Should we Decentralize our DATA on IPFS servers?
As the number of applications connected to the internet rises, the number of centralized stores of data increases. However, this model is hardly scalable nor sustainable. A new solution called IPFS is born that allows us to store all our data in all the computers in the world without having to use centralised system providers.
What is the major issue with Internet?
The Amazon Web Services outages from last November showed the world how Spotify, Autodesk, Coinbase, Flickr and other big mainstream platforms are overly exposed to full-service stoppage when their web-hosting providers are down.
Yet, such fragility is not surprising when we look back at how the early internet data storing was built. The first internet version, which we now call web 1.0, made multiple computers communicate directly with each other’s across the network, with no intermediaries. Then the number of users grew and the need for always-accessible services & data arose. To cope with this issue, centralized servers were created and web 2.0 was born.
The advantage of servers being that these machines run 24/7, it makes the content always accessible and even allowed us to run heavier applications on dedicated ones. The adoption of web 2.0 skyrocketed and with it, the amount of data and applications hosted on centralized means of storage.
Nowadays, companies that are concerned with the ever-increasing amount of data to store, are moving to new solutions to ease their life, yet those are still centralized. At this point, one might have already understood the problem; centralised data stores are controlling all your information and can lose it all in just a matter of seconds.
Internet peer-to-peer system was built to allow people to exchange freely and securely without the control of the private centralised authority. In fact, every website needs to host its files somewhere, its database on a different server or worse, on the same one. How could they provide their online services otherwise?
When understanding that all our current web services and data can suddenly stop being accessible when their data center is down. Also, that we can even lose permanently all this data if the data center happens to be flooded, burnt down or struck by other physical and even software-related disasters. Moreover, in terms of security, it might be safer not to have all our personal information stored on a few centralised servers.
Fortunately, there is already a solution that creates the next step in the evolution of the Internet.
How do we solve this problem with IPFS?
Having those issues in mind, IPFS was created. The InterPlanetary File System is a distributed peer-to-peer network using content-addressing and allowing data persistence and redundancy.
Traditionally, we can access a resource on the internet by entering the address where its content is stored. That is what we call “location-based addressing”. Unfortunately, it only works in centralized networks and even embodies the issues associated with them. How do you access a file if the address changes without you knowing about it?
On IPFS however, files are indexed on the network using “content-addressing”. Meaning that upon uploading a file to the network, a unique hash or “CID” is created and acts as the file’s identity.
But what happens exactly when a file is uploaded to IPFS?
When you upload files to IPFS, the data is stored in IPFS Objects holding up to 256kb worth of data. If the file uploaded is larger than 256kb, it is split and stored into multiple IPFS Objects. The CID then created for the file enables access to a parent IPFS Object, linking to every child IPFS Object.
The file’s CID is then declared on the network by its host peer and can then be accessed by anyone. Once the file is downloaded on a new IPFS peer, it adds one host to the network where the file can be retrieved. If we compare this behaviour to Web 2.0, it would be like adding a new and accessible server keeping a copy of the data with each download.
For example, let us take the IPFS CID for Etherland’s Eiffel Tower PDF: QmXF3QKwWopN3NU8czEhhsaiJG3tKDFbkHww4EoXXZQqhz.
To easily access the file without being connected to IPFS, you can integrate the CID after an IPFS gateway’s address in your request URL:
If you have a local IPFS peer running, you can instead access the file directly from the IPFS network through your local peer, by entering the CID after your local peer’s address:
Instead of accessing a server from the URL, IPFS sends a request to the network asking to display the file behind the hash QmXF3QKwWopN3NU8czEhhsaiJG3tKDFbkHww4EoXXZQqhz. The network then selects one of the peers that hosts the file and brings it to the user’s computer.
Since duplication of files is impossible on the network, the CID will never change. That is what makes IPFS far more efficient than traditional ways of storage and grants the immutability of the information.
Fortunately, it is still possible to update files as IPFS supports versioning. In other words, the original file will remain, but you will also be able to access and upload updated versions.
Now let us compare the security. As the CID is a random suite of characters, no human can understand what lies behind it without actually accessing the data on the network, let alone access it without knowing the CID at all. Meaning that it becomes impossible for a hacker to access someone’s private information without knowing about its existence.
Moreover, as the information is stored on the whole network, it is impossible to access it by simply attacking the data center or computer where the information lies. If you tried to retrieve by force a file from an IPFS peer you managed to access, you would still have to decipher and recompose its datastore containing ALL the fragmented IPFS Objects.
The only scenario in which we could temporarily lose access to the data is that ALL the peers hosting a copy of the queried file goes offline. Which, at a global, world-wide scale is highly unlikely.
To sum up, IPFS is a secure network allowing having multiple legit, persistent and immutable copies of the information across the network. This time, we are not relying on a single server to take care of keeping our data accessible online, but on the entire network. And that’s how decentralization and IPFS will solve all Web 2.0’s issues.
How Etherland and the whole Real Estate Sector benefits from IPFS
At Etherland, we identified these problems even before realizing how IPFS would help us.
Indeed, the global real estate market, and more specifically the current methods used for storing one property’s ownership information, are deeply centralized and that is highly problematic. Especially for critically important legal evidence.
In fact, there is a crucial need to assess an ownership title’s legitimacy and make it persistent in real estate, so a landowner can never lose the proof that he really owns his land or even own a fake one.
That is why we created a method to represent efficiently a real estate property, in a trustable and immutable fashion: combining the use of a “LAND ID” ERC-721 Non-Fungible Token, and IPFS.
We store all the key property information and documents on IPFS, and we tie them immutably to their CID on-chain through the LAND ID Token. This way, IPFS takes care of the information’s persistence and redundancy, while the LAND ID acts as the stamp that ties the owner to his property’s information.
You might still question that process; wonder if it is realistically possible. At this point, I strongly encourage you to visit our website, linked below, and see by yourselves on a LAND ID’s page on Etherland’s Estatepedia, under “Decentralized Data”.
You can also access the PDF stored on IPFS and containing all key information directly on the Marketplace, by clicking the second button in the top-right corner of a LAND ID’s page:
Thank you for reading. Stay tuned for the next article of this series, describing how you can benefit from our IPFS implementation as a user by joining the IPFS network.
- Etherland’s website: https://www.etherland.world/
- Eiffel Tower’s Estatepedia page: https://etherland.world/listing/eiffel-tower/