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Infinit revisits personal peer-to-peer file sharing

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A simple and fast way to share files peer-to-peer has been a holy grail for years: back in 2006, there was a flurry of companies addressing the space. You might remember AllPeers, Pando (not PandoDaily), or ToPeer, but rest assured, there were a lot of them, most of which threw in the towel when they found no clear path to monetization. When using a personal P2P program, the file is transferred directly to the recipient, as opposed to a web file sharing service like iCloud, which uploads the file to a server.

In the meantime, Dropbox became a $10 billion company while embracing the cloud: by applying a slick interface to Amazon Web Services, and promising users a dead simple way to share files, it gained over 300 million users and forged a bright future — no peer-to-peer protocols needed. But now a new French startup, Infinit, is revisiting personal P2P, but adding a cloud-based twist.

Even as personal cloud storage prices fall, personal P2P has a lot going for it: no hosting, no storage caps, superior privacy, and faster speeds for large file transfers. Whereas previous entrants into the personal P2P space often used open-source Bittorrent technology, Infinit uses a proprietary infrastructure, developed by co-founder Julien Quintard at Cambridge University.

As of now, Infinit has a Mac app, a Windows app, and an iPhone version in beta. First, you have to sign up for an Infinit account, which is how other users can find you and vice versa. Your account also lets Infinit act as a switchboard and cloud backup for the transfers: for instance, if you close your laptop before a transfer is finished, Infinit will email you to tell you the transfer didn’t complete. Alternately, it allows you to send files to Infinit users who might not have their computer on at the moment.

app_receiver_1_main app_sender_1_drag

The app is well designed, and the Mac version is clearly the best version at the moment. Infinit lives in the menu bar, and offers a drop down menu not too different from Dropbox’s Mac implementation. To send a file to one of your contacts, simply drag the file up to the command-symbol icon. Infinit lets you search for new contacts, or simply send the file to an email: if the user doesn’t have an Infinit account, it’s possible to download a hosted version of the file. Its features are somewhat limited, but that means the app stays streamlined and simple.

I saw Infinit at the Techstars NY demo day last week, where its demo was a standout among the 12 startups competing, and where it announced that it raised $1.8 million in funding from Alven Capital and 360 Capital Partners. It’s an impressive app, and I can see it gaining a following among people who want to send big files regularly, like designers and coders. However, the old problem from 2006 remains: if Infinit becomes an indispensable app for millions, how is it going to make money?