A Question about P2P Technologies

Peer to Peer technologies are getting more and more press lately. Verisign and Adobe signed a deal, The Venice Project, BIttorrent.com is announcing content deals, and of course there is the ever present treasure trove of illegal content available online via torrents.

The reason there has been excitement about P2P technologies built around BitTorrent type technology is simple. It saves bandwidth on file distribution and it creates the opportunity to speed the delivery of files, large or small. If it were able to live up to the hype, the notion is that how multimedia is distributed on the net, and its economics would change.

I’m not as sure it will as some others are.

The premise of the technically is to break up files into pieces and distribute those pieces on to the PCs of end users who have downloaded the BitTorrent type client. Then when a user requests the file to be delivered or streamed to them, rather than having to go to a host server, a tracker determines where all the file pieces are, and defines how the user reassembles them into a copy of the original on his or her computer as a file or a stream.
Thats the very, very simplific explanation of how it works.

From a business perspective, the important element is that if X number of people request a 1gbs file, rather than a host computer having to deliver files consuming Xgbs, the file is tracked among the peers and delivered using their bandwidth and resources , relieving the host of the bandwidth cost and obligation and hopefully speeding the delivery of the content

All good, right ?

For people creating content. Absolutely. For the end user, not so much.

P2P technology expects the end user to contribute bandwidth, hard drive storage and processing power. Something that in most cases, we all have available to spare. Most of the bit torrent client softwares have a “give to get ” algorithm , In other words, it will opportunistically deliver content to you as quickly as the bandwidth you make available to it. So if you make 100k of bandwidht available to upload file segments being hosted on your PC, it will allow you to download up to 100k (there are other variables involved, but this is the simple way to understand).

All of this works very, very well in controlled environments. It also works well on a public internet tests when there are a lot of clients fully participating. In other words, they are offering their bandwidth, and open to seeding all content.

In real world execution however, it doesnt happen that way. There are multiple problems with P2P systems that could kill the golden goose.

1. Conflicting Clients . There are a ton of clients, with the number growing all the time. Although they work on basically the same source code and protocols, they all install and operate as if they had exclusive access. They want to control the PC so that they are in charge of what resources are available. When multiple clients are installed on a PC, not only does that create confusion among users, its a “last installed, first in charge” approach. THat approach and lack of respect for other clients will lead to user configuration problems. Thats not going to work. At some point they get considered to be malware and the clients will get uninstalled

2. End Users dont understand how P2P works, and once they do, they get concerned about giving up bandwidth. Most users dont know how to go in and edit the default settings. So even if they settle on a single client and are happy with just the content available on that network or to that client, they arent going to be happy about their banwidth being in constant use to save a content provider money .

3. The P2P model of seeding is a HUGE problem for those using wireless broadband with bandwidth constraints or per bit or per minute costs. People are going to wake up and find that they owe Verizon, Sprint, whoever a lot more than they ever thought possible because they installed a client on their Laptops. That could lead to these networks blocking the protocol.

4. There is a misconception that there is bandwidth savings for the end user. If you want to download a 1gb size file, 1gb of data will be delivered to your PC. There is no savings of bandwidth on the client side. In fact, the client is charged a bandwidth premium because after they have received the entire file, they are asked to particpate in the peering by delivering parts of the file to other users.

This in turn becomes an issue to services providers, whether DSL, cable, whoever. If quite a few users on a network segment are seeding files, it can slow down the network segment..

Its interesting to note that some feel that more than 55pct of internet bandwidth is consumed by Torrents. I dont know what percentage of internet users are using bitTorrent clients to acquire content, but it has to be relatively small. If that percentage doubles, what happens to performance on the net ?

If bittorrent client installation doubles or triples, does the pct of internet bandwidth used by torrents go from 55pct to 100pct ? Of course it wont work that way, but the 55pct to current client base ratio raises some very interesting questions about whether torrents truly do save bandwidth and can speed delivery of content

In conclusion, P2P is a product that tests great. In application however, it has a ton of challenges

73 thoughts on “A Question about P2P Technologies

  1. Well nice try for a good article for p2p but
    falls short on your examples and final conclusion.
    The truth is simple, torrent is access and the only reason why it
    might cause troubles for ISP is in the core problem of internet today.
    it is an old hardware. and my p2p dream will become true once ip6.
    or CISCO and others wake really up to calls like OpenFLOW specification
    for programmable routers!!!

    Comment by ppetrovdotnet -

  2. Mark, buddy, stick to basketball and venture capitalism. You\’re way out of your league here.

    I could rip your entire post to shreds, but I\’ll keep with one paragraph in the interest of time.

    Point #2 is flimsy — at best. You suggest that if Average Joe knew that BT clients were uploading as much as they download he would be deterred from using the protocol. What you obviously fail to understand is that 99.999% of broadband users consume about 00.001% of their monthly bandwidth allocation. (By \”available\”, I mean the amount of bandwidth that one could squeeze out of his ISP if he left his BT client open all the time — encrypted across the board — and didn\’t throttle-down the upload speed.)

    You may be arguing, \”That is precisely the reason that consumer networks are so log-jammed; if everybody only used 00.001% of his available bandwidth each month, the problem would be solved!\” Well, yeah, but Comcast would be raking in hundreds of millions of dollars per month in subscription fees without actually having to do any real work. That\’s how \”successful\” corporations operate, Mark.

    I also have to point-out a complete oversight on your part. You were under the impression that the BT protocol/clients \”save bandwidth\”? What ever gave you that impression? There\’s no such thing as a free lunch, Mr. Cuban. SOMEBODY has to bear the burden of the information transfer (\”cost of bandwidth\”). The point of the BT protocol is not to \”save bandwidth\”; the point is to DISTRIBUTE the seeds (\”master copies\”) as widely as possible so no one seeder is choked by innumerable peers.

    The other purpose of the BT protocol is to send massive amounts of ENCRYPTED data so scumbag pieces of trash can\’t dictate reality to the masses. We\’re going to send whatever files we like to one another and that\’s that. And, frankly, we don\’t really give a sh*t what kind of impact that has on your checking account, Mark.

    The fact of the matter in this game is that the \”illegal\” users can never be sorted out from the \”legitimate\” users, and that is precisely the tactic that hackers, crackers, and pirates use to assimilate and then conquer. How do you think the Windows Vista OEM crack functions? It makes it impossible for Microsoft to sort out the pirated versions of Vista from the legitimate versions. (Yes, the cracks work for Vista Ultimate, if you want to go out and save $400 without committing any crime; it\’s not illegal to install a BIOS emulator on your machine.)

    Lastly, you appear not to realize that market demand (for \”pirated\” content, in this case) dictates the pace of technological and intellectual growth. In other words, to answer your seemingly sophomoric question as to what will happen when BT data accounts for an even greater percentage of traffic, the providers WILL increase the load-bearing capabilities of their hardware. Either that or go out of business. In case you didn\’t notice, America (and the rest of the world) are hungry-hungry-hungry for all their binary desires — smut, games, movies, software, and probably some sick digital fetish that I don\’t even know about. We\’re all criminals, buddy, and this train ain\’t stoppin\’.

    You can conjure up all the paltry arguments you like. The BitTorrent protocol, and Internet \”piracy\”, for that matter, are not going away. But perhaps you acknowledged as much in your post.

