Home Market IPFS’s first win: the Catalan referendum

IPFS’s first win: the Catalan referendum

On September 11, 1714, the Siege of Barcelona ended the War of Spanish Succession. Catalonia was to give up its autonomy to the hands of the Spanish. The name of Catalonia lived on for centuries in the hearts of the defeated, leading to an attempt to break away once again in 1939. But on January 26, 1939, Barcelona was once again captured by the Nationalist Army of Spain, and the left-leaning, anarchistic Catalonia Offensive was to submit once again to their conquerors. Yet to this day, the self-proclaimed autonomous state of Catalonia will not give up the fight to secede from Spain.

The most recent clashes between the two have occurred because of Spain’s decision to reject Catalonia’s request to make the language “Catalan” the native language of select regions in Catalonia. This occurred in 2010, but ever since its citizens have been brewing to retaliate.

IPFS played a huge role.

What is IPFS?

IPFS is the InterPlanetary File System, which seeks to replace HTTP and all that it stands for. While HTTP was very useful for the last 25 years of the internet’s existence, we are beginning to see today that it was never meant for scaling this large. When loading a web page, each user on the internet must collect that data from one location, or IP address. This brings a large load on the servers that hold this information, which is causing the internet to become slower.

Let’s say you are with a group of 100 people in a conference. You want them all to see a picture you’ve been working on for ages. That picture is 9 MB. With HTTP, each of these 100 people would need to download a 9 MB picture from the same IP address at the same time, requesting 900 MB from the same server at once. This is what causes computers to crash. With IPFS, the user locates the picture not by IP address, but by content tag. In this decentralized concept (similar to torrenting), the users can not only download from anyone who has the file downloaded to their local drive, but IPFS will search for the closest addresses that hold the picture. This brings far less strain on bandwidth, and in turn, creates a “permanent web.”

Permanent Web

ThePirateBay has a hard time getting shut down because of the thousands of mirror sites it has. It is decentralized, similar to how the web would become under IPFS. If a server has a meltdown, or a page gets lost (404 not found), it would be impossible to retrieve in a centralized system. In a decentralized system, it would be exponentially harder for pages to go missing because the swarm of data is spread throughout the global network. And with a decentralized server base, it would be almost impossible for countries to ban a website from viewing.

This is exactly what Catalonia did for its vote referendum.

Catalonia used an IPFS website to let its citizens know where and when to vote. The Spanish government was using their own form of cyber warfare by blocking web pages that ended in .cat (a common Catalan domain) and popular information sites for Catalans. Catalonia’s IPFS page could not be shut down. Enough mirrors were created in a short amount of time to make it impossible for Spain to shut it down. While they were at it, Catalonia immortalized their wiki history on an IPFS page.

Sure enough, people turned out to the referendum date, and an estimated 90% of the citizens voted for independence from Spain. Unfortunately, the government didn’t recognize the vote, and clashes with the police made the turnout rather violent.  But the damage was already done to the Spanish government. Catalanshave found a much more effective way to organize and locate information. And this won’t be the last we hear of it.

Featured image from Spenser H on Unsplash

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