Lets chat about P2P some more

One thing continues to be a certainty in the technology world, NEVER challenge a sacred cow. If you do, the punches start flying. Of course the punches have to fly because the there isn’t a real response otherwise.

I’m obviously not a huge P2P fan. Gordon Haff did a far better job than I explaining some reasons why. I think there. are valid applications for P2P on private networks, but nothing on the Internet that I think is worth surviving.

My position has nothing to do with Piracy. I think the MPAA and RIAA efforts towards piracy are a joke. They spend more money and waste more government resources than should be allowed. If they spent that money and time promoting why people should go to the movies and the value of owning music, those industries would benefit far more than anything they lose to piracy.

My position is not “if it uses bandwidth, its a bad thing”. Flickr, Google Video, any host that pays for their bandwidth is all right by me. If they want to give it away, go for it. I actually think Google Video is a far better solution for audio and video distribution than any P2P solution. Google is willing to subsidize the worlds bandwidth for multimedia, why doesn’t everyone take them up on their offer ? Go for it Google.

My position is not related to the Internet backbone. There is plenty of bandwidth there and will be for the short and as long a term as I can envision.

My position is related to the last mile. P2P is so incredibly inefficient. You send and receive the same bytes , which means for the portion of the file you are a seed for, you are at least 50pct inefficient. The more often you supply the bytes on your PC to others, the more you impose on the network. If there is a failure somewhere in the chain of delivery and assembly on the destination device , the error recovery process makes things far less efficient. All consuming more and more last mile bandwidth. The bandwidth that defines how fast my internet connection is.

I think the position that “you pay for the bandwidth, so you can use it any way you want” isn’t reality and very flawed when it comes to P2P.

P2P “works” because those who install the clients are wiling to barter some of their bandwidth in exchange for getting a file that represents something of value to them. The bandwidth obviously has significant value to the person or company asking you to contribute it. That’s why torrent clients and almost every P2P client requires you to contribute bandwidth in order to receive the goodies you want.

Bottom line, you are re-selling bandwidth. For those of you who like the buffet analogy, that’s like saying you paid for the buffet, so its OK to take as much jello and mac and cheese as you can carry and walk outside the restaurant and sell it or trade it. Bizarre example, but it makes the point. Just because something is not metered and seemingly not suffering from any level of scarcity doesn’t mean it isn’t limited in availability and costly.

Because if it wasn’t costly, we all would already have 1gbs to our home via fiber or free wireless everywhere.

The reality of our bandwidth to the home scenario today is that there isn’t enough bandwidth to cure all ills. Last Mile Bandwidth is constrained and expensive to grow in multiples of what we all are ready and happily able to consume with legit applications

I personally don’t want to see my connections slow down so P2P users can resell bandwidth to someone who isn’t willing to pay for bandwidth in order to distribute their bandwidth consuming files.

but hey, that’s me.

44 thoughts on “Lets chat about P2P some more

  1. My position is related to the last mile. P2P is so incredibly inefficient. You send and receive the same bytes , which means for the portion of the file you are a seed for, you are at least 50pct inefficient. The more often you supply the bytes on your PC to others, the more you impose on the network. If there is a failure somewhere in the chain of delivery and assembly on the destination device , the error recovery process makes things far less efficient. All consuming more and more last mile bandwidth. The bandwidth that defines how fast my internet connection is.

    Mark, please sit&down and talk with some intelligent network engineers. You are either woefully misinformed&confused or intentionally misrepresenting the facts. Me thinks it\’s more the latter than the former.

    Comment by anonymous -

  2. Since you decided to use the buffet analogy,there\’s nothing wrong with buying something, food or otherwise, and reselling it. That\’s sort of the entire backbone of a small company called eBay.

    Comment by Tom -

  3. Mark,

    I am not sure I agree with your take on the subject, but I would have to question the idea that people using P2P are bandwidth freeloaders. Since the client serving the file is paying their bandwidth and the person downloading the file is paying for their bandwidth. So the ISP\’s are getting paid it just by different people.

    I think the ISP\’s last mile problem is the ISP\’s fault… They offered bandwidth at a rate that didn\’t support the expansion of the system and as the amount of clients grew the system could not longer support the throughput they were advertising. Which is why we have the \”up to\” clause on advertised speeds.

    — Jeremy

    Comment by Jeremy -

  4. I\’m not sure that banning something incredibly useful, like P2P, is the solution to the economic problem of improperly charging for bandwidth.

    A better solution I think is proper pricing schemes for bandwith usage. A buffet wouldn\’t just ban Americans because they start eating too much, they would raise the price, or charge fat people more.

    I\’m *happy* to pay an extra 5, 10 dollars a month for the right to use P2P. Its extremely useful to me.

    Comment by Jack Mott -

  5. \”I think the position that \”you pay for the bandwidth, so you can use it any way you want\” isn\’t reality and very flawed when it comes to P2P.\”

    Yes it is reality. And I will do what ever I legally want with the bandwidth I pay $40.00 a month for.

