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I'm trying to get my head wrapped around how IPFS actually stores files. There is no IPFS coin, so who is hosting these files and are they getting paid to host them?

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    I believe your question has been answered on a different stackexchange: stackoverflow.com/questions/47450007/… Also, I believe FileCoin is attempting to incentivize storage providing for IPFS. – lungj Dec 30 '18 at 17:52
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The linked answer at https://stackoverflow.com/questions/47450007/where-does-ipfs-store-all-the-data should answer the technical part of the question.

IPFS itself is only a protocol so it only defines how the files should be shared but it does not offer ways to give someone incentive to host somebody's files. So if you use the basic IPFS you can't trust that anyone else hosts your files - you have to host them yourself.

As was already hinted Filecoin is aiming at using IPFS to incentivize the sharing of data. Otherwise I haven't heard of other projects which aim at making the IPFS network useful in a decentralized way. In my opinion IPFS is not useful as a decentralized protocol without someone writing a platform such as Filecoin on top of it to add incentives. In a more centralized environment IPFS has other uses.

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Those who request files are caching them for a while. Those who are interested to make those files constantly available, can pin them on their IPFS server, and that server will keep files available.

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