Wikipedia Is Using BitTorrent P2P for HTML5 Video

swarmplayer2-2

Wikipedia has started to experiment with using BitTorrent-based P2P technology to offload some of its video publishing costs, according to a blog post by Wikimedia foundation video expert Michael Dale.

The trial is based on Swarmplayer, which has been developed by the EU-funded P2P Next Project. P2P Next is officially releasing the developers preview of Swarmplayer 2.0 today. An official beta test is planned for October, but I was told by one of the people behind P2P Next that the current version is already considered stable.

Swarmplayer used to be a standalone player that could be used to access and stream video from BitTorrent swarms. Its new iteration instead comes in the form of a Firefox plugin, which combines traditional web seeding with P2P data distribution to stream videos right within a web page. The plugin displays information about transferred bandwidth in the browser’s status bar and enables users to edit their sharing settings through a dedicated web UI.

Streaming worked fairly well when I tried it with a few videos hosted on Wikipedia.org, even though there was a notable delay before some of the streams started. Wikipedia uses an HTML5 video player supplied by Kaltura to play the videos, and users that don’t have the plugin are simply served a stream from the site’s servers.

Wikipedia has been slowly working on ramping up its video content for a number of years now, using a combination of open video codecs and HTML5. These efforts have been slower than initially announced, but the site has nonetheless faced some infrastructure issues while doing so. Wikimedia’s deputy director Eric Moeller said in January that the foundation almost ran out of server space due to the fact that Wikipedia users are increasingly uploading video files.

Dale reiterated some of these concerns today, writing:

“Eventually bandwidth costs could saturate the foundation budget or leave less resources for other projects and programs. For this reason it is important to start exploring and experimenting with future content distribution platforms and partnerships.”

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