    \”Because if it wasn\’t costly, we all would already have 1gbs to our home via fiber or free wireless everywhere.\”

    It\’s not too costly for France, Korea, Japan, Sweden or the other eleven countries that have faster and cheaper broadband access. The last mile problem is not P2P\’s fault it\’s the ISP\’s and the US governments fault for not upgrading or providing an incentive to upgrade the nations broadband infrastructure.

    Comment by Chris -

  6. You should check out the BitTorrent cachelogic protocol:

    http://torrentfreak.com/cachelogic-and-bittorrent-introduce-cache-discovery-protocol/

    The Cache Discovery Protocol allows ISPs to detect their customjers most popular torrents, cache the data, and seed it. ISPs like it because its cheaper to use bandwidth within their network than to use external traffic.

    This fixes the whole last mile inefficiecy of BitTorrent traffic. The exact same thing can be done for live P2P streaming, eMule traffic and any other P2P traffic.

    ISPs simply need to install one caching server for every few thousand customers, and algorythms optimizes the caching on those cache servers, this will speed up P2P file sharing for customers using P2P, it will speed up bandwidth for customers that are not using P2P and it will lower the bandwidth costs for the ISPs, so everyone will be happy (just maybe not the media moguls who want to keep control on the media).

    Comment by Charbax -

  7. no war! everythings will be good with sex.

    Comment by yusuf guler -

  8. Some people flat-out can\’t afford to distribute their content by buying their own server or paying another service provider for the site bandwidth. P2P enables those less fortunate with something to contribute, to go ahead and contribute that special something. And if you did the research you might find that you last mile (I assume we\’re talking about literally the last mile of cable from the exchange to your house) is barely affected.

    Comment by Healyhatman -

  9. Mark Cuban, I\’m calling you out. Marcos Pinto is my real name and I live in West Chicago, Illinois. Come and try to sue me, you ignorant, self-intitled little baby. You can talk all you want in a blog, but what are actions without words? I\’m the lead developer of Deluge Torrent (www.deluge-torrent.org), which is a p2p client. I say we stop playing games and let the courts decide. I\’m all in; are you?

    Comment by Marcos Pinto -

  10. Mark I dont think you have any idea what you are talking about. P2P is not affecting your Internet connection at all. Its sure not affecting mine. Its actually more efficient to use P2P to distribute a file then to have the same file sent and recieved 1000 times over. Please do some research before you talk about internet issues ever again. Thanks

    Comment by Wriley -

  11. Arguing legal or moral concerns (or even infrastructure concerns) are irrelevant in the P2P discussion.

    What matters is what benefits users, and right now there\’s no superior alternative to P2P networks.

    There are basically 2 key points of P2P networks that keep people using them:

    – It\’s free. Yes, a lot of it is piracy. Users don\’t really care, and it\’s become quite obvious at this point that there\’s not much that industry can do about it. Their best bet at this point regarding piracy is to change their business model.

    – You can get everything you want at any time, on demand, in high quality formats.

    The last part there is probably the most significant aspect of the networks. Traditional content distribution models do not favor the consumer in any way.

    TiVo has greatly improved this situation for ordinary people; we\’re no longer bound to primetime programming and programs being cancelled due to overtime of some sporting event that we don\’t care about in the first place.

    TiVo doesn\’t solve everything, though. If I want to watch \”Pulp Fiction\”, I\’ve basically got the following choices:

    – Rent / buy the movie at the local store or rental place or netflix (takes time, might not be in stock…I want to watch it NOW, not next week!)

    – Wait for it to come on TV (what if it doesn\’t? What if it\’s edited for content?)

    – Watch it on netflix.

    The first two options suck. The netflix option is pretty good, although I still can\’t easily sit back and watch it on my living room television.

    On demand services such as that offered by comcast are starting to get good, but they\’re still woefully limited compared to what I can get on P2P networks.

    When video on demand is widely available, and has comparable coverage of materials as what can be found on P2P networks, you\’ll have found yourself a replacement for P2P. Until that happens, P2P users don\’t really care what the technical, political, legal, or moral issues are. They just want content.

