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Summary:

Much like the late comic Rodney Dangerfield, peer-to-peer technologies can’t get no respect. Despite its obvious technological advantages, P2P has become a proverbial four-letter word. The technology seems to be tainted by its past, thanks to formerly popular applications such as Kazaa and Napster — which […]

200px-Album_no_respect.jpgMuch like the late comic Rodney Dangerfield, peer-to-peer technologies can’t get no respect. Despite its obvious technological advantages, P2P has become a proverbial four-letter word. The technology seems to be tainted by its past, thanks to formerly popular applications such as Kazaa and Napster — which is really a shame, because researchers are doing some amazing work, especially in the field of P2P video streaming.

For example, take this new open-source P2P software from Uruguay called the GoalBit. Janko Roettgers over on NewTeeVee reports that GoalBit combines BitTorrent-like technologies with Kazaa-style “super-peers,” which allow data streams to get quickly distributed to computers with faster connections and then eventually to those of us with slower speeds. These super-peers can, in fact, be run by media companies themselves.

With video streaming becoming one of the primary activities on the web, it is clear that P2P will play a major role in the future because of our ever-escalating bandwidth needs. GoalBit is one of many P2P streaming applications. Its competitors include PPLive, which boasts 30 million active users per month; PPStream; and P2P Next, a European project funded with 14 million euros ($20.4 million) from the European Union. P2P Next is developing a set-top box version of SwarmPlayer, a streaming client it showed off in 2008.

Photo of Rodney Dangerfield courtesy of Wikipedia.

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  1. Why is it clear that P2P technology will play a major roll? Bandwidth costs are going down, compression and encoding technologies are allowing for higher quality images at lower payloads and QOS, jitter and latency are important aspects of internet transport that need to be managed now more than ever. Will it play a role sure, does it have to be major, well thats not so clear.

    1. If you look at the global pricing trends and transit costs, the bandwidth costs aren’t going down as quickly as you might believe they are. I think these P2P technologies are going to be working along side traditional methodologies as we need more and more bandwidth. The impetus is going to come from places which are bandwidth constrained.

  2. look at skype it depends on p2p …..i guess it has lot of respect !! …400 million users !

  3. Oyvind Solstad Monday, October 5, 2009

    NRK – Norwegian Broadcasting – Norway’s biggest mediahouse has it’s own torrent-tracker:

    http://nrkbeta.no/2009/03/08/norwegian-broadcasting-corporation-sets-up-its-own-bittorrent-tracker/

  4. I don’t think P2P will get any respect ever. It is fundamentally flawed in design. There are two major reasons (besides the piracy issue) that this will never become a major player. First, there are far too many people who will not want their bandwidth used for some other purpose than their own. Add that with businesses’ tendencies to hide potentially unwanted features in their software and people would then cry foul when their bandwidth is being used without being notified and without their permission. Second, the whole internet service industry is slowly trying to force people into a pay-per-bit/byte model. Whether this will complete or not is up in the air, but it already exists for some people. This will become a big issue when many people start getting charged exorbitant rates (like overuse of texting on a cell phone) for going over some arbitrary (and most-likely stagnant) cap on bandwidth.

  5. Om, I think you’re right on here – its a pity the brand “p2p” struggles to get respect….
    @Jim – saying that people will jealously guard their “own” bandwidth – well sure – so why do I have to download another 200MB patch from Apple or MS or Adobe or other ISVs with alarming regularity? That’s not really under my control… part of a cost of participating in an evolving internet perhaps? – why don’t you make the same argument for downloading p2p – every byte you download you need to contribute one byte of upload (or some acceptable level?)
    And ISPs do indeed seem to be on some sort of path to charge for bandwidth, but given the challenges with software vendors needing to update software to deal with security flaws and to add features, not to mention the dreadful regressiveness of any likely “tax per byte” that might be imposed, it seems almost certain that the final model will be a very large “bucket of bytes” and then a surcharge for extreme users. (And by the way, isn’t this exactly where we evolved to with mobile minutes?) P2P could easily live within a system like this. So Jim, I’m afraid your “fundamental flaws” argument doesn’t really stand up.
    I think there are a couple of issues at play here – bandwidth prices have come down dramatically in the last couple of years, but they can’t go down forever.
    YouTube has set the benchmark for video user-experience as a “point-click-watch” experience and backed it up with 100’s of millions of dollars spent on bandwidth. No-one else can compete unless they at least match the YouTube user experience. (This means *no downloaded client* – sorry Joost, etc.)
    And the ISP industry has done a pretty good job of whining about how much their pipes are creaking under the burden of P2P (rather than just do the right thing and upgrade their pipes.)
    P2P bandwidth, if it lives within ISP constraints (business constraints like caps and operating constraints like minimizing transit costs) and user impacts (don’t slow down my connection ever and use software I already installed) is a FOUND GOOD – perhaps its not quite there yet – there are still a few rough edges – but its not far off. At some point the power of the market will surely start to take advantage of this resource rather than continue to pillory it as somehow “unclean”…
    Om is quite right – an unexploited FOUND GOOD can’t last forever on a competitive internet, especially in an economic environment like this…

    1. @Simon – You can’t simply declare your statement correct because you believe it and end the conversation there. First off, P2P is NOT like a simple patch download. First off, automatic patches can be disabled (at least most can), so it is under your control. Also, a direct one-way download is not the same as download a file then turn around and upload it to someone else. While I, PERSONALLY, agree with the “eye-for-an-eye” idea that you should upload as much as you download, not everyone believes that. There are a LOT of people that are very conservative with their bandwidth and don’t want their files being uploaded after download. There are also inherent security risks whenever you set up a server environment. Even though it hasn’t happened yet (at least, to my knowledge), what is stopping some future virus or worm from taking over every computer on a P2P network? In the end — very little. So please don’t end a conversation by saying my views are right — period. Also, you can’t always control what a company will offer. While one company may offer a 200 GB / month package in one place another company may only offer 50 GB / month. So you cannot assume everyone will have plenty of bandwidth available to them all the time — especially if that cap is a combined two-way cap.

  6. P2P has no “obvious technical advantages,” as the article above claims. It’s extremely inefficient compared to a simple download, especially when the content is cacheable. As such, it’s certainly not a solution to video bandwidth demand; in fact, it makes matters worse.

    There are only two things at which P2P excels: shifting costs from content providers to ISPs (multiplying them in the process); and making it difficult to stop piracy (the reason P2P was first developed). Neither of these are legitimate goals.

    In short, P2P gets no respect because it DESERVES no respect.

  7. … thus speaks the owner of an ISP… http://www.brettglass.com/

    1. Thus speaks not only the owner of an ISP but the world’s first wireless ISP — and one of the people who first got the Internet up and running under TCP/IP as a graduate student at Stanford. For more on P2P, see my testimony (given when I returned to Stanford for an FCC en banc hearing) at http://www.brettglass.com/FCC/remarks.html

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