P2P file sharing: hacks and respectability

Peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing has often been associated in many people’s minds with illegal copying and sharing of music. Think Napster and Kazaa: not the shiny respectable Napster and Kazaa we know today, but the original services that were shut down after legal actions by the recording industry and others.

P2P is in the spotlight today after a P2P lobby group called Downhill Battle set up a link using file-sharing software to distribute the Windows XP SP2 update that’s just being made available (see recent post), without Microsoft’s specific approval.

In a statement on its website, Downhill Battle said it had set up the SP2 link “as a demonstration of how peer-to-peer filesharing technology can help distribute files that are too large for centralized distribution to handle. Even Microsoft, which has incredible server resources at their disposal, is limiting downloads of their SP2 release, but filesharing technology can let everyone download it right away.” The group also referred to moves by the US Congress to outlaw filesharing, and said “it is crucial that we rally to defend and promote the technology.” So they’re on a mission as well.

There is still a dark side to P2P, though (will it ever be eliminated?), as the recent experience iD Software had with the new Doom 3 game shows, when piracy groups made a cracked version of the game available via various P2P networks (see post).

In other P2P developments:

  • Roxio announced yesterday that they have agreed to sell their consumer software division (notable products include Easy CD Creator and Toast) to Sonic Solutions, a supplier of DVD creation software. Roxio said it will focus its business on the digital music market and will change its corporate name to… Napster.
  • The new Skype internet phone service is based on P2P bandwidth-sharing technology. Since launching just a few weeks ago, Skype claims nearly 20 million users of their service. Incidentally, the founder of Skype is also the co-founder of… Kazaa. (I’ve been using Skype: see comments on the service.)

With such developments involving some experienced heavyweight hitters who look as though they have the technology infrastructure worked out and have viable business models, and who offer products and services that meet clear and growing consumer demand worldwide, these could signal another shift or change in the overal technology landscape.


Downhill Battle
Sonic Solutions
Skype: P2P Telephony Explained