    Comment by Kevin -

  12. i appreciate your desire for a fast, last-mile connection. i want that too. however, i think that opposing p2p is the wrong approach. i will address two major points below: innovation and cost of service.

    the internet was founded on the idea that all computers are peers. i suggest that much of the early innovation, that brought us today\’s internet, happened because of that environment. if we want to continue to see strong innovation in our ever increasingly connected world, it needs to be peer-driven–without an artificial separation between client and server.

    putting that opportunity for innovation in the hands of the people is also a way of leveling the playing field–a way of bringing equality to the world. that\’s good by itself and it will in turn increase innovation. we don\’t require all businesses to rent an office to get started, many are started at home. why can\’t internet service be the same?

    or the kid at home for the summer, with an old computer, just trying something.

    i don\’t believe last-mile bandwidth needs to be that expensive. a few years back, one small cable carrier told me that they could run and maintain a last-mile cable connection, basically the infrastructure to provide cable modem service, for $10/mo and still make a profit. of course, that last-mile cost is shared with cable-tv service if you have it.

    add to that cost bandwidth, which in any quantity, is pretty cheap, and we really should be getting speeds that are comparable to places like japan or south korea for something similar to what we\’re paying now.

    i suggest that in the case of comcast, they\’re spending a significant portion of monthly revenues not on the service, but on advertising other services. i receive 3-5 ads for comcast per week, always full-color and glossy, and often for services i already have.

    further, comcast\’s issues with slowness or outages seems to be their own incompetence. perhaps it\’s the same with other providers?

    ultimately, it seems that perhaps a lack of competition is causing last-mile isp\’s to get fat and lazy–like an early version of the big movie studios. restricting p2p only helps that. what we need is something to shake them up and get them running hard again.

    one more thing. frankly, it\’s myopic to assume that everything\’s merely audio or video and that google\’s offer of free hosting is a sufficient answer. it\’s not and that\’s a cop-out. google may or may not maintain that offer. encoding audio into a video stream is an unnecessary and unnatural hassle. google\’s one-size-fits-all may not fit for whatever reason, such as quality, aspect ratios, codecs, etc. anything with any interactivity doesn\’t work there at all.

    open source software, and other things that people do and want to give away are also problematic when you have to buy expensive colo space.

    there are lots of reasons to not only allow p2p as a transmission medium but to also push for symmetric bandwidth over the last-mile (which should help the congestion). some basic QoS is probably appropriate too, as long as it\’s source and destination agnostic. that is, prioritizing all voip traffic, regardless of provider, is good. prioritizing one voip provider and deprioritizing a competitor isn\’t good.

    Comment by tm -

  13. Mark, hello again. The \”last mile\” argument is fallacious … as has been pointed out. It\’s mostly down to management of bandwidth in the longitudinal sense (over time) and the lateral sense (what\’s my data pumping RATE at present?). Where we have oversubscription to a pipe of a fixed size, SOMEONE gets bumped. For certain. Bigger pipe, less jam. Or … spread the load … if the pipe size is limited, then advertised rates cannot be achieved – simple. The solution is with the telcos managing their networks better and allowing users to shape their own traffic profiles (to a degree) – hell, attach different pricing models so you can balance your own needs (speed/volume/bit of both) …

    Mark … your opinions are as welcome as anyone elses … but boy, do your homework on all levels before you shoot from the hip.

    Good luck defending this argument😉

    Comment by Paul Rodda -

  14. Hey Mark,

    Read these:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Network_coding
    http://research.microsoft.com/camsys/avalanche/

    Blanket statements about anything only demonstrate your ignorance on a subject.

    Comment by Josh J -

  15. the open secret is that almost all the P2P users wanna get \”interesting\” contents which are just as irresistible as meat and are hardly authorized and legal enough to be found in Google Video. It\’s hard to persuade people to get away from their desires just for the operator and other\’s good. Probably the day when P2P goes to hell is the same day either we find a substitute for meat or we all become vegetarians.

    Comment by Allan -

  16. I posted my response to your recent P2P blogs over at my site – http://www.punxit.info

    Comment by Jessica Perry -

  17. Your views on how P2P is used on the internet by filesharers is all wrong. First off, as a consumer, I pay for my bandwidth just like Google and everyone else. I have a right to use what I have payed for how I see fit. It is not like an all you can eat buffet because I am limited by how much I have payed to my ISP. Second, illegal files that are shared through p2p are created by individuals, not companies. Third, the real purpose of p2p networks is to offload the uploading from a single source. Instead of a centralized server that would have to have a huge upload bandwidth (and have an idle download bandwidth), P2P relies on the clients donating a small amount of their upload bandwidth in exchange for small amount of other peoples upload bandwidth. Just as a file/web server uploads more data than it downloads, home consumers download more data than the upload. P2P is actually MORE efficient by utilizing that wasting bandwidth. If you don\’t believe me, go download an anime fansub using a torrent client.

    Back to the restaurant analogy, consumers do not get an all you can eat buffet, they pay for a meal. Just as you can do whatever you want with your food on your plate (take it home, give some to someone else, etc), you can do whatever you want with the bandwidth that the ISP has AGREED to give to you. IN conclusion, the restaurant analogy is actually like taking the food on your plate in a to-go box and later exchanging it with someone for something different. You are not stealing the food, and later reselling it. You are taking something you have payed for and trading it with someone else something different.

