Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are digital collectibles, each unique in its way and linked to a particular user.
Ownership aside, what also makes an NFT valuable is its metadata. NFT metadata defines the NFT as an object, i.e., details about the digital asset. NFTs metadata may include details like the name of the file. Deeper in the metadata are details such as what comprises the file's content.
For example, metadata for a video NFT would be the length of the video and the images that make up its frames. Metadata for a profile picture (PFP) or digital art NFTs would be the specific generative properties that would define just how rare your NFT is.
However, for most NFTs, the metadata and the NFT are not one. Rather, your NFT — the digital asset itself — includes a link that points to the metadata, which lives elsewhere online. Hosting platforms don’t exist forever, and if your NFT exists on a regular website, you could potentially lose it along with all the associated value if that site shuts down for any reason.
If you do lose the connection to your NFT, you don’t necessarily lose the NFT itself, but you lose all the information that makes it look, sound, and describe the way it does.
IPFS and Metadata Storage
IPFS is a unique file system because it doesn't operate in the same way we usually think about file storage. A file stored on the IPFS network generates a content ID (CID) which is distributed among several independent storage providers
IPFS allows users to store their data as CIDs with redundant storage providers, ensuring persistence across the entire network. The user then gets a CID that directs them to their file, complete and intact, drawn from one of the redundant storage providers that hold their information. Even if one of the providers goes down or is inaccessible, the user still gets their data.
So if your NFT link dies (and it’s not stored on IPFS), you lose access to the data contained within the digital file.
The IPFS system allows a user to ensure the persistence of their NFT metadata. The timelessness of IPFS combined with providers' redundant storage and accessibility options make for a resilient system that ensures a user's NFT remains safe. IPFS even offers a free method for users to store their NFTs.