Filecoin Graph

A Filecoin blockchain is a single IPLD DAG, usually encoded as CBOR. The roots of this graph are called tipsets. Snapshot files (using the CARv1 file format) contain every block header until genesis and (usually) 2000 recent tipsets. These tipsets (together with additional data downloaded from the p2p network) are sufficient to synchronize with a Filecoin blockchain.

As of writing, the size of the entire Filecoin blockchain graph for mainnet is at 14TiB.


A tipset is a set of blocks that were mined at the same time (e.i. same epoch). Filecoin uses a randomized lottery (with the number of tickets depending on your storage capacity) to determine who is allowed to mine blocks (and thus get rewards). The number of winners per epoch is 5 on average but may be zero or any other number.

Tipsets are identified by the set of blocks they contain. Thus, a null tipset cannot be uniquely identified as it has no blocks. When this happens, blocks refer to the nearest non-null parent. The picture below shows four tipsets at epoch N, N-1, N-2 and N-3. The N-2 tipset is a null tipset and cannot be referenced. As such, blocks in tipset N-1 refer directly to the N-3 grand-parent:

Filecoin Graph with four tipsets


A block header primarily contains a timestamp, an epoch, a link to the parent tipset, a link to the state-tree of the parent, and a link to a set of messages (i.e., transactions). Blocks are block headers combined with messages. The Filecoin p2p network gives access to all block headers but not all state-trees and messages.

State trees and mesages

State trees are persistent data structures built primarily with persistent hashmaps (HAMT) and persistent vectors (AMT). The state tree for a given epoch will share a lot of nodes with the state tree for the preceding epoch.

Messages are transactions that modify state trees.

Most Filecoin nodes run in lite-mode and only store the most recent state trees and messages. Only archival nodes have access to the full Filecoin graph (all messages, all state trees, all blocks, etc).


Forest archive

Forest aims at providing data for the following use-cases:

  • Quickly syncing to HEAD. This requires up-to-date (less than a day old) snapshots.
  • Running archival nodes for unique data. State trees can be re-generated given enough compute time but block headers and messages cannot. The full block history should be available and easily accessible.
  • Accessing state-trees at arbitrary epochs. Storage providers are often interested in querying the state as it was months or years ago. There should be an efficient way of accessing ranges of epoch without downloading the entire graph.
  • Parallel validation. The Filecoin consensus rules have changed over time, and the only way to guarantee compliance is to validate all the historical tipsets. For feasibility, this should be done in parallel.


  • /{network}/latest: Recent snapshots. Old files may be deleted after, say, 72 hours.
  • /{network}/snapshots: Historical snapshots at regular epoch intervals. One snapshot every 2880*7 epochs.
  • /{network}/diffs: Diff files at regular intervals. Diffs are not complete snapshots and only contain the new key-value pairs since the previous diff.
  • /{network}/diffs/roll-up: Union of diffs over a longer time period. Roll-up period could be 6 months (2880*30*6 epochs). These roll-ups do not contain any unique information; they are a more convenient way of downloading diffs.
  • /{network}/spine: Diff files containing only blocks and messages (i.e., the spine of the blockchain). This is the minimal data required to re-compute the entire state graph. Diff period could be 1 day (2880 epochs).
  • /{network}/spine/roll-up: Convenience roll-ups for spine diffs.

These buckets support several use-cases:

  • Syncing to HEAD using the latest snapshot from /{network}/latest.
  • The state-tree for an arbitrary epoch can be downloaded by starting with a nearby historical snapshot and then supplementing it with diff files. For example, the state-tree for epoch 3000 can be accessed by getting the snapshot at epoch 2880 and the diff file for epoch range 2880-5760.
  • Initializing a full archival node can be done by downloading all the diff roll-ups. Combined, they contain the entire state-graph.
  • Running a message archival server can be done by downloading the spine diff roll-ups.
  • Re-validating tipsets can be done in parallel by merging snapshots and diff files.