    Comment by Gabe Lager -

  3. Yes, the proper model is for the website to pay millions for the bandwidth, not having the end user trade some of his for the download. That way we can make sure only billion dollar companies can be heard.

    Comment by Edward Mann -

  4. There\’s a good review of P2P networks called \”The History and Evolution of P2P networks\” at http://www.sriraminhell.blogspot.com . It\’s pretty informative. Check it out guys..

    Comment by Sriram Sridharan -

  5. I don\’t think anyone believes that there is any kind of bandwidth savings… That is not really the point of Bittorrent. Yes, you have to upload as you receive, without which the whole thing wouldn\’t work. The point is that you receive the file you are downloading much quicker than if you were downloading from one computer (server or peer). The reason for this is that when you download from one server, you are limited by the upload speed of that computer. With Bittorrent, you do not have that limit because you are downloading multiple pieces of the file at the same time from different clients…

    Comment by Chris -

  6. My thoughts based on Mark\’s post and the comments followed, and I have these points to prove BT\’s has something going for it:

    1) TV Media content right now is controlled by the Big Cable Companies (e.g. COX, Rogers, etc). What you want to watch is dictated by them. Yes there is Video On Demand, but you don\’t have any flexibility to watch other content produced by users, popular websites, or simply stuff that is not on TV any longer (i.e. first episodes of Prison Break, older movies). Even with VoD you don\’t have the option to buy it and watch it later or burn it to a DVD.

    2) The reason we\’re stuck having TV media content spoon fed to us, is that these Cable Companies control the _distribution_ of content. If you, me, or anyone else wants to distribute their own TV contents, it\’s not possible unless you have $$$ and those Cable companies approve it.

    3) Internet as the new distribution medium. YouTube is taking advantage of this: it allows anyone to post and _distribute_ video content for _free_. It\’s like your own channel to publish stuff to the world v.s. being limited to what the Cable companies want to show. This I believe is the essence of YouTube.

    4) The problem with using the plain old internet and http interface is that high quality/long-length content is too bandwidth intensive, as such only small clips or low-quality long episodes are available from media providers. No one provider can serve a content spanning gigabytes to hundred of thousands of clients.

    This is what BitTorrent Protocol solves — making the internet into an efficient distribution medium for content by distributing the traffic load with other peers.

    However the _implementation_ of the bittorrent protocol sucks, because:

    a) The clients available are too complicated. You have to munge around with too many settings, ratios, etc. that can have a profound effect on your dl/ul speed. It should be easy to use as a web-browser.

    b) content deliver is to my computer. This isn\’t really the fault of the bittorrent protocol, but all bt clients are implemented as computer programs. This means, I can only view content content on my 20inch monitor. This pales in comparison to my 50inch+ TV. Yes, I can proceed to burn the content on DVD, but that is another manual process. Or I can stream the contents to my TV, but I need yet another device that interfaces both to my TV and the computer located in my bedroom.

    c) I have to spend a lot of time to _find_ content amongst all the noise, download it, and then open a program to watch it. I mean after a long-day at work, I come home to my wife and kids. The last thing I want to do is poke my nose in a computer and waste 30 minutes to an hour trying to _find_ good content.

    d) Finally, bittorrent is only really good for _popular_ content where a bt client as a lot of peers/seeders to download from. The minute you have only a couple of seeders, you have to fall-back to a centralized distribution model…which is not good if many users are requesting unique content from a single seeder.

    Granted most of these implementation warts can be solved by anyone who utilizes bit-torrent to make content a) easy to use, b) integrates with their TV as a Tivo-like settop box, c)finding content is easy, and d) and ensuring their BT architecture can still fall-back to a single seeder using a highbandwidth server (or a couple of BT servers distributed geographically in major cities and countries).

    And making things easy & integrated is where the real Money is, and the first companies to do this Right will succeed I think.

    In fact, I\’m involved in a startup that is solving these problems now.

    Comment by Kashif Shaikh -

  7. After reading Bram Cohen response to this article first, then actually reading Mark’s thoughts, I must say that both offer a wealth of great information. Let’s applaud Bram for the technology, but you have to (as always) respect Mark’s strategic business vision. Bittorent is great technology but certainly has challenges to overcome if we are to use it as a commercial revenue generating tool.

    Bandwidth, wireless, ISP TOS, and last mile issues aside (I think Mark covered those beautifully), Bittorent needs a proper business model to succeed. The only way I see that happening is if the content sellers came up with an iTunes like store front interface and used Bittorent (with private trackers) as the delivery system. So what is holding it back? Once again, as Mark frequently points out, DRM is the killer here. I would be more that happy to pay for high-quality HD versions of my favorite media, but I wont start doing that until I am free to use them as I wish. When I purchase something, I should be able to port it to my iPod, stream it to my HDTV over my Xbox, burn it to DVD to play on a Divx-enabled player, and make un-restricted backups to protect my investment. This is why I don’t use iTunes or buy DRM-enable media. Oh yeah, and it has to be easy enough for my parents to use if you want to attract users and make any real money 🙂

    Comment by tblogger -

  8. not understanding something is not an impediment to people using it. how many people who use telephones actually understand telephony networks? or the windows os for that matter.

    as for the proliferation of clients, most people gravitate towards a particular client – the ones their friends use/recommend, or the one that they find usable.

    usefulness is the final arbiter for technology. if people find something useful, they use it. otherwise they don’t. (not that this prevents people doing phds1 or selling marketing surveys that demonstrate this 🙂

    usability affects which version of a tech people use, along with cost and so forth. but it doesn’t stop them. vcrs sold quite well in spite of being considered the epitome of difficult-to-use tech.

    microsoft would not exist if ‘a ton of challenges’ was a killer.

    1. one of my colleagues, for example.

    Comment by maelorin -

  9. Newgroups FTW.

    Bittorent technology is aging pretty fast. The RIAA, while not taking it down completely has managed to make a dent in the bittorent beast. Sadly, this technology is no longer ‘underground’ and is being used by many regular ‘Joes’ now.

    Newsgroup is accessible, faster downloads, and complete anonymity. For a price of course. But its totally worth it.

    Comment by Vic -

  10. BT is not good for proprietary media distribution. Why? Because the swarm is not controlled or secure. I can make a fake tracker and mirror your swarm if I get access to your tracker once or I ask my buddy who’s downloading your movies to give me the IPs of everyone’s he’s seen. Then with the most rudimentary client I can just hop on and discover more peers all without the main tracker.
    This is ignoring how it is easier to do the distributed tracking instead. So yeah, bt is totally inappropriate for old media who thinks they need very proprietary solutions. The only way they can protect themselves is via heavy handed technologies like DRM (BT works fine if you are trading fully DRM’d files).

    Comment by Cuba Joe -

  11. I find it hard to believe this was posted in 2007. P2P such as BitTorrent has already proven itself, mainly as a way to distribute files with less than average legality, so to speak.

    Comment by Toon -

  12. “In conclusion, P2P is a product that tests great. In application however, it has a ton of challenges”

    Mark, nice post. All new technologies have challenges, and P2P/P4P technologies will get their footing.

