Thursday, March 08, 2007

Peer-to-peer round-up

We have recently seen growing interest in peer-to-peer technology - for several reasons: efficiency ('the Internet was not designed for TV'), attacking illegal file-sharing, starting new businesses.
BitTorrent's Bram Cohen invented the protocol of the same name in 2001. It uses 'swarming': files are broken into small pieces and stored on the PCs of network participants.
Keep in mind that there is a difference between downloading (the old illegal p2p file-sharing services) and streaming (e.g. Joost's legal service).

Recent news:
  • BitTorrent launched the BitTorrent Entertainment Network.
  • Veoh launched. Azureus' Zudeo is to follow shortly.
  • Joost launched its closed beta - an open beta to follow this summer. As an early user (but not much of a couch potatoe) I have to say it looks great. At this stage I think it makes no sense complaining about hiccups or limited content.
  • Babelgum too. An open beta is scheduled this month.
  • The BBC plans the iPlayer May or June for distributing BBC content.
  • ROO Group (News Corp bought 10%) acquired Wurld Media, operator of Peer Impact, for its p2p technology.
  • UUSee, over in China, raised American dollars.
  • Robert Cringely speculated about Apple TV as the foundation of Apple's own p2p network, allowing the company to cancel its Akamai contract and save on network costs.


  • Bandwidth has its price. In general, it always makes sense to be efficient about it (compare such diverse things as MPEG4, AJAX and spectral efficiency of WiMAX - all aimed at being prudent about your use of bandwidth).
  • Alexander Cameron points to the fact that p2p networks require 'a critical mass of users watching the same content' and that 'it will bring the ISP's war directly to the content owning communities door'. I might add to the first quote: this spells doom for unpopular content. P2P will not serve the long tail very well.
  • In the end, efficiency (p2p) is fine, but we still need to throw a lot more bandwidth at the capacity crunch problem. Robert Cringely had an interesting introduction to yet another solution (besides CDNs such as Akamai): NuMetra. By the way, he apparently agrees with Cameron: 'p2p cost savings isn't a true savings but is rather a hidden cost borne by the Internet Service Provider running the last mile connection'.
  • DRM comes into play; the new BitTorrent is cumbersome because of it. For a round-up of DRM issues, go here and click on the links in the first paragraph.
  • Who knows illegal file-sharing can be migrated to any of the above legal networks - especially when the services are free + ads (Joost, Babelgum). Skyrider serves ads in video files on p2p networks.

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