• #IPFS, Again

    Here are the recommendations

    First, make recommendations. I went down the IPNS rabbit hole because the documentation sent me, and only by a chance encountered did I learn that it’s almost universally avoided. There’s no shame in saying that a project’s not ready. Recommending unusable projects burns goodwill. Recommend paths that work.

    Second, fix your words. Words are work, and that work is not happening. Finish a glossary, standardize usage and meaning, and cull unnecessary jargon. Treat new bits of jargon like technical debt, because that’s what they are.

    Third, set realistic goals and make realistic statements. IPFS.io still has a web-centric message and promises that it’s useful here and now. It promises ‘fast performance’, and support for ‘huge datasets’. These are goals, not realities. An effort to put 300TB of data was met with mixed results and notes about adding and retrieving data being extremely slow.

    Fourth, set a goal. This is a slightly different question than the last one. A core question is: is IPFS trying to be an internet? The website would say yes, and some of the documentation. But the 2019 goals punt the ‘decentralized web’ to 2020+, instead focusing on NPM on IPFS. Which then leads us to entropic, the most promising distributed package manager, which has a discussion about using IPFS that immediately brings up its performance problems.

    Maybe I’m being too tough on IPFS. But this isn’t 2014. IPFS isn’t a new project, and it isn’t resource-limited. Protocol Labs has raised over 300 million dollars, and has been around for 5 years. That’s a lot of money to pay a lot of smart people.

    So a few scenarios are possible. Maybe most IPFS users are using it for file storage and as an API backend, kind of like textile. I’m the odd one out expecting it to be useful for websites. Which would explain the haphazardness of DNSLink and IPNS, but not the performance issues. Or maybe I’m misjudging the arc of history – that Protocol Labs is a 20 year project, not a 10 year one. But really I suspect that some of the hype exists because folks are talking about IPFS but they don’t rely on it it. People excited about the potential of FileCoin and otherwise hyped on crypto technology want to imagine uses and combinations of technology without being tethered by the reality of what doesn’t work.

    I hope that Protocol Labs sets a goal and achieves it. The IPFS future is exciting. But we aren’t there yet, and I’m not sure we will be.