    It is undeniable that the resources at the edge of the network need to be leveraged more aggressively. There are great oppritunities for businesses that can make the power of the edge of the network available at low cost. On that note, I’ll link to http://btsharp.com.

    Comment by David J. Smith -

  13. I too have seen Reeltime.com’s P2P streaming site. I have done some extensive research on the subject and am hard pressed to find a competitor that offers the picture quality and such a low price structure. I believe the P2P network is a very efficent transfer for media delivery, after the success of Napster and the many others who have followed in the P2P structure please show me a more efficent medium for delivery.

    Comment by Michael Mccaskill -

  14. Re: 16. and the download of Pans Labyrinth . . .I still have a problem with this presumptive mentality that it’s ok to download “free” movies from P2P, as if the copyright infringement and theft is the responsibility of the P2P service and not the end user.

    How can you afford your laptop, and 32 inch LCD screen and your Internet service? Oh, you have a job (or if a student, your parents pay for it). Well how long would you be able to keep access to any of that if customers kept coming in and taking the product or service you (or your parent(s) sell) without paying for it?

    This indulged presumption of free entitlement is a sad commentary on a generation that has no respect for the creative and intellectual property rights of the content producer. And it’s too easy to say ” ya ya . . . but everyone’s doing it”, because theft is still theft.

    What would happen if you walked into BestBuy or Circuit City, and grabbed a DVD, a CD or a Game and walked out without paying? You’d be hustled into a room, after the alarms stopped, while waiting for the police to arrive and charges to follow.

    As you say “Getting a movie or music for free still has quite an appeal to it.” Well how appealing is the knowledge that you’re a crook or a thief . . . how appealing is a criminal record?

    Granted, new business models are being constructed around free or subsidized content through sponsors, but let’s cut the BS, torrents have mostly been enablers of theft. And the larger crime is the self-deluding way that torrent users have justified the practise to themselves.

    Comment by Willem -

  15. dismissing p2p altogether is naive.

    There are some co-operative ecosystems around
    p2p. for example, open-source advocates would
    volunteer resources for distributing the linux
    distribution. Similarly, public programming
    (BBC/PBS) may be distributed by supportive

    Comment by rs -

  16. I have seen p2p used a few times successfully by publishers of content, and normally the clients are optionless and the average user doesn’t even need to know they are filesharing. The clients are also proprietary, and only download the content they were intended to (the World of Warcraft patcher). These “closed clients” will be more and more prevailent in terms of mainstream content distribution, while “open clients” will stay mostly where they are popular, with warez or just subcultures getting entertainment/movies out.

    I’m trying to see possible opportunities here beyond just content providers saving bandwidth. It would be nice to have clients embedded into websites of content providers so that one doesn’t even have to download a client at all (ex: a higher quality youtube that has p2p built right into the movie player). However, there is no way in in javascript or flash for two different movies running on two different machines to communicate with each other natively. They can only connect to socket servers or flash remote servers, but not to each other.

    I can see some opportunity in creating ready made clients that any content provider can easily seed movies into and offer them as proprietary downloads to their own users if the need to distribute large files/movies is there.

    Comment by Zak Kinion -

  17. Wow, I can’t believe you are as successful as you are with this level of comprehension, of course, you didn’t get rich on bt so you must not care enough to learn. Let me destroy every point you made really quickly.

    1: This is actually a BENEFIT of BT. You can CHOOSE what client you like, and what works best with your system. And, THEY ALL WORK TOGETHER. I can have Azareus (which I do) and share files with anyone using ANY BT client. How can this possibly be a negative? The one and only downside that is even worth mentioning is if someone installs MULTIPLE clients on the SAME system. Even in such a case, its only a problem of file-structure management, which client handles the file. It has no impact whatsoever on the speed/reliability/functionality/etc/etc/etc on the files you are downloading. This is a concern for SERIOUS NOOBS only.

    Now, if we are talking about a new system of distributing BT, wherein other clients are BLOCKED from working together with whatever client you have, then there could exist a problem. The way it works now though… full compatibility.

    2. “So even if they settle on a single client and are happy with just the content available on that network or to that client”

    LOL! I can’t believe I just read that, you obviously are not familiar with how BT really works. “… just the content available on that network or to that client?” Ok, so what are you trying to say here? Cause the way BT works now it is fully compatible across all clients. Are you trying to say that a company will come in and block clients and restrict what you can download to just their programming? OK… that makes sense, but show me one alternative where a customer has the ENTIRE collection of content avail in the world? Even iTunes, which is huge, only has a limited selection up to this point. So basically you are saying that BT will have the same problem that ANY company wishing to distribute restricted files would have.

    You basically said: Noobs may have a problem with BT cause they dont understand it. Is that really what will kill the next great innovation? New users not understanding it at first? BTW in case you are new to the internet, noob means a new user that doesnt know what they are doing… it takes a special class of idiot to stay a noob forever. Everyone learns.

    3. Who in the US/Europe has any problems with this at all? I certainly don’t, and I’m sure I have the same type of internet provider that most people with broadband have. I mean… it’s either cable or dsl. I’ve never even seen a broadband plan that charges per mb, not saying they dont exist, but obviously they are not the norm. Making stuff up here that could be a problem for the minority of users. Does Windows halt their production of Vista simply because there are some users out there who’s PC cant handle it? No, they expect users to upgrade if they want to use Vista. Come on.

    4. And now we are really getting into how little you know about this topic. Some clarifications:

    “In fact, the client is charged a bandwidth premium because after they have received the entire file, they are asked to particpate in the peering by delivering parts of the file to other users.”

    For starters, it does not happen after they have received the entire file, ‘peering’ happens during the download, once the very first segment of the file you download has reached your pc. Your pc turns around and finds out who needs the segment you have downloaded and starts uploading right away. Another genius stroke of BT, you can begin uploading file segments as you download them… you do NOT have to wait til the file has finished the download.

    Once the file has finished… and you have a full copy on your system, you begin what is called ‘seeding’ not ‘peering’. A seed is a full copy of a torrent. A peer is someone, like you, that is downloading the file (and simultaneously uploading).

    “Its interesting to note that some feel that more than 55pct of internet bandwidth is consumed by Torrents. I dont know what percentage of internet users are using bitTorrent clients to acquire content, but it has to be relatively small.”

    And I quote: “but it has to be relatively small”. Really? It HAS to be? Rly? I think you vastly underestimate how popular BT has become, how informed internet users are, and how limited your own vision of the internet is.

    “If that percentage doubles, what happens to performance on the net?

    If bittorrent client installation doubles or triples, does the pct of internet bandwidth used by torrents go from 55pct to 100pct ?”

    Do you think that the internet will cease its expansion from here on out? Do you think that companies will stop finding ways of pushing data faster and faster across their cables? Do you think that companies will not try to find means to increase the bandwidth they can offer their clients? Lol. If you were to assume the internet was a stagnant, forgotten, unresearched, unimproved system, then yes… this may make some small bit of sense. That is CERTAINLY not the case, however, in the real world that most of us live in.