    Comment by Josh -

  18. I think that you\’re missing the real problem here: overselling of the last mile bandwidth. P2P is today\’s culprit for \”overusing\” this but, if you get rid off P2P, something else will come along tomorrow or the next day and we\’ll be having the same arguments all over again.

    Under the current last mile infrastructure, it isn\’t possible that every customer can get the advertised speeds they have paid for 24/7. Two quick solutions come to mind:

    (1) don\’t sell unmetered bandwidth (unless you are going to charge the real cost of providing it). Give customers a monthly allocation in GB and, if exceeded, they could pay per additional GB or accept a vastly reduced speed for the rest of the month.

    There are ways to manage this to take up slack capacity in the network. For example, if 2 am to 5 am is a quiet time then you could let users send/receive 2GB in that period and only count it as 1GB against their limit and so on. Just a variation on the peak minutes and off-peak minutes idea that telephone companies use

    (2) presuming that P2P and similar apps are here to stay, look at how to manage these to minimise their network impact.

    Actively look to cache data from popular torrents (so the ISP could almost act as a seed for leechers within their network segment, at least) or look at giving your customers a P2P client which favoured seeds within your network segment (thus reducing traffic to and from the rest of the internet) rather than treating all seeds as equal.

    As for Google Video et al being the panacea for hosting online video, let me know when they (or someone else) have one of your HDNet films in full HD quality at a reasonable price and I\’ll think about it. Until then I\’ll buy it on a shiny silver disc.

    Comment by Colin -

  19. Mark writes: \”Because if it wasn\’t costly, we all would already have 1gbs to our home via fiber or free wireless everywhere.\”

    Mark, we already paid for this years ago via absurdly enormous tax breaks for companies that had said they\’d deliver \”the last mile\” – remember Global Crossing? Verizon? Quest? They all said we\’d have mega fast connections because they got such generous breaks.

    Well, turns out this was all a fraud. The US lags far behind other nations in rolling out high-speed information services (for a million reasons other than outright FRAUD) even though we\’ve already paid the agreed price.

    Maybe for users in the US, P2P has last-mile issues, but not for much of the rest of the geographically compact world (Japan? Korea?) that are already connecting large percentages of their populations.

    Comment by Jeremiah -

  20. The problem with the approach providers like Comcast are taking is that it\’s way too indiscrimate; there are examples of them blocking things like people synching their Lotus Notes databases to their work servers, a totally legitimate use.

    Comment by Remco -

  21. Hey Mark,

    I\’m a shameless self promoter of my AI engine that we are building to help predict and increase probability of success in films of an independent nature. That being said, one of the things we are going to need is a good platform for delivery of those films. One company that i have been watching is group out of Kelowna, British Columbia called http://www.itiva.com

    They are a P2P group with a great model. You should check them out…

    Anyway…when you want us to develop and fund a film of yours through our engine, just let me know.

    By the way…I am huge fan of day and date…it is the future!

    cheers

    Comment by David -

  22. Mark:

    I use Linux (I\’m sure you\’d have heard of it) exclusively on my computers, which is developed, tested, and distributed for free by people who generously volunteer their time. Distribution disks are becoming quite large these days, sometimes up to the size of a full DVD (4.6 GiB or so). Previously, Linux software distributors depended on ISPs to donate bandwidth via HTTP and FTP mirrors on their networks.

    BitTorrent was a godsend for Linux distributors, since it allowed users of a particular Linux distribution to not only donate their time, but a portion of their broadband bandwidth for the cause. This is a perfectly legal use of the system, and it\’s an example of how technologies like P2P can be used for a good (i.e. perfectly legal, non-infringing) purpose.

    To force users to upgrade to a commercial line in order to use these technologies would be a veiled price hike for Comcast and its ilk. Furthermore, it would be a crippling and unnecessary tax on free software\’s most promising distribution model. If I am sold 5Mbps, then I should get 5Mbps, or it should say on the agreement that my P2P traffic is shaped, in order to be perfectly honest advertising and in best compliance with FTC standards.

    Comment by Kevin -

  23. I believe the arguement is not against P2P networks in general, or even the distribution of content by a last-mile user. The problem is when the last-mile Residential user re-distributes someone elses content.

    For example:
    User A creates content and distributes it through a p2p network. Residential-User B downloads this content. User A has every right to distribute their content with the bandwidth they purchase.

    However, Residential-User B then uploads this file to User C, D and E. User A is now distributing content using bandwidth that they are not paying for. So basically, Residential-User B is now reselling its bandwidth to User A, even if there is no monetary exchange.

    Now everyone is going to argue that User B has the right to use the bandwidth they pay for. However, User B is basically becoming a Service Provider on a residential-user last-mile account. The only justification for User B\’s right to distribute this content was if User B was a \”commerical\” account.

    Long story short, if it isn\’t your own personal content, you need a Commercial Internet Account to distribute someone else\’s content.

