In an increasingly digital world, we’re faced with a crisis of impermanence. Where once we had record collections, sprawling personal libraries, and a personal collection of magazines, we now rely on constantly changing websites and streaming services for our media and memories. As the internet strides ever closer to Web 3.0, we should be examining the benefits the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) has in terms of preservation.
Digital Preservation Efforts
We, as humans, have yet to crack time travel. The closest we can come to turning back the clock is through careful study of artifacts left behind. We typically think of museums when we imagine preservation efforts, but non-profits, libraries, and Tech Giants like Google have all had their hand in collecting, digitizing, and redistributing media of days gone by.
Archival in the sense most relevant to us is the process of accumulating primary source documents for the purpose of preservation or research. An archive can be made up of anything from legal documents that were used to launch a small business, personal art diligently scrawled in the comfort of your home, or faithful backups of films.
Sites like The Internet Archive dutifully track and preserve past iterations of websites, granting some degree of permanence and accountability to an internet that is otherwise ephemeral. Everyone from journalists tracking trends across the internet’s history to linguists dissecting the internet’s volatile changes to modern language rely on archival to make sense of the world as it whipsaws past us at the speed of history. In a less culturally romantic sense, we also rely on digital archives to keep business running in the modern world. Bank statements and phone records keep us honest, and if we’re not doing our best to secure and preserve them, we could be in a lot of trouble.
We’re also finding ourselves in a world where media companies would much rather rent a product or subscribe you to a streaming service. What happens to our media when these services decide it is not profitable enough to hang onto influential, if obscure art? Archival acts as a crucial solution to the plight of the hobbyist or the media critic.
The internet is a unique and indispensable tool when it comes to archival. When done with care, we have nearly infinite access to lossless music masters, pristine scans of literature, and faithfully recreated websites that offer insight into our past. Digital archival efforts require immense amounts of storage, security, and reliable backups. Currently, we tend to rely on centralized storage solutions paired with backups in the event of network blackouts or worse.
With the rise of IPFS, we’re beginning to see the birth of a more sensible archival solution.
IPFS is a decentralized method of storage. Rather than loading up a server or two with all of our most precious information and relying on its continued health, IPFS storage takes a more egalitarian and robust approach to storage.
The Benefits of IPFS Archival
To simplify, allow us an analogy. The current model of digital archival is like saving all of your most important files to your desktop’s hard drive and backing them up on a thumb drive you keep in the office. If these are lost (like in a fire) or inaccessible because you’re away from the desk, then your archive will do you no good. IPFS in this analogy creates and maintains hard drives all over the world. Your “desktop” can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection, and losing a single peer (or thumb drive to keep the analogy going) would not be enough to bring down your backups.
IPFS as an archival platform is much more robust in every sense than our web 2.0 model of storage. Today, if your archival isn’t built with bespoke servers maintained and funded entirely by your own organization, you run the risk of losing everything with the flip of a single lever.
Libraries, believe it or not, are more popular than they have ever been because of their ability to distribute digital copies of books. This is an institution that would benefit greatly from integrating IPFS infrastructure into its archival solution. It’s easy to underestimate the degree to which we should be protecting our libraries, but IPFS storage would be a crucial step in ensuring the future of our literary archives, be it for the voracious amateur reader or the academic.
AXEL Go is a file-sharing and storage solution that takes full advantage of IPFS storage. Our decentralized servers are encrypted with military-grade AES 256 encryption and designed to be easily accessible to the average user.
Whether your storage purposes are archival or professional, we provide a simple and effective digital storage solution that’s robust and secure. Sign up for a 14-day trial of AXEL Go Premium with all of our features unlocked and see why AXEL Go is leading the Web 3.0 charge.
 “Wayback Machine General Information.” Internet Archive Help Center. Accessed May 12, 2022. https://help.archive.org/help/wayback-machine-general-information/#:~:text=What%20is%20the%20Wayback%20Machine,archived%20version%20of%20the%20Web
 Grady, Constance. “The Internet Has Changed the Way We Talk. in Because Internet, a Linguist Shows Us How.” Vox. Vox, August 2, 2019. https://www.vox.com/culture/2019/8/2/20750773/because-internet-review-gretchen-mcculloch-linguistics
 Jensen, Kelly. “Libraries Are More Popular than Ever and Library Workers Don’t Earn Livable Wages: The State of U.S. Public Libraries.” BOOK RIOT, February 8, 2022. https://bookriot.com/libraries-are-more-popular-than-ever/
 “How Digital Storage Is Changing the Way We Preserve History.” VICE, February 19, 2016. https://www.vice.com/en/article/avypge/how-digital-storage-is-changing-the-way-we-preserve-history.
 “Bloomsbury Collections at the Heart of Research.” Bloomsbury Collections – Electronic Literature as Digital Humanities – Contexts, Forms, & Practices. Accessed May 12, 2022. https://www.bloomsburycollections.com/book/electronic-literature-as-digital-humanities-contexts-forms-practices/ch20-challenges-to-archiving-and-documenting-born-digital-literature-what-scholars-archivists-and-librarians-need-to-know