On Tuesday, privacy-focused browser Brave released an update that makes it the first to feature peer-to-peer protocol for hosting web content.
Known as IPFS, which stands for InterPlanetary File System, the protocol allows users to load content from a decentralized network of distributed nodes rather than a centralized server. It’s new — and much-heralded — technology, and could eventually supplant the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) that dominates our current internet infrastructure.
“We’re thrilled to be the first browser to offer a native IPFS integration with today’s Brave desktop browser release,” said Brian Bondy, CTO and co-founder of Brave. “Integrating the IPFS open-source network is a key milestone in making the Web more transparent, decentralized, and resilient.”
The new protocol promises several inherent advantages over HTTP, with faster web speeds, reduced costs for publishers and a much smaller possibility of government censorship among them.
“Today, Web users across the world are unable to access restricted content, including, for example, parts of Wikipedia in Thailand, over 100,000 blocked websites in Turkey and critical access to COVID-19 information in China,” said IPFS project lead Molly Mackinlay told Engadget. “Now anyone with an internet connection can access this critical information through IPFS on the Brave browser.”
In an email to Vice, IPFS founder Juan Benet said that he finds it concerning that the internet has become as centralized as it has, leaving open the possibility that it could “disappear at any moment, bringing down all the data with them—or at least breaking all the links.”
“Instead,” he continued, “we’re pushing for a fully distributed web, where applications don’t live at centralized servers, but operate all over the network from users’ computers…a web where content can move through any untrusted middlemen without giving up control of the data, or putting it at risk.”