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Peer-to-Peer: Harnessing the Power of Disruptive Technologies

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2004

    Excellent coverage of p2p

    In 2000, O'Reilly surveyed the field of peer-to-peer computing, and published this book. It has an excellent description of the key concepts behind all the major p2p implementations then existing. Napster, of course, was the best known. But Seti@home, Gnutella, Jabber, Freenet, Free Haven and others are also explained. These are compared with each other, so that you can see the different emphases and strengths of each. Since the book's release, p2p usage has grown, and the attendant controversy about the downloading of copyrighted material, mainly music, has continued unabated. Napster in its original incarnation has gone. But other p2p networks, like Kazaa, have arisen. Another type of p2p network has also emerged - for social networks. Companies include Friendster,, Ryze and others. Of course, these aren't covered in the book, because they did not exist when it was written. But as a measure of how comprehensive the book is, one of its chapters describes the key work on social networks and encompasses this entire group of companies. The technical level is moderate throughout the book. While XML, SOAP and cryptography are described, you only need slight familiarity with these topics. The discussion involving them tends to be at a higher level of usage.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2001

    Great Essays on An 'Up and Coming' Technology

    Of course, saying that Peer to Peer is an 'up and coming' technology is rather misleading, given that some form of peer to peer has been around since the early days of the Internet. Even so, the series of essays in this book explain various parts of peer to peer, its past, present & future, and its benefits to anyone who uses the Internet, and the issues involved with using this technology. Whether it's people looking to download MP3's off Napster, to get documents off Publius, or to download files off Gnutella, peer to peer is changing the way users think of the 'Net. Among the numerous issues discussed in these essays are the handling of metadata, perfomance and security issues (ie how to deal with slower servers or DoS attacks), and the repuation or 'credibility' of a service using peer to peer technology. It's also interesting to trace the history of peer to peer, which is done in the book's first chapter. There are also looks at the more famous examples of peer to peer, such as the afore mentioned Napster, Gnutella, Publius, and also Jabber and FreeNet. I like to think of peer to peer as a 'past and future' Internet technology, and one that cold still revolutionize the way people interact over the 'net. This book gives an excellent 'glimpse' into that world.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2001

    Eloquent Arguments for Encouraging Internet Peer Connections

    The original vision of the Internet was as a tool to allow individuals to partner with others to accomplish more, both by being able to access information more easily, but also by exchanging ideas more rapidly and freely. Peer-to-peer (p2p) as described in this book is defined as any systems structure for the Internet 'outside the DNS . . . [with] significant or total autonomy from central servers.' Conceptually, 'peer-to-peer is a way to decentralizing not just features, but costs and administration as well.' Basically, personal computers have unused memories and processors that can be added together to provide giant data banks and processors beyond what exists in one location at tiny cost (less than 1 percent of the alternative) and with richer content. Systems that optimize that untapped potential will accelerate human progress enormously. Think of this as creating a global mind for a specialized purpose. P2P solutions are then, by definition, killer apps compared to most of the server-based solutions. This book challenges the tendency to turn the Internet into a slightly interactive version of television for the purpose of selling products and services offered by large companies. The essays here encourage developers to 'return content, choice, and control to ordinary users.' The book mostly avoids the question of how to solve the technical search problems of how to do that, but does consider many methods that create communities of limited-purpose interaction (like Napster, SETI@home, Jabber, and Red Rover). The book is not detailed enough to guide software developers, but is helpful for those who want to think about future developments in the Internet from a sociological or public policy perspective. Tim O'Reilly's essay about p2p as a 'meme' (a self-replicating idea, with full credit to Richard Dawkins) is the centerpiece of the book. I suspect that I would have gotten 90 percent of the benefit of reading the whole book by simply looking at that one essay. I suggest that you start with that essay, which explores making p2p the primary operating system for the Internet. The advantages are that more information will be shared, progress will be faster, and the experience will be more interesting. Dan Bricklin also focuses on the purposes of p2p. 'Is the data I want in the database?' He points out (rightly) that p2p is just the associated plumbing to get you the data you want more effectively. Clearly, the barrier is that laws about intellectual property are obsolete in a p2p environment (as Napster's original success in free copying of music demonstrated). Clearly, people need to get paid for intellectual property, so a new system needs to be developed. I suspect that like the copy machine, this technology will overrun the legal barriers in the meantime. A weakness of this book is that it does not propose solutions for this issue. As I write this, Napster is struggling to comply with various court orders that are slowing down music exchanges. Unlike many books that espouse a new way of interacting, the essays in the book are realistic about anticipating a world that will continue to have servers but will also allow p2p interactions. Even Napster provides that combination now. As a technical solution, the two are likely to be intertwined in the future. When you are done with this book, you should also think about ways that you can structure work differently. How can you recruit 'volunteers' who will find that the benefits of helping you exceed the costs for them? Such voluntary virtual organizations should become the best way for accomplishing many of our key thinking and problem-solving tasks. Move beyond the dated paradigms of b2b and b2c to create the highest potential for the future! Donald Mitchell, Co-author of The Irresistible Growth Enterprise and The 2,000 Percent Solution

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