    Comment by Wesley T -

  24. Mark,

    I belong to a Barbershop Quartet society. Every summer, our international convention is streamed from wherever to the homes of the members who cannot travel. The cost is astonishing, and it is very inefficient. Six percent of our members are on Comcast and 7 percent use AT&T. If we switched 1000 streams to a peer-to-peer model, we -reduce- the impact on the ISP backbones by reducing 60 Comcast streams to as low as one and 70 AT&T streams to as low as one. We also reduce the costs to our membership and our non-profit organization.

    As another user pointed out, the last-mile bandwidth belongs to the user who purchased it. They upgraded from $20 dial-up plans to $55-75 broadband plans to get that bandwidth. They should be able to use it however they want to!

    Robb Topolski

    Comment by Robb Topolski -

  25. Wow,

    You certainly have picked a topic with lots of opinions🙂

    Much of it seems valid to me, could you maybe elaborate on the 50pct inefficient for sending the same bytes. I didn\’t quite get that part. I\’m sending them to different users right, not the same user over and over? Same as if I had an ftp server, I\’m serving the same bytes over and over to differernt clients, but it\’s not 50pct inefficient. Maybe I\’ve misunderstood though.

    I personally don\’t think P2P is the problem. It\’s just a tool like a hammer or splitting an atom. I think the way the tool is used can become a problem to the extent it effects others.

    Comment by JP Russell -

  26. For those of you who like the buffet analogy, that\’s like saying you paid for the buffet, so its OK to take as much jello and mac and cheese as you can carry and walk outside the restaurant and sell it or trade it.

    This analogy falls apart. My purcahse of a buffet allows me to get an unlimited amount of food. My ISP does not let me get an ulimited amount of bandwidth. Rather, they offer me 6 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream–and I should be able to use all of that.

    The problem is clear. The ISPs are overselling their capacity. If the model doesn\’t work for them to live up to their offer, they need to change the offer.

    Comment by Chris Woods -

  27. Mark,
    I live in a developing country, but am a big US sports fan. At times I have tried to pay my local cable operator, MLB, and NBA digital media real American $$$ to get the games that I want. The cable company can only give me about a tenth of the games that I\’m looking for and MLB and NBA streaming are too fast for my connection (why don\’t you guys offer a lower bandwidth???). So I go to China and the good folks there will happily pirate NBA games that I want to see with the ads included. The programs are inefficient and do slow down my computer, but are far MORE EFFICIENT than any of the NBA.com or MLB.tv servers I have tried to access in the past.

    P2P will not outcompete google video or youtube as a hosting mechanism, but that is b/c 90% of the traffic is pirated music and video (mostly pornography). But it absolutely destroys both MLB and the NBA in terms of streaming video delivery systems. Care to explain why?

    Comment by dan k -

  28. It boils down to whether one thinks we should pay-per-bit for content transfer, or would prefer to pay-per-bps for bandwidth.

    For example, I currently buy 8M down/768K up from Comcast. And that, by golly, is what I should be able to use, regardless of how. Comcast isn\’t billing me for bits, I\’m paying for bandwidth, for the ability to shovel that many bits per second up or down these hoary tubes.

    In contrast, my webspace provider charges me $1 per gigabyte of data transfer. And, (unlike Comcast), I fully expect I will get exactly what I pay for.

    So, if you\’ve paid for bandwidth and you\’re crying because some other users actually USE the bandwidth they\’ve paid for, (which Comcast appears to have oversold by many times over what they can actually provide), then you need to review your ideas of supply and demand, and ponder over just what it is you paid Comcast for. Comcast needs to do likewise.

    Comment by Gregory Bloom -

  29. Mark, I have to agree with many people here, going so far as to say that P2P is a more efficient use of the last mile. Very few people make anywhere near full use of their upload allocation, which is what is being used most when seeding. If you are in need of preserving your upload pipe then I would really like to know what for.

    I would also agree with people here that say they should get to use what they pay for. If I am paying for a 24/1 down/up connection then that is what I should be able to use. Now we all know that practically that is not true, in which case it should not be sold as such. That\’s less a comment to you than a rant about the poor state of reality in the consumer ISP market.

    I really believe that bandwidth should be the only differentiating factor in ISP connection fees and that they need to be forced to be technically able to back what they sell.

    Comment by Matt Large -

  30. The problem is that while bandwidth has a cost, it\’s being given away for more or less for free; when users are getting theoretically unlimited bandwidth, the incremental cost for more of it (say, for a P2P application) is zero. So if you can use something that costs you nothing to get something you want, that\’s an economically rational choice.

    The problem with the approach providers like Comcast are taking is that it\’s way too indiscrimate; there are examples of them blocking things like people synching their Lotus Notes databases to their work servers, a totally legitimate use.

    Rather than try to play bandwidth cop and shutting down the wrong people, providers need to change the economic basis that makes heavy P2P use an appealing choice. Cap the bandwidth so the incremental cost is no longer zero; people will either not use P2P so much, or will pay for it, which means that providers can make money off of it and manage their network resources appropriately.

