# Immutability

An immutable object is an object whose state cannot be altered or modified once created. Once a file is added to the IPFS network, the content of that file cannot be changed without altering the content identifier (CID) of the file. This feature is excellent for storing data that does not need to change. However, when it comes to content that needs to be altered or updated, immutability becomes a problem. This page discusses how to keep a mutable state built from immutable building blocks.

A CID is an absolute pointer to content. No matter when we request a CID, the CIDs value will always be the same. This is part of the content's architecture and cannot be changed. To manage immutable files in a mutable system, we need to add another layer that sits on top of CIDs.

As a basic example, let's have two blocks of content with the strings hello and world hashed into two leaf nodes with the CIDs A and B. If we concatenate these two nodes, then we are given CID C. On top of this root CID we assign a pointer Pointer.

   +-----------+
   |  Pointer  |
   +-----------+
         ↓
      +-----+
   +--|  C  |-+
   |  +-----+ |
   |          |
+-----+    +-----+
|  A  |    |  B  |
+-----+    +-----+
"hello"    "world"

If we change the content of B to IPFS!, all the upstream paths will change as well. In this simple example, the only upstream path is C. If we request content from the pointer we get back new content since the pointer is now pointing at a completely different node. Node B is not being edited, updated, or otherwise changed. Instead, we are creating a new DAG where the pointer points to CID E that joins node A and a new node, node D.

   +-----------+
   |  Pointer  | --------------+
   +-----------+               |
                               ↓
      +-----+               +-----+
   +--|  C  |-+         +-- |  E  | --+
   |  +-----+ |         |   +-----+   |
   |          |         |             |
+-----+    +-----+     +-----+    +-----+
|  A  |    |  B  |     |  A  |    |  D  |
+-----+    +-----+     +-----+    +-----+
"hello"    "world"     "hello"    "IPFS!"

Again, node B does not change. It will always refer to the same content, world. Node A also appears in the new DAG. This is not because we are keeping it, that would imply the location-addressed paradigm. In the content-addressed system, any time someone writes a block with "hello" it will always have CID A.
This is different to location-addressed systems where we could reuse the original buffer and edit the small substring that represents the difference.

Again, node B does not change. It will always refer to the same content, world. Node A also appears in the new DAG. This does not necessarily mean we copied the memory/buffer that contained the hello string into our new message, that would imply the location-addressed paradigm that focuses on the where and not the what. In a content-addressed system any time someone writes the string hello it will always have CID A, regardless of whether we copied the string from a previous location or we wrote it from scratch.

# Website explanation

Here we have a website that displays two headers called header_1 and header_2. The content of the headers is supplied from the variables string_1 and string_2.

<body>
  <h1 id="header_1"></h1>
  <h1 id="header_2"></h1>
</body>
<script>
  let string_1 = 'hello'
  let string_2 = 'world'
  document.getElementById('header_1').textContent = string_1
  document.getElementById('header_2').textContent = string_2
</script>

The CID of this website is QmWLdyFMUugMtKZs1xeJCSUKerWd9M627gxjAtp6TLrAgP. Users can go to example.com/QmWLdyFMUugMtKZs1xeJCSUKerWd9M627gxjAtp6TLrAgP (opens new window) to view the site. If we change string_2 to IPFS then the CID of the website changes to Qme1A6ofTweQ1JSfLLdkoehHhpbAAk4Z2hWjyNC7YJF9m5. Now users can go to example.com/Qme1A6ofTweQ1JSfLLdkoehHhpbAAk4Z2hWjyNC7YJF9m5 (opens new window).

Having a user visit the site using the CID is cumbersome since the CID will change every time a variable is updated. So instead, we can use a pointer that maintains the CID of the page with the latest update. This way, users can go to example.com, and always be directed to the latest content. This pointer is mutable; it can be updated to reflect the changes downstream.

+--------+      +---------+      +----------+
|  User  | ---> | Pointer | ---> | QmWLd... |
+--------+      +---------+      +----------+

In the website example, when we change a variable, the CID of the webpage is different. The pointer must be updated to redirect users to the latest webpage. What's important is that the old CID still exists. Nothing is overwritten. The original CID QmWLdyFMUugMtKZs1xeJCSUKerWd9M627gxjAtp6TLrAgP will always refer to a webpage with the headers hello and world. What we're doing is constructing a new DAG.

+--------+      +---------+      +----------+
|  User  | ---> | Pointer |      | QmWLd... |
+--------+      +---------+      +----------+
                     |
                     |           +----------+
                     + --------> | Qme1A... |
                                 +----------+

This process is essentially what the InterPlantery Naming Service (IPNS) does! CIDs can be difficult to deal with and hard to remember, so IPNS saves users from the cumbersome task of dealing with CIDs directly. More importantly, CIDs change with the content because they are the content. Whereas the inbound reference of URLs/pointers stay the same, and the outbound referral changes:

+--------+      +--------------+      +-------------------------------------------------------------+
|  User  | ---> | docs.ipfs.io | ---> | bafybeigsddxhokzs3swgx6mss5i3gm6jqzv5b45e2xybqg7dr3jmsykrku |
+--------+      +--------------+      +-------------------------------------------------------------+