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Learn > NFT

Are NFTs safe on IPFS?

Morgan Schofield
Morgan Schofield
16 May 2024 · 3 min

For NFTs to be safely stored, three conditions must be met:

  • Immutability.

  • Redundancy.

  • Pay once, store forever.

In this article, we’ll examine how IPFS solves only two out of three of these problems and whether there is a better solution.

Arweave vs IPFS A 3 only2 cols

1. IPFS is immutable

When an NFT is stored on a centralized server (instead of saying cloud service), a direct URL points to the media file of that NFT. However, URLs use location-based addressing; while the URL may still exist, the owner can update the content on this page.

One day, your NFT could be a picture of A; a year later, it could be a picture of B, and even worse, it could point to a dreaded 404 error.

IPFS solves this through content-based addressing, where files are identified through their content rather than their location. Each file uploaded to IPFS has a unique Content Identifier (CID). The CID is unique and immutable, protecting your NFT from being changed compared to a centralized server.

2. IPFS is decentralized

Centralized servers for NFTs have limited data redundancy and are vulnerable to outages, cyberattacks, and provider shutdowns as they rely on a single entity.

IPFS resolves these challenges through its unique identifier, CID. With IPFS, any node can pin any CID on the network.

Using a pinning service, you can easily pin your NFT images on various IPFS nodes. Typically, most pinning services replicate data across 3 to 6 nodes. Redundancy ensures data retrieval even if some nodes fail.

Info icon Warning - Centralization in Disguise?

Although your data is redundant when using a pinning service, you still risk provider shutdowns if you only rely on one. You should thoroughly research different pinning services and use at least two to pin your data. This strategy would protect your NFT data even if one provider were to shut down.

Note: This strategy is more expensive and requires regular maintenance.

3. IPFS storage relies on continued payments

IPFS offers contract-based storage, which cannot ensure longevity because there are too many dependencies.

  • Pinning services can go out of business.

  • Contracts expire. If there isn’t a renewal, your data will be removed.

  • Your data is only stored as long as you continue to pay for it.

Info icon Warning - FVM is still contract-based

The Filecoin Virtual Machine (FVM) could theoretically enable data storage in perpetuity on IPFS. The FVM allows for automatic renewals of storage deals and would enable projects to store their data for the long term.

Note: The storage method is still contract-based, similar to cloud services like AWS or Google, where your data can be lost if you stop paying. It relies on having sufficient funds for deal renewals, otherwise data will be lost.

4. How Arweave solves this problem

Every storage provider, centralized or decentralized, requires continuous payments to store your data. Your payments stop, and your data is removed. Arweave is different.

Arweave guarantees at least 200 years of storage with at least 20 copies of your data with a single upfront payment. A small portion is initially paid to miners while the rest goes into a storage endowment. The funds in this endowment will be paid out as needed.

Although Arweave may seem more expensive up front, users are paying a premium for something nobody else can offer: true data permanence.

5. Arweave is the safest option

Comparison Table

Arweave meets all three conditions to store your data permanently:

  • Data uploaded to Arweave is immutable.

  • It has a global decentralized network of nodes, offering redundancy.

  • Your data is permanent, each node is incentivized to store your data, with no ongoing subscriptions.

Arweave is pay once, store forever.

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