    “Of course it wont work that way, but the 55pct to current client base ratio raises some very interesting questions about whether torrents truly do save bandwidth and can speed delivery of content”

    And for my last point, this one caught me as lol-able. Are you serious? You are questioning whether they save bandwidth and speed delivery? IF THEY DIDNT THEY WOULDNT TAKE UP THE ESTIMATED 55% THEY ALREADY DO. You think you know better than all those people? You think they wouldnt have given up on BT if there was no advantage to it? Get a clue! Rather, you should be saying – “Can ISPs provide enough bandwidth to their users to keep up with the ever increasing amount of BT p2p sharing?” There is no question is saves bandwidth and speed… the reason it takes up so much is due to the VAST AMOUNT OF DOWNLOADS going on, and the INCREDIBLE POPULARITY of this system.

    Comment by Slave1ilo -

  18. “I always understood that P2P works great if the file you request is shared often. (Please correct me if i’m wrong). What about those that are not? If you really want to have some kind of service for each possible download, those have to be taken care of as well. And i assume those files are the vast majority, albeit they could nevertheless end up as negligible since any money-earning mass-hype would center on files that are quickly available more often.”

    That’s right; But drive space is cheap. We host large files via torrent, and as a PROVIDER it’s far cheaper, popular files go out to more people quicker, less popular files don’t cause any undue strain. Everyone wins, all users get the files they want, and new files don’t throttle the site (see the problems MS had with Video Marketplace these would happen with a torrent like system).

    The next generation of p2p will not work on individual files, but chunks of data, the key file keeps record of the hash of all the parts I need, if I have them already I don’t have to download them again. This also means, that if I’m downloading the latest I could pull data from someone’s music library, or a binary for a linux distribution.

    p2p is not going anywhere – the future shows signs that it will override such dated protocols as HTTP, no more dead slow sites like this one.

    Comment by Anton -

  19. I used bitTyrant to download a movie about three teens falsely accused of murdering three young boys. At the end of the movie
    it showed documents which the judge criminally vandalized to try and cover up his miss deeds which ultimately will save at least one boy from death row. Television would never cover such subjects and the subjects television will not cover keeps growing, so bitTorrent is the only answer.

    Comment by Dan Plesse -

  20. Ah… But my friend you are missing what p2p really is useful for.

    1. Zero configuration.
    2. Failure proof (given a large enough pool).

    Let suppose that you run a content distribution center and you need to prepare for delivering 50TB of content, feeding the network at 10Gbps.

    You purchase 1000 level pc’s each with a 100G drive, 2 ethernet cards and a cd drive for ~$500. Just to keep it open source, we’re going to run the machines from a knoppix cd which also leaves the disk free for file “chunks”.

    So what, you’ve just blown $500K, but capex is nothing, thats a fixed cost, its the opex that really hurts. So now lets see where you really start to save.

    Zero configuration – this means you don’t need a highly qualified staff to configure or manage this system. Since you only need 50TBytes, only 1/2 of the machines “have” to be working at any time. So you can hire a low skilled worker to go around and replace the dead machines every week or so. You replace broken units with new hardware (you can decide if it’s worth the expense of replacing under warranty) and you don’t troubleshoot the broken ones.

    You use one ethernet to talk to among the storage programs, and the other ethernet to serve files. With 100M ethernet cards it would be easy to fill a 10G outgoing pipe. The server app wouldn’t have to service many clients which each which keeps the ip or tcp overhead low. You use half tcp sessions to load balance coming in to the cluster.

    P2P is not just for stealing, ask Google. And what if you’re a somewhat large organization with several hundred workstations just sitting idle most of the day? Bong…

    Comment by Craig -

  21. A couple more related blog posts this morning as Adobe continues to make steps into this space, one on Om’s always well-written blog describing Adobe’s potential path, and one on my blog contemplating their chances of success:

    Comment by gz -

  22. You have to get facts,
    1) Once you have enough seeders you have to upload little or nothing.
    2) World doesn’t only contain united states, there are other countries which are more democratic than yours, we don’t pay our leg and arm to get basic services.
    3) Bandwidth savings in the sence saving at the server side, not at client side, if you are a startup want to distribute some software or other media content you don’t need a datacenter with gigabit net to host it.
    4) One more lame remark is “User are stupid”!!!. No they are not, people who ever uses bittorrent clients are mostly tech ppl, So I don’t see any valid point in your argument.
    5) Where did u come up with the figure than BT has 55% internet traffic share ?, Already 70% of share is taken by spam mails if spam mails didn’t doom the internet then how BT is gonna doom ?

    PS: Sorry, I didn’t thaught you are a kid, I forgot to see your myspace profile.

    Comment by Vamsee Krishna -

  23. if you fix the long haul and metro broadband networks to deliver real time video without packet loss this whole arguement would not be of substance. at that point the edge becomes an after thought.

    Comment by mark b -

  24. The skype guys are launching joost (www.joost.com) to address p2p tv quality video distribution. Briefly,

    They plan content distribution to be paid by ads, so it will be free to end-user.

    High quality encryption and compression will be used to limit user bandwidth requirements to 400Kbps-500Kpbs for ordinary TV and not more than 2mbps for hidef content.

    A seris of big video-server farms will be used to supplement the computing resources provided by the users.

    Complete article at,

    Looks like they have thought through the p2p limitations for internet content distribution and trying to address it. Who knows, it might just work!


    Comment by Anand Gupta -

  25. In the end, the platforms that will win will be hybrid CDN and P2P delivery methods.

    P2P helps reduce the issues with managing a fully deployed CDN infrastructure, while augmenting a P2P platform with a small edge CDN helps offset issues with seeding.

    Verisign, CacheLogic, etc. are all examples of companies that are building media distribution platforms that leverage both technologies.

    Comment by Jeff Geiser -

  26. Interesting post Mark, our writers posted a story you might find worth reading in regards to this post: http://www.zeropaid.com/news/8236/Mark+Cuban+on+BitTorrent%3A+%22Seeding+is+a+HUGE+problem%21%22

    Comment by Jorge -

  27. You need to have a look at the private torrent trackers where there are INCENTIVES to share and upload. What happens is that users have specific ranks associated to how much they upload. If users have a high ratio (upload more stuff than you download) then you get benefits in the tracker: either I can have more torrents running at any given time or I can download stuff before anyone else, or I get invites that I can send to my friends, and so on.

    What will happen with the big media boys distributing stuff via bittorrent is that, to decrease bandwidth costs to distribute content they will give discounts to users that share the content they downloaded with other users and make the distribution process faster. Provided users sharing this content are charged a flat internet fee per month (instead of a fee per Gb), they will have all the incentive in the world to download stuff as soon as they can, and seed it as long as they can so they can get benefits from the media company for seeding the file.

    Think about it. Buying content from the net and downloading it with bit torrent makes a lot of sense.

    1-If the “seeding” incentive is up and running, people will try to buy stuff to seed as soon as the content is released so that they have a high share ratio (and hence get bonuses from the media company). The reason they will get a high share ratio if they download before anyone else is that they will be a seeder when everyone else is leeching: they will give much more than they took.

    2-This means “incentive to buy as soon as possible”, which is something great for the media company (cash flow)!

    3-This also means “incentive to share as much as possible”, which means increased delivery speed to all leechers in the pack, which means faster downloads and hence higher satisfaction

    4-If you want to extrapolate you will even increase customer lock in. Think about it. If you shared a movie with everyone else and got a high seeding ratio the media company will give you a bonus. Guess where is the only place you can actually use this bonus??? It’s the perfect customer lock in. Something like mileage cards. It is the 1001 nights: you will be coming back for more all the time. It’s crack!

