I’m continually looking for better ways to explain IPFS so here’s my latest attempt. You can think of IPFS as a system that makes it very easy to ask but not tell. You can stand in the middle of a crowd and shout, “Hey does anyone have X that they can give me?” and maybe someone will throw you an X. If you hear someone else asking for X then you’re free to share you’re X with them. What you can’t do is simply walk around and say, “Take my X! You take my X and share it with people, NOW!”. That’s not very friendly to go around bossing people around like that.
So when people ask why can’t I just put something on IPFS and expect it to be replicated forever is like just showing up to your neighbors house and putting your junk in their basement because they have the room and expecting them to keep it safe for as long as you feel like putting it there.
You can’t tell people what to do but you can ask them to do things or pay them to do what you want. “If I give you $5 will you hold on to X and give it to people when they ask for it?” or you can just ask someone to do it for free but just don’t be surprised if they get distracted and wander off.
Some people noticed that people are willing to pay for a reliable service so they setup a booth and started selling the service of storing your stuff and sharing it when people ask for it.
So who’s providing the storage? Right now it’s a mix of random people just being nice and people with booths who are being paid to provide it.
Filecoin is like adding money to our fictional universe. Right now the paid providers are being paid in money that appears from a far off land. You can pay for things and take it back to that far off land and use it there but there is no local currency. Filecoin allows someone to buy and sell their storage and to prove they’re doing what they say they will.