Peer to Peer: An Overview

“P2P” or “peer-to-peer networking” is maybe one of the most controversial and interesting trends in the dawn of the new century; its complete decentralization challenges all definitions of private intellectual property and creates new technological, commercial and juridic challenges.

In this article I will enumerate some companies that provide P2P file-sharing services, after providing a short overview of the concept and implementation of P2P.

Technology

In a few words, the term peer-to-peer

refers to the concept that in a network of equals (peers) using appropriate information and communication systems, two or more individuals are able to spontaneously collaborate without necessarily needing central coordination.

(Schoder & Fischbach, 2006).

In this broad category not only enter the well-known (and hated, see “The Register” reference below) file sharing networks, some of which will be enumerated later; but also applications old as the Internet itself, such as the Usenet or FidoNet, which can also be called P2P networks (Wikipedia, 2006).

227241974_f988dc934b.jpg

As mentioned, file-sharing is not the only application of P2P networks; another interesting use of P2P technology is, for example, SubEthaEdit. It is a collaborative text editor targeted to software developers, working in teams applying Agile methodologies such as XP (Extreme Programming).

SubEthaEdit allows developers to work on the same document simultaneously, editing it and changing it as they see fit, and allowing to do peer programming when both developers are not located in the same physical place. It works only on Mac OS X 10.3.9 and above, since it depends on the Bonjour networking technology created by Apple, but recently released as open-source.

Companies

Not being a user of P2P file-sharing networks myself, thanks to an article in P2P Blog I’ve been able to quickly find a good number of companies offering such services. From that list, I’ve selected the following 5 companies (I want to point out that I haven’t personally tested any of these programs, and the summaries I provide are just extracted from the referenced websites):

Conclusion

It has been really interesting to make this review, because I have never used file-sharing programs. Moreover, I had not given a good look to the concept of P2P, and as it turned out, it happens to have different and interesting uses, many of them going beyond the much press-hyped copyright infringement issues.

References

Apple Developer Connection, “Bonjour”, [Internet] http://developer.apple.com/opensource/internet/bonjour.html (Accessed November 26th, 2006)

O’Reilly, Tim: “What is Web 2.0”, [Internet] http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/news/2005/09/30/what-is-web-20.html (Accessed November 26th, 2006)

P2P Blog, “Map of P2P Companies”, [Internet] http://www.p2p-blog.com/item-187.html (Accessed November 26th, 2006)

P2P United website, [Internet] http://wiki.morpheus.com/~p2punited/ (Accessed November 26th, 2006)

Schoder, D. and Fischbach, K.: “Core Concepts in Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Networking”. In: Subramanian, R.; Goodman, B.: “P2P Computing: The Evolution of a Disruptive Technology”, Idea Group Inc, Hershey, [Internet] http://www.idea-group.com/downloads/excerpts/Subramanian01.pdf (Accessed November 26th, 2006)

The Register, “Record industry uploads 8,000 lawsuits”, [Internet] http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/10/17/ifpi_worldwide_filesharing_lawsuits/ (Accessed November 26th, 2006)

Wikipedia, “Peer-to-peer” [Internet] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peer-to-peer (Accessed November 26th, 2006)