    Specially for you Mark, that has very large content in your hd movies, this model would be perfect: top speed downloads, which is fundamental for big files, an incentive to share, bonuses to keep downloading stuff, and so forth. Write this one down: there will be a movie in 2007 released FOR FREE via Bittorret just to inaugurate this concept and make everyone not already in the illegal side of the equation jump in the concept of bt.

    5-Just an idea that occurred to me while I was typing all the rest: the incentives for seeding stuff not necessarily need to be discounts to download more stuff in the future. It can also be used in conjunction with other products of the same company such as MOVIE THEATERS, which is perfect bundling and also gives people an incentive to go to the theaters because they downloaded and seeded movies.

    This whole seeding/uploading has the potential of being the new airmiles phenomenon. And everybody is better off with it (even the net infrastructure companies, as users will have an incentive to upgrade their lines since they will want to share more and more to get discounts).

    So, distributing and tracking stuff via bit torrent makes a lot of sense both for the user and for the media companies, provided you give people the incentive to share and they are charged a flat net fee per month.

    Distribution via bittorrent is the future Mark!

    PS: I’m looking for a new job 😉

    Comment by Henrique Valle -

  28. Hi Mark- good post, you have identified some of the issues around P2P. A free flow file exchange system certainly exposes the end users to potential hits on performance, bandwidth charges (for those on a toll system) and usage of resources when that individual may not ever need a piece of content. All a peer based system ultimately represents is the holy grail of any networking solution, that is..distribute the load.

    After working with you at Broadcast.com, where we ran a centralized system, which was perfect for the business model, I worked for Kontiki, which is now the technology that powers the Verisign/Adobe announcement. The idea is peer assist, tightly controlled by central servers and with many possible tweaks and profiles to protect various end user elements. After reading your post, it shows we are on the right track, as we can address the majority of what you have identified.

    Thank you- Harvey

    Comment by Harvey Benedict -

  29. As for me – eDonkey is much better. It’s decentred. You can’t close eDonkey at one moment. But Torrent has http basis. It’s much easy to close them. And torrent links will be gone

    Comment by Ruby -

  30. Another excellent post.

    I could be wrong, but I remember reading that you are an investor in RedSwoosh.

    So the way I am reading this post – either you have learnt something from that experience or you are pointing out all the risk but still think it is worth a bet.

    Comment by Ashish -

  31. I agree with a lot of people above (Dustin, James Stevens etc), these all seem like minor points here. Don’t get me wrong, I ususally have great consideration of your thoughts, but here it looks like you’re more into a debate on “why my HDnet won’t die by ipTV desease” than into an open-minded discussion. First 4 points are just excuses. Consumers don’t give a damn about those technical things because that has NOTHING to do with P2P or Bittorrent for them. Those things let me download stuff. That’s it, I don’t want to know anything else. And that’s a fact. Millions of people are already using BT to download illegally right now when I’m writing (yes, also HD stuff).
    5th point is different and makes some sense envisioning a “bandwidth apocalipse”. I have no data on this (no idea how much Google is paying for fiber and I’ve read that 55% in hundreds of posts but still don’t know where it comes from) so I really can’t tell. If I had to guess,judging from how fast BT is going these days, I don’t see us heading into that direction. But if you have clearer data on this, pls share and I’ll gladly change my mind. Cheers.

    Comment by Simone -

  32. You appeared in a dream I had, Mark: http://shanthology.blogspot.com/2007/01/air.html

    Comment by Shan -

  33. http://www.ReelTime.com is doing this now. They are able to stream dvd quality through a modified p2p method that insures the security of the content. Major content deals are on the horizon for ReelTime.com. No need to be illegal about it, based on the feedback from CES and this week at NATPE, the studios have already decided that this is how they want their content delivered in the future.

    Comment by Cory -

  34. I also believe P2P is NOT the way to go in the future. With the decreasing cost of bandwidth in the future, the economies of scale that can be achieved through consolidation – I dont understand why people consider P2P the SXXT

    Easy online income

    Comment by Josh -

  35. Aren’t you an investor in RedSwoosh Mark?

    Comment by Yaron -

  36. I always understood that P2P works great if the file you request is shared often. (Please correct me if i’m wrong). What about those that are not? If you really want to have some kind of service for each possible download, those have to be taken care of as well. And i assume those files are the vast majority, albeit they could nevertheless end up as negligible since any money-earning mass-hype would center on files that are quickly available more often.

    But for a complete solution the “unwanted files” have to be hosted somewhere, and in the end i don’t see how this then would be different than before.

    Comment by Joachim -

  37. I guess i dont really understand why you just single out bit torrent when talking about p2p. P2P software is becoming more and more of a business software than anything else. Just look at Microsoft’s “Groove”. Not a perfect product (from the lotus creater). but a business use of P2P nonetheless. I think alot of people are finally noticing and evaluating P2P impact within the Software Development Lifecycle process and investment in that manner is very justified.

    Comment by Mike Verinder -

  38. Great points Mark.

    However, there are very easy fixes to the problems u address for end-users. Mainly using the proper client and second, searching for torrents with a decent number of seeds.

    http://ts.kurtubba.com/ fixes the second issue.

    uTorrent fixes the first.

    The end user, us 20 year somethings, couldn’t care less about the issues related along as we can find a quick fix around them and get out digital media. We will sacrifice a half hour on message boards and google to work around a problem that may hamper other soccer moms for weeks.

    Keep up the good work with the Mavs! I’m right down the highway from ya in Garland. And also, it’d be nice to hear more of u on Russ’s show, maybe in-studio one day.

    Comment by Brandon Campbell -

  39. BitTorrent has 135 million users worldwide. That pretty much says it all. LOL

    Comment by Kevin -

  40. How about Peer Impact that gives its end users up to a 5% system credit for uploading data on thier closed p2p network .


    This creates an incentive for users to leave their clients open and resources available to the network .

    Comment by Matt -

  41. Dorian, Mark’s unique writing style gives this blog some character, and that’s one of the reasons why I read it; becuz he is an independent thinker and his content is almost always original. Not only that, but I like following Cuban becuz I do live in Dallas, and I’m a Mavericks fan. I just wish his group bought the Penguins, they’ve been my fav NHL team since I was 5 years old.

    If Mark were to correct all the spelling/grammar in his blog, it really wouldn’t be as raw. I think he just types as he thinks and leaves it be unless it’s a huge error. IMO, it’s much more entertaining to read.

    Comment by James Stevens -

  42. “Thats the very, very simplific explanation of how it works.”
    – Mark Cuban

    Simplific. That’s fucking beautiful. For all your spouting off about how stupid people are, you might want to learn the damn language.

    Am I the only person who’s disturbed by the fact that there’s absolutely no emphasis whatsoever in our educational system or professional world on proper spelling and grammar? The English language facilitates communication, which is essential to business and commerce.

    I have no idea how Mark became rich while having the linguistic skills of a chimp. I imagine pure luck had a lot to do with it.

