BitTorrent File System (BTFS) is a protocol for storing and sharing digital content in a decentralized file system. It bears obvious analogies to the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS), which both predates it and forms a natural competitor to BTFS. There are many similarities between the two distributed file standards but there are also some key differences. In this review, we’ll consider what each file system has to offer and why BTFS ultimately comes up trumps.
What’s the Deal With IPFS?
IPFS is a protocol and peer-to-peer network for storing and sharing data within a distributed file system. It forms a key component of the distributed web, or Web3 as it’s also known: an internet characterized by self-sovereignty of data, greater privacy and ownership of content. IPFS takes the content currently housed on centralized servers and scatters it across the web in a manner that makes it very hard to censor or steal.
As open source technology, anyone can use IPFS, but the best known application of its capabilities can be seen in Filecoin, a crypto-incentivized distributed storage network that is still under development. Filecoin began life in 2017 with a record-breaking $257 million ICO. The lengthy wait for the project’s mainnet can be attributed to the complexity of working with IPFS and of building a tokenized file sharing network from the ground up.
What About BTFS?
BitTorrent File System is a scalable decentralized storage system that’s designed to support decentralized applications (dApps). It provides many of the same capabilities as IPFS, but BTFS is bolstered by the components it’s been built around, starting with the TRON network and the thousands of dApps it supports. Connected to an established and diverse crypto ecosystem, BTFS has a large user base to call upon, and carefully designed tokenomics that provide incentives to all ecosystem participants.
BTFS also has a few other aces to call upon including:
- The strength of the BitTorrent brand, a name that is synonymous with file sharing
- A liquid economy thanks to the BTT token’s presence on numerous global exchanges
- Vertical and horizontal integration with products such as BitTorrent Speed and DLive
- An existing user base of up to 100 million
- Developer-friendly tools including an intuitive Host UI
The Real Difference Between BTFS and IPFS Isn’t Technical – It’s Human
At the protocol level, the differences between BTFS and IPFS are indistinguishable to end users; only developers will express a preference for one or the other. From the perspective of the users whose adoption will make or break the move to distributed storage, it doesn’t really matter what’s underneath the hood. They’re more concerned with being able to access files quickly, easily, and with fair remuneration for hosting and sharing them. In this respect, BTFS is streets ahead of IPFS.
Despite having been created later than the Filecoin implementation of IPFS, BTFS was first to launch its mainnet, which debuted on June 17. The network effects that BitTorrent File System can tap into are unmatched thanks to the long tentacles of the TRON network it’s plugged into. This gives BTFS a massive head start over its rival, which may struggle to catch up
Despite the hundreds of millions that were raised during the Filecoin ICO, the FIL token is not yet tradable, save as an IOU on a handful of small exchanges. Creating a highly liquid economy will be required for Filecoin to see serious adoption, which takes time. Because BTFS slots into an established brand, and because BTT has been tradable for well over a year, it has has been able to hit the ground running upon mainnet launch.
The Verdict? BTFS Has the Edge
Distributed file storage is not a zero sum game, and there is plenty of room for BTFS and IPFS to prosper. In the short-term, however, it is hard to see past BTFS extending its lead over the still-to-launch Filecoin, aided by the BitTorrent Accelerator Program which provides incentives for developers to build applications that use BTFS.
There is grounds for asserting that BTFS boasts superior tech thanks to provisions such as its use of encrypted algorithms, distributed hash charts, Git version control, and BitTorrent transmission protocol and TronGrid, which prevents users from having to host their own nodes. The real superiority, though, lies in the extended family that BTFS can call upon to boost its adoption. With the TRON network, DLive, and thousands of dApps all interconnected, BTFS is already linked to a sprawling distributed network. Coupled with the availability of the BTT token, there is every reason to believe that BTFS, the first horse out the gates, will also be the first over the finishing line.