Brave browser now supports peer-to-peer IPFS protocol

The tech promises to make the internet faster and more resistant to censorship.

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Igor Bonifacic
January 19th, 2021
In this article: internet, brave, IPFS, https, browser, gear
Brave on Android
Igor Bonifacic / Engadget

In a move it says will help make the internet more transparent and resilient, privacy-focused browser Brave now offers fully integrated and native IPFS browsing (via The Verge). InterPlanetary File System, as it’s known by full name, is a peer-to-peer protocol for hosting web content and it could make the idea of decentralized web a reality.

Here’s how it works. When you visit almost any website on the internet today, a centralized server transmits the information you want to see via HTTP or HTTPS. By contrast, IPFS uses a network of distributed nodes to get that same data to your computer. As Motherboard points out, a close parallel to IPFS is how BitTorrent works.  

The protocol brings with it several advantages over HTTP. One of the big ones is that it promises to make browsing the web faster since you’ll be able to access websites through nearby nodes, instead of servers in far off locations. It could also reduce operating costs for publishers since they won’t need to invest as much in expensive server hosting. However, by far the most significant way in which IPFS could change the internet is in that it would make it more difficult for governments to censor specific websites.   

“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 Molly Mackinlay, IPFS project lead. “Now anyone with an internet connection can access this critical information through IPFS on the Brave browser.”  

In that same way, IPFS would also make websites more resistant to the kind of enforcement action we saw Amazon take against Parler earlier in the month. Of course, more browsers will need to adopt and implement the protocol before that’s a realistic possibility. With 24 million monthly active users, Brave is a growing player in the browser space, but it’s far from the biggest one. It would take a giant like Chrome, which has had 1 billion users since 2016, to make the decentralized web a real possibility.    

You can start accessing IPFS content by installing version 1.19 of Brave, which is available to download beginning today.

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