Where is art stored when it’s released through Foundation? An IPFS primer.

When we started building Foundation, we chose IPFS (InterPlanetary File System) as our decentralized storage network for NFTs because it’s a tamper-proof, canonical way to preserve media on the internet. That’s really important to us, and in this article we’ll do a deep dive into why we think it should be important to you, too.


Before we get into storage networks, can you give me a refresher on what Web3 is?


Web3 refers to new infrastructure being built that emphasizes decentralization and the belief that individuals should control their own data, information, and identity. On Web3, no single entity controls the vast majority of the data, and data, value, and money can be transferred between network participants without an intermediary.


The innovation of Web3 as an emergent ecosystem of applications and services built on top of decentralized infrastructure presents an evolution from where we’ve been the last few decades with Web1 and Web2.


In contrast to Web3, Web1 was a static space that was read/write only. Web2, which is where most of us spend our time now, made the internet more dynamic by introducing a more social and collaborative internet through the creation of platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.


How did IPFS get started? Who else is using it besides Foundation?


IPFS was initially created by Juan Benet, a computer scientist and CEO of Protocol Labs, in 2015. Since then, countless nodes have contributed to the IPFS network, as an alternative to storing files in a centralized way.


You may not have heard of it because, much like how we use the internet today, there’s a lot going on under the hood. For example, HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) is the predecessor of IPFS, but you don’t need to know what HTTP is or does in order to use the internet.


In crypto, new players are entering the space and embracing IPFS right away. Audius is a community-owned music platform similar to Spotify, and The Graph is a protocol that allows crypto-native companies to index and curate their data. Both of these projects use IPFS.


Due to its tamper-proof nature, IPFS has also become an important tool in the fight against online censorship. As Catalonia fought for independence from Spain, they hosted their website and all of its data on IPFS so that it couldn’t be taken down by any centralized governing body.


How is IPFS contributing to the potential of Web3?


Right now, centralized platforms and search engines like Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon host most of the data on the internet — which gives them outsized power and control. In contrast, IPFS allows anyone to host your data, as long as they’re willing to provide storage space.


Can I access the artwork I purchase once it’s on IPFS?


Foundation deploys an Ethereum contract that mints and tracks all the tokens on the platform, and that contract will be your go-to source for finding any information you need about the artworks, including the content identifier (or CID) file hash for IPFS. Once an artwork is on Foundation, you can look up the artwork’s tokenID in the contract and then access the content identifier for the metadata through Etherscan — an explorer that indexes all of the transactions, addresses, tokens, prices, and other activities on Ethereum.


Once you have the IPFS hash, you’ll be able to find the content on the IPFS network by using the IPLD explorer: https://explore.ipld.io, where you’ll be linked to one of the public gateways to view the content. The hash lets you find the content from one of the nodes, which you can then download via the gateway.


How does Foundation use IPFS?


Foundation is a non-custodial platform which means that, as a collector you’re not dependent on a centralized server. When creators upload their artwork on Foundation, it will be sent to IPFS so the network of nodes participating in the IPFS protocol can host it. Foundation’s smart contract will point to IPFS with a link to the image, URL, description, and title. This means that all of the artwork you collect on our platform will always exist, independent of Foundation's own infrastructure.

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