    I used to check this blog because I heard so much about Cuban being an independent and inventive thinker, but I just can’t get past the rampant illiteracy. It’s appalling. It makes most of the MySpace blogs look like The New York Times.

    Imagine, if everyone rote like this; It would be terriblifying.

    Comment by Dorian McCreary -

  43. Mark, Interesting observations. The usage case for BitTorrent is anonymized P2P rather than efficient distribution. The distribution angle is an attempt to legitimize the technology, and I think what you really might be saying is that it won’t. If you have to distribute content, you might like to (a) decentralize distribution and (b) offload bandwidth costs to others or leverage unused/free bandwidth. Systems like Akamai solved (a) very early in Internet age. The mirror large content geographically close to downloaders to ensure fast, uncontested delivery as well as load balancing among many companies. I would think that the next step would not be BitTorrent, but would be software that let you allocate your unused upstream to being an “Akamai server” for some company. You could use some application to bid on delivery and then the main server would point to you when someone wants to download a file and you would deliver it and get paid for successful delivery. Contrast that system to the effective zero-sum game of BitTorrent. When all the bytes are communally shared, there have to be the same number of bytes sent in total as received. But when we add a little money incentive to the system, some people will sign up to be net givers, while it will be perfectly OK for most to be net takers. Send me a Dirk Nowitzki autographed ball and I’ll build you a prototype.

    Comment by Brad Hutchings -

  44. Mark,

    Every I know who uses wireless data – either via wifi or EVDO plans here in the US does so under unlimited plans (or in the case of wifi under typically no plan at all.

    I use bittorrent a fair deal – to get a wide variety of content otherwise unavailable. My experience has been that it is generally very fast – and often significantly MORE reliable than more traditional download processes. I also subscribe to a lot of podcasts (both via Doppler Radio a decent podcatcher and via iTunes) in both cases a very real and significent number of my podcast subscriptions routinely run into problems where only a part of a larger mp3 file is downloaded (typically happens with mp3 files between 30 and 100mb in size – very few podcasts have larger files than that).

    On the other hand I have routinely downloaded 1-5GB files (or collections of files) via Bittorrent – and while indeed there have also been errors there – they have almost always been caught and handled by the software, with the net result that when the bittorent shows that it is completed, I had all of the original files. i.e. not only did the downloads happen quickly, they were also more reliable and errorproof than more traditional downloads (and yes, I know that you can do something similar with good ftp software or other download tools – but the defaults in iTunes, Doppler Radio and the “save as” function within Firefox / IE do have these problems).

    Also as a consumer I am very happy to trade some of my upload bandwidth (which is typically vastly underutilized as all my servers typically are in hosting centers, not my home or office) for reliability and speed when downloading large (or small) files.

    I use Azereus – which has a universal binary for Macs, Windows and Linux systems (and any other platform that runs Java) – like most other bittorrent apps, it also uses bittorent to download its own patches. As a consumer the overall experience has been very easy and quite useful and enjoyable.


    Comment by Shannon Clark -

  45. David Weisman, you say viruses, worms, and the like shy consumers away from using P2P. I’ve been using torrents for quite a while now and while I have run into some malware, 99% of the time the files are in the clear.

    The few times I have run into trojans or malware included with a file, my anti-virus has picked it up. As long as you’ve got a strong anti-virus program, this isn’t really a problem. Why do so many people use P2P, when there’s a possibility of viruses? Because viruses aren’t even an issue, really.

    I think a possible reason why viruses aren’t a big issue for P2P file-sharing is that the people who generally make viruses (hackers, script kitties and the like) support file-sharing hardcore so why would they attack something they use often?It contradicts their strong support for file-sharing. The whole thing behind P2P is sharing files in order to obtain files. This concept is generally followed by anyone who understands how P2P works and use P2P networks themselves.

    Oh, David, you also mention something about scaring users away from P2P? I’m a victim; I once bought a CD that either forced me to install a separate program to rip all the content or rip nothing at all. How about the vast number of buyers DRM has scared away because its cumbersome, limited functionality… record companies keep insisting their products contain DRM which lowers the value the content. It restrictive functionality so much that it’s so much easier to just turn to file-sharing to obtain the same files… not to mention again that the files are much more valuable to the lost customer now. This type of experience is getting more and more common and that customer is lost to file-sharing forever because of DRM restrictions.

    Comment by James Stevens -

  46. I have to believe, to add to Dustin’s comments, that the true benefit of Torrents over the last generation of P2P is that
    a. music is organized into CD’s, and incase you haven’t heard, iPods are popular and have a ridiculous amount of space for listening to music. Will little johnny need the whole CD? Of course he won’t, but he’ll get it anyway.
    b. it’s more secure. KaZaa and all those other clients use to drop your connections all the time, and now torrents don’t. They sometimes don’t start, but once they do, they are usually good. Lets be honest, who had the patients to download a whole CD or an entire movie before torrents came along? Little Johnny didn’t.

    #1 point, Torrents are up, and so is the demand for content, and business 101 says THE CONSUMER (internet user) GETS WHAT THE CONSUMER WANTS(free media). It’s only a matter of time before normal people who aren’t on top of the curve in online technology figure out how to use torrents.

    Comment by Joah -

  47. Another problem with P2P clients, such as BitTorrent, is that many of the files are laced with computer worms and viruses. This shy’s away many possible clients and anger’s those who use them (me).

    Comment by David Weisman -

  48. This is one of those things most “average” people don’t really know much about. They just “know” when things take a long time to download or not.

    Comment by basketball tips -

  49. Seems that the model is dependant on a large disparity between the number of ‘client-servers’ with “Idle bandwidth” (and mips and storage for that matter) and the number of client-consumers.

    Perhaps the usage will never catch up with the growth of idle bw/mips/Gbytes, but it seems that the discussion should at least address whether the curves intersect, and how close they need to come before P2P model starts to clog up.

    Comment by Kim -

  50. Mark does have venture capital in Red Swoosh…. a p2p company

    Comment by Matt_ -

  51. I would have thought you would have given us some of your thoughts around Red Swoosh. This would have been a good place to update us on that. Has that been a positive or negative experience? It seems to me that their latest release is really good and while it doesn’t get the headlines of Kontiki or BitTorrent, it is just as good, if not better technology. Yes?

    Comment by Mike Lewis -

  52. Everyone is so wrapped up in large files..movies, etc. There are more than a few solid business models that don’t involve large files that P2P makes perfect sense. I can think of image search that would dwarf anything out there or a listing of stuff I have for sale without having to “signup” somewhere or pay fees. Think of a kickass Craigslist that is P2P without cost. Each post is indexed and the index is distributed, so even off line a contact can be established……throw in RSS P2P and lookout.

    Comment by David Armstrong -

  53. #2 is additionally a problem because in this model the content providers are no longer responsible for ensuring delivery of content in a timely manner. If I buy something online, I feel like I should be able to download it immediately, as fast as MY capabilities as a consumer will allow me.

    I’ve encountered several circumstances where content was made available solely on these networks, and performance was significantly worse that if it was hosted by a central provider.

    I’m sorry if I’m not willing to absorb distribution costs in return for a slower delivery method. Maybe you’ll find other consumers who will.

