# IPFS Gateway

An IPFS gateway is a web-based service that gets content from an IPFS network (private, or the public swarm backed by Amino DHT), and makes it available via HTTP, allowing IPFS-incompatible browsers, tools and software to benefit from content-addressing (opens new window). For example, some browsers or tools like Curl (opens new window) or Wget (opens new window) don't support IPFS natively and cannot access to IPFS content using canonical addressing like ipfs://{CID}/{optional path to resource}. While tools like IPFS Companion (opens new window) add browser support for native IPFS URLs, this is not always an option. As such, there are multiple gateway types and gateway providers available so that applications of all kinds can interface with IPFS using HTTP.

This page discusses:

# Gateway request lifecycle

This section uses the default gateway request lifecycle of IPFS Kubo (opens new window) to introduce the basic concepts in the lifecycle. However, some gateways only serve content that they have and/or want to provide. For example, a Kubo gateway with NoFetch enabled will not attempt to retrieve content from the network.

When a client request for a CID reaches an IPFS gateway, the gateway first checks whether the CID is cached locally. At this point, one of the following occurs:

  • If the CID is cached locally, the gateway responds with the content referred to by the CID, and the lifecycle is complete.

  • If the CID is not in the local cache, the gateway will attempt to retrieve it from the network.

The CID retrieval process is composed of two parts, content discovery / routing and content retrieval:

  1. In the content discovery / routing step, the gateway will determine provider location; that is, where the data specified by the CID can be found:

    • Asking peers that it is directly connected to if they have the data specified by the CID.
    • Query the DHT for the IDs and network addresses of peers that have the data specified by the CID.
  2. Next, the gateway performs content retrieval, which can be broken into the following steps:

    1. The gateway connects to the provider.
    2. The gateway fetches the CIDs content.
    3. The gateway streams the content to the client.

# Gateway providers

Regardless of who deploys a gateway and where, any IPFS gateway resolves access to any requested IPFS content identifier. Therefore, for best performance, when you need the service of a gateway, you should use the one closest to you.

# Your local gateway

Your machine may host a gateway as a local service; e.g., at localhost:8080. You have a local gateway service if you installed IPFS Desktop (opens new window) or another form of IPFS node.

# Private gateways

Private gateways are configured to limit access to requests from specific domains or parts of the public internet.

They are frequently, but not exclusively, used behind firewalls. Running IPFS Desktop (opens new window) or another form of IPFS node triggers connection attempts to other IPFS peers. Private network administrators may treat such connection attempts as potential security vulnerabilities. Private IPFS gateway servers located inside the private network and running a trusted code base provide an alternative architecture for read/write access to externally-hosted IPFS content.

This tutorial configuring an IPFS gateway on a Google Cloud platform (opens new window) includes information on constraining access for a private gateway setup.

# Public gateways

For more information about public gateways, see the Public IPFS Gateways

# Gateway types


Path resolution style gateways do not provide origin isolation.

There are multiple gateway types, each with specific use case, security, performance, and functional implications.

# Read-only gateways

Read-only gateways are the simplest kind of gateway. This gateway type provides a way to fetch IPFS content using the HTTP GET method.

# Authenticated gateways

If a gateway provider wants to limit access to requests with authentication, they may need to configure a reverse proxy, develop an IPFS plugin, or set a cache-layer above IPFS.

Configuring a reverse proxy is the most popular way for providers handling authentication. Reverse proxy can also keep the original IPFS API calls which makes gateway adaptable to all IPFS SDK and toolkits.

Auth with Reverse proxy

Providers can design their own centralized authentication service like Infura IPFS Auth (opens new window), or a decentralized authentication service like IPFS W3Auth (opens new window)).

# Resolution style

Three resolution styles exist:

# Path

The examples discussed above employed path resolution:

https://{gateway URL}/ipfs/{content ID}/{optional path to resource}

Path-resolving gateways, however, violate the same-origin policy (opens new window) that protects one website from improperly accessing session data of another website.

# Subdomain

Subdomain resolution style maintains compliance with the single-origin policy (opens new window). The canonical form of access, https://{CID}.ipfs.{gatewayURL}/{optional path to resource}, causes the browser to interpret each returned file as being from a different origin.

Subdomain resolution support began with Kubo (opens new window) release 0.5.0.

Whenever the content of data within IPFS changes, IPFS creates a new CID based on the content of that data. Many applications require access to the latest version of a file or website but will not know the exact CID for that latest version. The InterPlanetary Name Service (IPNS) allows a version-independent IPNS identifier to resolve into the current version's IPFS CID.

The version-independent IPNS identifier contains a hash. When a gateway processes a request in the form https://{gatewayURL}/ipns/{IPNS identifier}/{optional path}, the gateway employs IPNS to resolve the IPNS identifier into the current version's CID and then fetches the corresponding content.

But the IPNS identifier may instead refer to a fully-qualified domain name in the usual form of example.com.

DNSLink resolution occurs when the gateway recognizes an IPNS identifier contains example.com. For example, the URL https://libp2p.io returns the current version of that website — a site stored in IPFS — as follows:

  1. The gateway receives a request in the form:

    https://{gateway URL}/ipns/{example.com}/{optional path}
  2. The gateway searches the DNS TXT records of the requested domain {example.com} for a string of the form dnslink=/ipfs/{CID} or _dnslink=/ipfs/{CID}. If found, the gateway uses the specified CID to serve up ipfs://{CID}/{optional path}. As with path resolution, this form of DNSLink resolution violates the single-origin policy. The domain operator may ensure single-origin policy compliance — and the delivery of the current version of content — by adding an Alias record in the DNS that refers to a suitable IPFS gateway; e.g., gateway.ipfs.io.

  3. The Alias record redirects any access to that example.com to the specified gateway. Hence the browser's request to https://{example.com}/{optional path to resource} redirects to the gateway specified in the Alias.

  4. The gateway employs DNSLink resolution to return the current content version from IPFS.

  5. The browser does not perceive the gateway as the origin of the content and therefore enforces the single-origin policy to protect example.com.

# Gateway services

Currently HTTP gateways may access both IPFS and IPNS services:

Service Style Canonical form of access
IPFS path https://{gateway URL}/ipfs/{CID}/{optional path to resource}
IPFS subdomain https://{CID}.ipfs.{gatewayURL}/{optional path to resource}
IPFS DNSLink https://{example.com}/{optional path to resource} preferred, or
https://{gateway URL}/ipns/{example.com}/{optional path to resource}
IPNS path https://{gateway URL}/ipns/{IPNS identifier}/{optional path to resource}
IPNS subdomain https://{IPNS identifier}.ipns.{gatewayURL}/{optional path to resource}
IPNS DNSLink Useful when IPNS identifier is a domain:
https://{example.com}/{optional path to resource} preferred, or
https://{gateway URL}/ipns/{example.com}/{optional path to resource}

# Working with gateways

For more information on working with gateways, see best practices and troubleshooting.

# Implementing gateways

If you would like to read the technical specifications for the various gateway types, and learn more about how to implement a gateway, see the IPFS HTTP Gateways specification (opens new window) page for more information.

# Learning more