots and "G.A.I."), but it seems to be ebbing away somewhat. The reputation suffers. Back in 2005 or thereabouts WordPress expressed concerns that many people did not patch the software (before the software turned into a company, Automattic). The leaders of the project said that many blogs were susceptible for cracking and this might lead to webhosts restricting if not prohibiting the use/installation of WordPress.

Not only is WordPress still around; it truly dominates the Web. But the company, Automattic, now remotely controls tens of millions of Web sites. Is that a good thing? No.

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