    Comment by chris -

  54. The Verisign distribution solution is based, in part, on Kontiki technology which addresses some of these problems with:

    1. A single mutli-tenant OS service that is the engine for multiple application instances. This keeps peering rules in one location and allows peering even when the user is logged off.

    2. Many controls to make the client experience good while they are using multiple applications. It will throttle back usage if the user is doing VOIP or email, etc.

    3. User bandwidth savings by reducing resends after connection resets as the user moves on and offline … it can also deliver via a more efficient UDP mode if available.

    4. Centralized content authority. Folks only get content that has been published by an authorized publisher. Content is virus scanned, encrypted, and signed. Checksums and client key checks prevent the user from getting the wrong content.

    5. Simultaneous delivery from a list of centralized servers and/or a trusted list of peers that are reporting back good QOS and are as few hops away from you as possible.

    6. The ability for a content aggregator to enable peering only between their customers. This lets folks create business models and user incentives for p2p participation. These “private distribution networks” can have their own rules with regard to upstream and downstream bandwidth utilization. They can also control distribution blackouts if they only want to deliver peer-assisted content during off hours.

    Check out the whole stack of content delivery services that Verisign now offers. P2P is just one component of a larger strategy to deliver content to a range of platforms:



    Comment by Erik Herz -

  55. The terms of service for most consumer internet connections forbids hosting of any service. In spite of the name (Peer to Peer), participating in a P2P service means that I am hosting a service.

    Then, of course, as others have hinted above, most consumer connections are unbalanced, so if I have a “fair” torrent client I am limiting my download speed to match my upload speed. I don’t download pirated movies or music so maybe that skews my experience, but most of my downloads (FOSS) are faster than my upload speed, often much faster.

    Why would I want to get slower downloads and violate the terms I agreed to when I signed up for my internet connection?

    Comment by William Reeder -

  56. You should look into Metalink, a hybrid mirrors/p2p content delivery network. It solves most of these problems and more. It’s already been delivering legit heavy content (3+ GB Linux software and HD movies).

    Comment by Ant -

  57. I don’t think there are long-term issues in your list.

    These are all valid points for the short term, and at any rate, it ignores the essential issue of IP.

    Studios, distributors, publishers, whatever, are better off with streaming solutions, not for download solutions. This is the only safe way to distribute HD content on a broad basis. The cable companies’ On-Demand model is superior to bit-torrent for most markets. Every other media has gone hosted, if you consider the difference between a website compared to a newspaper or magazine.

    I was surprised when Vista shipped without a central Download app like Itunes or Steam, in part because of the brilliance of bit-torrent approaches. But like the media companies, I think MS is moving more to hosting content. Their MSDN Labs show that they could just host Windows remotely and charge people like a utility company, which is no doubt a long-term goal of theirs. They could partner with cable companies to distribute a locked Windows server in neighborhoods/basements, this server would then be accessed from thin clients in multiple houses (people’s demands are really basic outside of gaming, which is moving to consoles anyway). Given the permanent issues of piracy and malware, etc. I think streaming media and hosted apps are the best long term bets.

    My own company is moving this way due to outsourcing and the number of folks off-site, it makes too much sense to go away.

    Comment by solomonrex -

  58. Mark,

    Most of your posts show more insight than this one. Luckily your readers have broader knowledge than any individual can. The collective coments have corrected most of your mistakes(FUD?).

    BitTorrent is a breakthrough in bandwidth efficiency. If BitTorrent is going to clog the internet consider the same amount of data being transfered via streaming or conventional downloads. Since the data trafic IS increasing rapidly the most effective technology to handle it will win.

    How many years and billions of dollars have gone into streaming? Where is the mass adoption of the resulting technology? Streaming has major problems scaling. BitTorrent improves as the scale increases.

    Only those frightened by content piracy are stil in denial of these facts. A TiVo type device running BT could solve almost all concerns, by only allowing the end user access to a simple search and play interface.

    Comment by TiVolater -

  59. 1. You must know that all BitTorrent clients are compatible with each other so I guess you refer to the occasional news we hear about a BT client being biased to download more with less upload, and gets banned by some trackers or clients for doing so. This is what happens: unfair or otherwise malevolent BitTorrent clients get banned from the community of clients/trackers. This argument works against your point because I actually shows how this community is self-regulating efficiently.

    The problem of running multiple BitTorrent clients on the same PC is real. The solution is to run BitTorrent as a kind of OS service, shared by all the applications that need to add torrent seeding or downloads to the queue.

    2 & 3. As the other commenters I think upload bandwidth is not any issue for anyone. Except of course for the unlucky ones who are stuck with a capped connection. Of course for them P2P is not a solution. But I’m pretty sure these kinds of connections will disappear in the long run.

    4. Bandwidth is essentially saved on the server’s side, you’re right about that. Even more importantly, LOAD (CPU, RAM…) is saved on the server side. That is a key point to understand what problem P2P solves that will still be relevant in the future.
    Take for instance a time in the future when everyone is pulling HD content, say 15GB a movie, thanks to their 100Mbps fiber optics Internet access. How big a server do you need to serve millions of people pulling that kind of bandwidth? A very very big one, even considering the evolution of server powers, RAM, disk access and all,it would need to be a monster server farm.

    I think, contrary to your idea, that it’s not a problem if BitTorrent usage grows, and even triples, because the network capacities are growing too.

    It all boils down to the evolution of technology, and Moore’s law which is still relevant. But you have to understand that performance evolves thanks to progress in Networks, in Hardwares AND in Software. And P2P is the paradigm shift that we need to make the next generation Internet distribution happen.

    Comment by Louis Choquel -

  60. When did you go from being a Maverick to being a Cranky Old Stormcrow? Seriously, lately you just seem intent on picking apart any technology you don’t have a VenCap interest in.

    1. Conflicting Clients: Have you actually used BT? Anything using the base BT code talks to all the other BT software. They all share with each other. Where’s the conflict?

    2. End Users don’t know much of anything. That’s why the GUI was invented – so that the cro-magnon majority of the consumer populace can click on the pictographs on the cave wall and grunt “Ooga-booga-unga-bunga” while they play video games and surf for pron.

    3. Wireless Network costs are dropping faster than you can say “Google’s Free Wi-Fi Network.” Have you read a newspaper lately Mark? Or are you spending all your time watching B-Ball?

    4. Bandwidth concerns: Vastly over-rated on many fronts. First off, as several others have already pointed out, for the end user, there really is no concern. As long as they get the content they want, nobody really cares where there excess bandwidth goes. For the Tier 1 and Tier 2 providers: Give me a break. There’s so much dark fiber in the ground that Google (among others) are buying up vast quantities on the cheap now, knowing full well it won’t increase in value for at least the next 10 years. Yes, Dorothy, there really is that much excess capacity in the ground. Given that there’s enough fiber in the ground to handle the increased traffic for at least the next 10 years, the only real pressure on the network is in the routers and other hardware. Moore’s law is keeping that technology well ahead of the bandwidth usage curve. Do your research and due diligence on the subject, Mark, that’s how you became rich in the first place.

    Sorry if I come off as shrill and harsh, but you’re way smarter than that post makes you look.

    Comment by John B. (No, really, my name IS that dull) -

  61. I guess this will play a bigger role as broadband for computers starts to include tons of movie downloads, etc. I’d bet the average user doesn’t require huge throughput right now.