    Comment by John Whiteside -

  31. The problem is that while bandwidth has a cost, it\’s being given away for more or less for free; when users are getting theoretically unlimited bandwidth, the incremental cost for more of it (say, for a P2P application) is zero. So if you can use something that costs you nothing to get something you want, that\’s an economically rational choice.

    The problem with the approach providers like Comcast are taking is that it\’s way too indiscrimate; there are examples of them blocking things like people synching their Lotus Notes databases to their work servers, a totally legitimate use.

    Rather than try to play bandwidth cop and shutting down the wrong people, providers need to change the economic basis that makes heavy P2P use an appealing choice. Cap the bandwidth so the incremental cost is no longer zero; people will either not use P2P so much, or will pay for it, which means that providers can make money off of it and manage their network resources appropriately.

    Comment by John Whiteside -

  32. The problem is that while bandwidth has a cost, it\’s being given away for more or less for free; when users are getting theoretically unlimited bandwidth, the incremental cost for more of it (say, for a P2P application) is zero. So if you can use something that costs you nothing to get something you want, that\’s an economically rational choice.

    The problem with the approach providers like Comcast are taking is that it\’s way too indiscrimate; there are examples of them blocking things like people synching their Lotus Notes databases to their work servers, a totally legitimate use.

    Rather than try to play bandwidth cop and shutting down the wrong people, providers need to change the economic basis that makes heavy P2P use an appealing choice. Cap the bandwidth so the incremental cost is no longer zero; people will either not use P2P so much, or will pay for it, which means that providers can make money off of it and manage their network resources appropriately.

    Comment by John Whiteside -

  33. Hey Mark,

    Just one question. Were Travis and the redswoosh p2p guys doing bad things in your mind when you invested, and before they sold to Akamai?

    Comment by Hank Williams -

  34. Mark,

    Let\’s say I\’ve discovered something rare and I want to share with my friends. 1GB DB of fantasy football information, telescope shots, video of a friend\’s birthday. And since Google Video is not truly private, there is a reason I would not want to go there, let alone current Flash video quality.

    If I HTTP POST these things to my friends(let\’s say 50), I\’m sending the same bytes 50 times – and being the initial seed, I never downloaded, so I\’m woefully inefficient. Even downloading my discovery initially puts me at what, 2% efficient? Much, much worse than your 50% above.
    I can\’t remember the math as of right now, but I believe that with BitTorrent, the more popular a file becomes, the more likely that the actual efficiency will approach 50%. 50 People might get me 30%.

    \”I personally don\’t want to see my connections slow down so P2P users can resell bandwidth to someone who isn\’t willing to pay\”
    Is that someone an individual (like me) or a corporation? As far as I\’m concerned, I am paying Comcast a set fee for a connection, as much as any hosted service has. A corporation relying on me – that is something else entirely, and you haven\’t distinguished that in your posts. Comcast hasn\’t in their actions, either.
    That Comcast has set up their network in expectation being in an ADSL world while we are rapidly transitioning to an SDSL one is a failure on their part. Well, DOCSIS as a whole you could say.

    Here\’s something else – if I\’ve paid for Comcast\’s business cable modem, should they still be blocking my P2P apps? Since this will still slow down your last mile.

    Comment by Dave -

  35. Mark,

    Just a quick thing to add. I think the buffet analogy needs fixing.

    It\’s OK to take as much jello … 2048 grams, for example, for arguments sake
    But I\’m also paying the buffet to give away 512 grams of it however I please.
    I give away all 512 grams of it, and allows another buffet go-er to give me 1024 grams of cheese, because he wants jello, and the line is too long.

    Sounds weird, but it does make sense. I own my download, and I own my upload. It\’s not reselling. If it was, wouldn\’t uploading videos onto Google Video, and streaming from Google Video be the same thing? We are taking and giving bandwidth, and if no one uploads, it would fail… just like P2P.

    If its the last mile, blame the ISP for advertising what they cannot offer.

    Comment by Derek Wong -

  36. Mark, There are legitimate P2P applications that I don\’t think you want to lump in with anonymous file sharing (or distribution). Consider screen sharing, either one-to-one or one-to-few. Consider VOIP and voice conferences (Skype, iChat). There are also servers located in the home that serve up data to families when they are away, etc. You\’re rightly concerned about upstream bandwidth on networks you share with your neighbors. But it\’s important to distinguish between services that legitimately use that bandwidth and those that might not.

    Comment by Brad Hutchings -

  37. Mark,

    You do realize that P2P is used for a LOT more than just file exchange & bittorrent?

    The largest example is Skype. Skype is built on a core of P2P. Rather than a central switching system, Skype is a large, p2p grid. And as a result offers an amazing service to millions of people (literally changing the world in many places – and skype is not the only voip system that uses p2p though it is probably the best known and most successful)

    Joost, which is much more questionable as to whether it will succeed or not is also built on a core of p2p.

