These days, it certainly does seem like the term "P2P" is forever linked with unauthorized file sharing. However, that wasn't always the case. It is true that it was often associated with file sharing -- but there was lots of talk about other P2P applications that focused more on distributed computing -- allowing more powerful applications that pulled spare cycles and bandwidth from computer systems around the world? Certainly, there are still some of these projects going -- but the big promise for how distributed computing systems were going to become a hugely powerful part of the next generation of applications and services hasn't matched the predictions from five or six years ago. There certainly are some success stories. Things like Skype show a distributed application at work -- but whenever you hear people talking about P2P today, it tends to just be about file sharing networks. In some ways, this is too bad, because there were some really powerful possibilities that made sense for distributed computing. Perhaps part of the problem, though, was that it was simply overhyped at the beginning with people thinking that anything could be made better with distributed computing systems. However, not everything really makes sense as a distributed app, and when things like a distributed search engine failed to catch on, those who were simply jumping on the hype bandwagon seemed to shift gears and focus on more shiny AJAX widgets instead. That's probably a good thing, because now it means those who are working on serious distributed systems can focus on them in peace, without having to deal with all the hype.
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