    Comment by basketball -

  62. I agree with James Stevens. Giving up bandwidth isn’t a problem if in exchange you get a benefit from it.

    It will be interesting to see how they try to do a business model of torrents. I just hope they don’t “Napster” them.

    Comment by Lamarr Wilson -

  63. Well, after waving the red flag, you stand there in your bull-fighter’s clothes and we don’t know who you really are. And, on top of that, you’re usually a lot smarter than this.

    P2P file sharing has the potential to dramatically reduce the Internet backbone traffic moving the same bits around. If I can find them “locally”, I can get them over a LAN, or a local sub-net. Otherwise, I have to go to Mecca for them, wherever and whatever Mecca is. P2P file sharing is a solution to a number of problems … done at all correctly. None of the “let’s share the latest pop tune or ripped DVD” projects started from technical first principles. Others have. The results were spectacular but you’d never know it.

    Comment by Marty Heyman -

  64. The biggest problem with your post is that most of the users of torrents you speak of don’t agree with any of that. Dustin makes a few good points.

    People DON’T CARE if they give up bandwidth, they get FREE stuff FASTER. It’s a trade-off any file sharer will take any day. There’s no one who’s dumb enough to use torrents where they pay per minute bandwidth charges… unless they’re rich and don’t care. Torrent users are much smarter than that…

    The P2P clients won’t conflict. The client with the best product, performance, reliability, and speed will rise to the top every time. Note reliability means they have to have dedicated uploaders and lots of users and lots of actual files. The client that contains all these attributes will win, it won’t be the one who has the latest download available.

    Most people who use torrents know how they work at least in basic form, much like how you described, Mark.

    Comment by James Stevens -

  65. P2P is superior distribution technology in terms of efficiency – an intelligent implementation will result in less overall bandwidth usage because the content will be delivered from *servers* that are closer to the user. So the packets will therefore traverse less hops to get to the user, and, as you stated Mark, it is the same amount of packets regardless (ignoring potential compression schemes). However, superior user experience will beat superior distribution technology every time. So I think the success of P2P as a distribution technology to end users (it can also be used within the networks of content providers) is much more dependent on how the applications that use P2P evolve their front-ends. For long form video for example, will we get a better overall user experience than we do with NetFlix, broadcast, VOD, or (the new) Blockbuster?

    Comment by Galeal Zino -

  66. I see the importance of this from a technology perspective, but how big of an impact (or how much of an impact) does this have on the typical home computer user? I don’t think all that much, since they aren’t often downloading huge files. I guess it’s more of a business issue.

    Comment by wailea -

  67. Then there is the question of your own wait time and reliability, to get the file you need, or deliver it. When you talk about “files” in general and “people” getting files, you have to consider that there is a wide range of different purposes and priorities in delivering and receiving a file, or a bunch of files. For those who either have to or want to receive files via P2P, they risk never getting the file they want or waiting days to get it. With P2P, you are dependent on a hodgepodge of other peers who may be online, who may have decent bandwidth, and who may have their sharing bandwidth set to an “acceptable” bitrate. In my experience, even if 100 people are sharing the exact file you want, it still trickles in at rates that make a dial-up modem look fast.

    The most practical, efficient way to send and receive files is through a service that is being rewarded for its performance and reliability in serving up files. Services like filesanywhere.com will deliver your files to receivers reliably, at maximum download rates, and they even send you an email when receivers access the file. Plus you can setup “protected” shares so that only the people you want to receive the files have access to them.

    Again, it depends on the purpose and priority of the file sharing. For those who want to waste precious time TRYING to get a file, use P2P. For those like myself and my peers, who have very little time to waste, using a professional file storage service for 5 bucks a month makes way more sense than free P2P. For video, music, and photos, most of these services still give downloaders the choice to save the file locally or stream it and enjoy it online without downloading the whole file.

    Comment by Meredith -

  68. Um… hello? Have you ever used BitTorrent on the public internet? It works GREAT! That’s why it has risen to be such a high percentage of internet traffic. Maybe in the future excessive BitTorrent bandwidth will break the internet, but that would be due to the huge success of BitTorrent. So I don’t really see any point to what you’re saying here. Here’s my reaction to your 4 points…

    1. Conflicting Clients.
    – All the BitTorrent clients I have tried work on all torrents. It’s the same situation as music apps and MP3, and not really a problem. Most users will only ever have 1 BT program anyway.

    2. End Users dont understand how P2P works.
    – And they don’t care, as long as they get their downloads.

    3. The P2P model of seeding is a HUGE problem for those using wireless broadband with bandwidth constraints.
    – But it’s not a problem for the vast majority of internet users with unlimited wired broadband.

    4. There is a misconception that there is bandwidth savings for the end user.
    – Users don’t care about the bandwidth, the big win of BitTorrent is it allows users to get their giant file downloaded in a lot less _time_.

    Comment by Dustin -

  69. All good points, the key problem for project venice is how are they planning to stream video without buffering atleast 5 minutes for any potential peer outages.

    P2P is not a solution for video files, especially when you’re talking High-Def, or even DVD-quality. The best chance is video around the 200kbps range and the quality of that is shocking. Most people don’t have symmetric connections, infact most upload connections are capped at around 256kbps and under T&Cs using your connection to host a commercial service is barred on most networks.

    P2P is just not workable, it’s a poor stopgap provision and someone will pay for it. If you think about tier-1 providers who have few home user clients, what happens when their networks start getting swamped with P2P traffic? They start charging ISPs more for their peering agreements, ISPs in turn pass their fees onto the consumer.

    P2P is not a competitor of VOD because it can’t provide the bandwidth for better video quality than you could get from flash.

    Perhaps, another new technology buzzword is overhyped…

    Comment by Adam Cains -

  70. I’m currently working with a company that addresses some of your concerns…

    There’s nothing you can do about #3 (wireless minute charges), but if you could centrally control that client software to manage the bandwidth used..

    And as for the benefit to the client…what if P2P was the only way to access premium content? For instance, I don’t forsee HD quality content being streamed using current technology…but what if you could stream live HD content only using P2P? There’s value to the consumer for that, and they may willingly sacrifice some of their bandwidth (of which they don’t pay more for) if they can get quality live video streams.

    Of course, you bring up good points as you always do…but I see light at the end of the tunnel with the technology I’ve been playing with. It’s not released to the public yet, but if you want to demo it, ping me..

    Comment by Patrick -

  71. so this means that nothing is really “free”. someone, somewhere is “paying” for the slowdown caused by P2P users doing something they consider as free.

    there should be a separate web for text information to flow freely. and another for the hogs.

    Comment by greg -

  72. A few years ago in college P2P was a part of everyday life. We were always downloading music and video, eventually everyone figured out how to turn off the sharing with others aspect and it suddenly became alot more difficult to download anything.

    In principle its a great idea, albiet illegal.

    Comment by Michael Landers -

  73. Great post – the problem of Torrent traffic can be a huge nightmare for participants up and down the chain.

    Rough numbers based on your 55% – If Torrent Traffic usage triples (and other traffic stays stable) then Torrent Traffic would be nearly 80% of the Internet and total Internet Traffic would more than double.

    Comment by Matt McLaughlin -

Comments are closed.