    The internet IS designed to be p2p – from the routers to servers to core functions like mail routing they were built to have peers exchanging data with each other. What most people don\’t realize (but which is what p2p at its most basic is doing) is that modern personal computers ARE capable of also being servers – i.e. not just requesting data DOWN from the network but also sending it back up to the network.

    And the network is built for this – but in many places with some built-in chokepoints. Most DSL in the US, for example, is asynchronous – with faster download speeds than upload. This is a decision made by the telcos as to the technology they would deploy and what tradeoffs they chose to make (distance over speed, number of systems they had to install in their backoffices etc).

    But, prior to widespread adoption of p2p type technologies most users on the internet did not make much use at all of their upstream capabilities. It was there, and used lightly when entering data on a webpage, sending an email etc.

    I would also note that P2P works BETTER on a large, widely distributed network than on a small, private network. On a widely distributed network any single transaction is NOT between one computer and a single other computer (i.e. replicating the traditional client/server model) but rather is one computer to many computers – each providing a piece of the data needed. This results is some overhead to coordinate, but also allows for a great deal of flexibility, redundancy, reliability, and speed. Any single machine and that machine\’s connection may be close to saturated – but is usually not the only source for a key bit. In the case of a torrent, a well seeded torrent downloads very fast – and as more people request it the speeds go UP (more peers) not down.

    i.e. p2p grids get better as more parties participate in them (if the coordination code is well written) NOT as so much else on the network worse with scale.

    As others noted, content delivery networks are, in essense, p2p grids – but where most (or all) of the nodes are controlled by a single entity – but they are still usually distributed across the larger Internet and generally use p2p like technologies to spread out the requests (and loads) across multiple machines.

    Google itself is the operator of what most people would agree is the largest grid out there (or if not among the largest and probably the largest owned entirely by one company). Their search index and other apps are spread across 1000\’s of computers, distributed globally, and their response to a request is then distributed likewise.

    So though I think i get what you are talking about – I have to disagree.

    That\’s not to say that better technologies or restrictions on poorly designed systems shouldn\’t be enforced. Nor that bandwidth providers can shape their traffic to a degree (though I\’d rather they concentrated on getting true broadband to US homes – i.e. fiber to the home, and delivered in a synchronous no asynchronous manner)

    Shannon

    Comment by Shannon Clark -

  38. Mark,

    I\’m paying for 1.5down/1.5up. Thats mine to use how I please.

    To deal with this oversubscription issue: I understand part of the ISP model is to oversubscribe. I\’m ok with that, but I sure as hell better be getting my 1.5/1.5. If not, you need to either make me pay more to really get my 1.5/1.5 or fix the oversubscription ratio so that you can deliver the class of service that you are selling.

    How can you agree with the idiots that say you can\’t do what you what with the bandwidth you pay for? Thats like selling an unlimited bus pass that will only take you certain places. Or how about if you paid for a certain amount of electricity, but since the power company oversubscribed your neighborhood they had to drop the power output to your homes during busy times?

    Come on, this is nonsense. The cable companies are ripping us off by pulling stunts like this to make their over-over-subcription model work. I\’m surprised to see someone as brilliant and forward-thinking as you jump onboard with these clowns.

    Comment by David -

  39. Flickr are known censors.

    YouTube has terms of service with many elements based on the United States puritan background and modern-day religious fundamentalism.

    Both are owned by the two most visible gatekeepers on the Internet. Oops, did I say \”gatekeepers\”? I meant \”enablers\”😉

    It is so seriously hard to understand why you appear to be suggesting that the answer the last mile issues and bit-waste is to oblige the gatekeepers.

    Why is it extremely hard to setup a distribution network for media? Isn\’t it in large part because the cost of entry is so high? If the very few gatekeepers can make such extreme amounts of income, wouldn\’t the barriers to entry just be growing larger?

    I realize it\’s all complex, we all do. But P2P, not blogs is the most powerful mechanism for free-flow of information in the world today. It tears down just about every known barrier to distribution and communication in the world today.

    Oh, and about the \”gatekeepers\” term: If you can\’t be found on Google, do you exist? Google is a massive reputation network with a secret formula for determining whether you are on page 1 or 1,000,000,1 of their search results. It\’s of course extremely useful, but its still not transparent, nor is reputation the only consideration in the pursuit of personal freedom.

    P.S. If Comcast is one of the few networks willing to carry HDNET, isn\’t it good form to mention your conflict of interest along with your endorsement of their practices?

    Comment by Marcus -

  40. Mark,
    What was the aha moment when you decided that p2p was not such a great idea? You put your money on the other side of the argument when you invested in Red Swoosh, and it looks like you came out of that deal just fine since Akamai bought them for $15MM.

