Cloudflare IPFS Gateway boosts decentralized website development

The new solution enables developers to create websites which are based on peer-to-peer, distributed technologies.

Digital disruption in the cloud, by the cloud

Cloudflare has introduced the IPFS Gateway in a bid to encourage the creation of websites based on distributed, peer-to-peer technology.

The cloud hosting provider and DDoS mitigation firm said on Monday that the solution can be used to access content from the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) without the need to install a specialized client.

Users of the solution are able to create websites which are based on distributed rather than centralized models.

See also: Cloudflare's free network monitoring mobile SDK open to all developers

Cloudflare hopes the gateway will "serve as the platform for many new highly-reliable and security-enhanced web applications."

The difference between traditional website content calls and IPFS comes down to the nature of queries and how online content is managed. Generally, you access a website through a browser by requesting data stored at a particular IP address. The network runs a search and fires back the information found.

"This system has served the Internet well for decades, but there's a pretty big downside: centralization makes it impossible to keep content online any longer than the origin servers that host it," the firm says.

Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks can create a traffic surge large enough to take down servers that are responsible for a website and cause an overload, which prevents legitimate users from accessing a domain.

However, if there are mirrors available which store websites, content can not only be saved but also cached and made accessible without the need to rely on a single server block.

IPFS does not handle such requests through centralized location queries; instead, they have been developed to be content-based.

CNET: Cloudflare helps serve up hate online, says ProPublica

With the gateway, blocks of data stored on the system are addressed by cryptographic hashes. Requests to access such content are made by hash, rather than IP.

"So rather than asking the network "get me the content stored at," you ask "get me the content that has a hash value of QmXnnyufdzAWL5CqZ2RnSN gPbvCc1ALT73s6epPrRnZ1Xy," Cloudflare says.

The company believes that such a system has a number of superior qualities in comparison to traditional web address searches. Content, for example, could be stored on dozens of nodes -- and so if one node vanishes or is brought down through DDoS, another can pick up the slack.

Website security may benefit, too. Cloudflare says the hash values can be rehashed during the query process, which creates a unique "fingerprint" for each file.

"If you're sent back a different file than you were expecting to receive, it's going to have a different fingerprint," the company added. "This means that the system has a built-in way of knowing whether or not content has been tampered with."

TechRepublic: Top 5: Things you should know about DNS

There are two options available In order to use the gateway. The first is to turn your PC into a node in the system by downloading the IPFS client, and the alternative is simply to treat your browser in a normal fashion.

Internet users are able to access IPFS content over HTTPS by typing in hash addresses, but webmasters can also build a website fully based on IPFS complete with custom domain names for easy access, eradicating the need to type in long hash combinations.

So far, over five billion files have already been added to the IPFS repository.

The IPFS Gateway is the part of the Cloudflare Distributed Web Gateway project, which the company has launched in order to "support new distributed web technologies."

Cloudflare is in the midst of its Crypto Week, in which a new technology designed to support "cryptography to make the Internet better" will be announced every day.

Previous and related coverage