Despite numerous examples of legitimate uses, most people still associate P2P with illegal file-sharing. That perception might be due for a change, according to a new report from research firm MultiMedia Intelligence. It predicts that licensed P2P transfers will grow 10 times faster than P2P piracy over the next five years.
Granted, forecasts like these should always be taken with a grain of salt, especially since at least part of the online video space appears to be moving away from P2P right now, with Joost a prominent example of abandoning peer-supported streaming for traditional Flash streams. And one shouldn’t disregard the huge amount of data transferred for less than legal purposes just yet.
MultiMedia Intelligence is predicting that the overall traffic caused by P2P applications will grow some 400 percent to almost 8 petabytes per month by 2012, up from 1.6 petabytes per month in 2007. This growth will be driven largely by online video, with the move to higher video resolutions giving the segment a big bump.
The market researchers don’t, however, believe this will knock out our broadband infrastructure, since a growing part of this traffic will be optimized through P4P-type technologies that make it possible to download data from your nearest neighbor rather than someone halfway around the world. They see P2P-supported CDNs and P2P caching solutions for licensed content becoming more important as well.
Still, rights holders shouldn’t hope for the death of online piracy just yet. Licensed P2P will grow much faster than its pirate cousin, but that’s primarily because it’s just getting started. MultiMedia Intelligence’s chief research officer, Frank Dickson, told me they don’t see a decline in unlicensed file-sharing coming any time soon, but expect that growth in the segment will just slow down.
“The reduction in the growth rate is due to saturation in developed countries,” Dickson told me. Developing countries, on the other hand, could see a boom of online piracy as a result of the rise in broadband penetration rates. Five years from now, MultiMedia Intelligence predicts, piracy will still account for more than twice the amount of traffic as legal P2P.