    I don\’t buy your argument that p2p makes the last mile inefficient just because clients are sending and receiving the same bytes. I do agree with the inefficiency due to the retransmit.

    p2p will actually make the last mile more efficient once critical mass is achieved. If a host does not need to send a file more than one router hop away, then it is more efficient to have the content stored in the last mile. If there were 10 people on your block, and they all wanted a certain piece of content, then that would be 10 streams from Google video from their closest distribution node. The same bytes would get transmitted 10 times from that node to the last mile and then to the end user. If the content was cached locally and served up via p2p, then it would all get transmitted on the network segment serving the last mile and not touch the upstream network. This in turn will free up the upstream part of the network to provide better service to the last mile.

    Comment by Doug -

  41. I\’m not following how bandwidth I\’m paying for is being \”resold\”. It seens to me that you are labeling downstream bandwidth as \”ours\” and upstream as \”theirs\”. When I pay my internet bill, I\’m paying for a download AND and upload bandwidth. It\’s listed in my package plan clear as day, no confusion. If I download a torrent, I\’m using my downstream bandwidth. If I seed that torrent, I\’m using my upstream bandwidth. No resale, just using what has been paid for. In many cases for me it\’s not even a matter of \”using all I\’ve paid for\”. My uploads rarely exceed my total allotted \”speed\”. Come to think of it you may be confusing \”speed\” and \”usage\” as well.

    I think you need to stop seeing the internet as a tangible product, and take it for what it is. They call it the world wide web because it is just that, a web of information going to and fro, here and there. When I buy access to the internet I\’m buying access to that web in whatever direction or form I choose, and is allowed by my terms of service.

    That \”last mile\” you write about is outdated information. The \”last mile\” issue is constantly being addressed through ongoing infrastructure upgrades. Comcast has also increased its bandwidth \”speeds\” twice in the last few years in many of its markets. There hasn\’t really been a bottleneck of any kind in quite some time, and the current bottleneck hotspot is dealing with the cable spectrum, not the the internet.

    Comment by Tony -

  42. Mark I think you\’re wrong on this. And how can I prove it?

    Akami. The primary company behind content distribution. Guess what their CDN does behind the scenes? Something that can be considered very P2P\’ish. So P2P isn\’t bad, it\’s just changes the economic game.

    What does that mean? What you\’re right about is that companies that use P2P to distribute their paid content are leveraging their consumers to distribute the content to other consumers. Is this a bad thing? I pay for my bandwidth. I don\’t just pay for a downstream link, but also an upstream link (I want to be able to RDP into my Windows machines and SSH into my linux boxes that I have at home). If it\’s cheaper to distribute content via P2P, those cost savings can be passed onto me (not saying they are, but they can be). Though it\’s not always cost savings, it could be time savings (say, buying a game from Valve off of steam instead of buying a retail box copy in the store). I give something to the vendor as I get something out of it, a pure economic transaction.

    Efficiency has nothing to do with it. Yes, an http download is more \”efficient\” than an a bittorrent download in measured in \”tota bytes transffered\”. However, its also less efficient by a different metric, namely the \”use it or lose it\” metric. If I\’m not uploading, that bandwidth is wasted. I can upload and download at the same time w/o really impacting either one tremendously. Therefore, in a P2P system no matter how much bandwidth the content provider throws at the problem, a P2P system will always be able to have more, without really impacting the efficiency of the download. In fact, it can make the download happen faster especially in the case of flash crowds.

    But as I said, it\’s an economic problem, not a technical one. If demand for bandwidth exceeds, supply prices will rise. If prices rise, the economic decisions that I and the content provider make will change. However, as ISPs are increasing bandwidth caps across the board without raising prices (time warner just increased download rates to 10Mbps in NYC and elsewhere, while keeping the same prices that just a couple of years ago got us 5Mbps) it would appear supply in the last mile is more available than you would think.

    Comment by spotter -

  43. Get dsl instead of cable. With dsl you have a constant guarnteed speed. Your bandwidth isn\’t shared with everyone else.

    Comment by David -

  44. personally, i agree with you. however, i dont think the typical user consciously cares about (or is even aware of) the cost of bandwidth. slower download = \”slow computer\” and may result in disrespectful putdowns shouted at computer monitor and/or erratic over-clicking of mouse button. they know not what the cause is for this reduced performance or how to improve the process.

    the issue may be more with entitlement, as people feel that they should be able to have access to any and all things quickly and at no cost, as well as share property with others at no cost. whatever system is perceived by the user to meet their impulsive desires more conveniently is the vehicle used to do so, and P2P is less threatening from a \”is this legal\” standpoint. in addition, i would venture to say that circa 95% of internet downloaders have no clue what \”P2P\” even is. And if you are a host of said information and are assuming that you wouldnt lose customers to slower connections, why pay to centralize if you can P2P?

    Comment by Seams -

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