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Will IPFS replace HTTP?

Justin Hunter

Published on

4 min read

Will IPFS replace HTTP?

Collaborative, not competitive.

The Interplanetary Filesystem (IPFS) is a successor to the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). Before we can understand if IPFS might replace HTTP, we should first understand what HTTP actually is. 

HTTP is the foundation of any data exchange on the web. By utilizing HTTP, web browsers can retrieve web pages from web servers, and other data can be sent back to those servers. Those web servers are located in a known location, identified by a URL. Requests are always made to the same location. This is in stark contrast to IPFS where requests are made to the network and the network routes the request to the nearest IPFS node with the data requested. 

Does IPFS use HTTP?

IPFS is a peer-to-peer protocol that does not use HTTP at its core. However, there are many convenience layers to help make IPFS more compatible with the current web. These convenience layers use HTTP. According to the IPFS protocol documentation, IPFS plays nicely with HTTP in the following way:

Delegated content routing is a mechanism for IPFS implementations to use for offloading content routing to another process/server using an HTTP API. For example, if an IPFS node does not implement the DHT, a delegated router can search the DHT for peers on its behalf. The main benefit of delegated routing is that nodes are not required to implement routing functionality themselves if they do not have the computing resources to do so, or wish to build an IPFS system with a custom backend for routing. So, delegated routing over HTTPS provides IPFS nodes with a standard interface that allows more flexibility in terms of how content routing works.

However, this does not mean IPFS was built to specifically work with HTTP. In fact, the opposite is true. IPFS was built to work without HTTP.

Is IPFS more secure?

IPFS has many advantages over HTTP. The primary advantage is that you don’t need to know where content lives to request it. In the traditional HTTP world, you might want to watch a new movie trailer. To fetch the video and watch it, you’ll have to know where the video is stored and make the request to that specific server. However, in the IPFS world, you just need to know that video’s content identifier (CID). With that CID, the IPFS network will route your request to the nearest storage node that has that video file. There may be many nodes that have the same video, so this is advantageous because you get it from the closest and most accessible node. 

This model creates another advantage in the form of data security. A file on IPFS cannot be tampered with. The CID is an indicator of what the content is, not just where it is. That means no one can change the file without you knowing. That level of security makes it ideal for content verification and authenticity. It’s a big part of why IPFS went hand-in-hand with the NFT boom. This security is similar to the security offered by blockchains, but it’s important to note that IPFS is not a blockchain. 

Like HTTP, the IPFS protocol does not guarantee permanence. There are layers to the protocol, and one of those layers is the storage layer. Files are stored by pinning them. As long as a file is pinned, it will be accessible on the IPFS network. However, if a file is unpinned from all the storage nodes that hosted it, the file will no longer be accessible. This is similar to HTTP in the fact that HTTP simply serves the data requested or it doesn’t. If the file no longer exists at the location, HTTP will not be able to return it. With IPFS, if the file is no longer pinned on ANY storage nodes, the network won’t be able to return it. 

This ability to unpin files and remove them from the network makes IPFS a preferred solution over blockchain-based storage options like Arweave. Arweave would be the equivalent of a traditional storage provider promising to store the file forever and HTTP being able to access that file at the same location for all time. This is an unreasonable expectation and violates the control that many people want over their files. 

Are there any disadvantages to IPFS?

IPFS is incredibly powerful, but it has its own disadvantages depending on your use case. IPFS is public by design. Anyone anywhere can request files stored on the network. So, if privacy is a concern, you may not be able to use IPFS. If you want to use IPFS and maintain a level of privacy, encryption can be used. 

Another limitation is the long-term storage of files. IPFS is focused on quickly storing and retrieving files. This is a good fit for developers who are building applications that get heavy usage. However, if you’re looking for archival storage, IPFS may not be the best solution. Or it may be something you want to use in conjunction with Filecoin. Filecoin is the archival storage equivalent to IPFS. Retrieving files from Filecoin is much slower because it’s not designed for quick file access. 

These limitations are far outweighed by the benefits of open data and fast response times. A whole new world of applications are being built on top of IPFS because of these benefits. 


IPFS and HTTP are two different protocols meant to help retrieve data on the web. HTTP is the original protocol and is what most of the web uses today. However, IPFS is growing in popularity due to its permissionless storage layer and accessibility of content.

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