Swapper, for faster file transfers via caching

Personal peer-to-peer (p2p) and personal file sharing services are dime a dozen. Not a day passes when some new start-up shows up with a new offering, with a slightly different twist.

Wambo (previously known as Perenety), is throwing its hat in the ring, with Swapper, a new software-service that promises to address the biggest pain of file transfers: upload speeds.

Wambo was started by co-founders Arnaud Tellier (CTO), Guillaume Thonier (Chief Architect), and Xavier Casanova (CEO) and company’s first product, Shooter had launched almost a year ago in beta. It tried to do too much, and had a difficult interface.

The trio and their distributed work force (India, Estonia and California) went back to the drawing board and came up with a simpler and easy to use application called Swapper. For now it is a Windows only application. “Shooter was the early prototype and we used it get users and build a small P2P network of a few hundred nodes, for development and testing,” says Casanova.

While the application’s key features – swapping music, photo and videos with trusted friends – are on tap from any of the dozens of start-ups, what is different about Swapper is that it combines a P2P distributed file system with upload caching, which gives application some speed oomph.

Classic caching (reverse proxies, CDNs) saves bandwidth only where downloads of popular content is concerned. This helps boost the download speeds. Swapper is the exact opposite – aka upload caching. Given that most broadband connections are asymmetrical (at least in the US), the upload speeds are the biggest issue with P2P apps.

Here’s how it works: when you are sending a friend a song (legal of course), Swapper checks with its servers to see if that file has already been uploaded by you or someone else. This check is anonymous an fast.

For instance, you upload a photo album and sent it to a cousin. A week later you send it to your cousin – the system checks for a special file signature, and sees if there is something matching that signature on the servers. If there is a match, your uncle gets the photos you already sent to your cousin with Swapper, since they are cached on the servers. No need to upload again.

“The entire process is anonymous and doesn’t ever expose any of your content,” says Casanova. “Most MP3s, personal photos, and mini-videos are less than 20-25MB. We compress, cache, and pre-fetch to make these fly. That’s our market. Not the large gigabyte sized files.”

Wambo hopes to make money two ways: by delivering promotional content delivered in Swapper (similar to email newsletters) for a fee and offering a pro-version of the service for small and medium sized businesses.

There are two big concerns I have about the product – first and foremost, the legal issues could cause major migraines for the company, even though Casanova points out that their EULA makes it pretty clear that illegal uses are prohibited. I am not sure the RIAA and MPAA gun-men who who shoot first, ask questions later, will appreciate the nuance of an EULA.

The overcrowded nature of the market should be a nagging worry for Casanova and his co-founders. Despite have a seemingly good technology, they would have to fight for mind share and grow subscribers. And that’s not easy.