BitTorrent Entering The CDN Space?

from the there's-money-in-boring-tech dept

BitTorrent has often received a bad reputation for being associated with “piracy,” when it’s simply a system for more efficiently distributing online content. If you blame BitTorrent for piracy, it’s like blaming FTP or Usenet for piracy. They’re certainly tools used by people sharing unauthorized content, but they’re hardly limited just to that sector. That’s why it’s a little silly for the folks at Internet News to suddenly declare that “BitTorrent Goes Legit with Content Delivery Service.” BitTorrent, itself, has always been “legit.” What’s really interesting here is that the folks behind BitTorrent are actually looking to expand the usefulness of the basic BitTorrent concept by using it to enter the content delivery space.

As we noted over the summer, there’s growing competition in the Content Delivery Network (CDN) space, once dominated by Akamai. The idea is to help larger content providers handle large amounts of bandwidth efficiently, traditionally by placing copies of the content at various servers around the world. This does two things: offload the bandwidth from a single source and also bring the content physically closer to different areas, thus decreasing some of the latency issues. Of course, BitTorrent can do both of those things in potentially a much more efficient manner, by using the excess of bandwidth of all different people to simply handle small parts of the transfer. While BitTorrent tries to position its offering as something that can work with the CDN’s of the world, if it really works well, it could effectively obliterate the need for a traditional CDN. If you thought that the traditional competition in the space was obliterating profits, having something like BitTorrent’s Delivery Network Accelerator could completely upend the market. While the press may go for the sensationalistic “piracy” angle (which this has nothing to do with), if this works, it could change the basic economics for large publishers in distributing content online — and that’s quite a big deal.

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Companies: akamai, bittorrent

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Comments on “BitTorrent Entering The CDN Space?”

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Joel Coehoorn says:

Maybe a small piracy link.

There may be a behind-the-scenes piracy link. Many in Big Media view BitTorrent as the part of the enemy, and would like nothing better than to sue it to oblivion. In once sense it’s amazing they’ve lasted this long. Should that suit ever materialize BitTorrent’s case may, like Napster, depend on being able to show substantial non-infringing use of their product. A move like this helps them do that.

Daengbo (user link) says:

Bittorrent is amoral. Joel should know that.

Joel compares Bittorrent to Napster, saying “BitTorrent’s case may, like Napster, depend on being able to show substantial non-infringing use of their product. A move like this helps them do that.”

Bittorrent has nothing to do with Napster. Pirate Bay is like Napster. Isohunt is like Napster. Bittorrent is a protocol like HTTP (which he used to get to this web page). Does he blame HTTP for pornography? Why not blame DIVX for making a codec which can compress a DVD into 700MB? Heck, let’s blame MP3 players for piracy, too, while we’re at it.

The history of Bittorrent is important. I remember when Bram (the inventor) was first trying to promote the idea. He wanted a way to reduce the bandwidth charges for makers of freely distributed software, especially Linux distributions. Freeware and shareware count, too. These people usually incur large bandwidth charges whenever they release a new version. Bittorrent took away a large part of this bandwidth, distributing the cost among the users of the software and allowing the developer to make a better living.

This use of Bittorrent is the primary intent, easily provable by searching forums, and it still works best for that use. As an example, I downloaded a new Linux CD this week in less than 15 minutes using BT.

Bittorrent doesn’t need to seek a way to prove non-infringing use: that was and is its intended purpose. Let’s not forget that.

Name says:

Re: Bittorrent is amoral. Joel should know that.

I totally agree. The first time I used bittorrent was with the original client created by Bram. I used it to download a knoppix live cd.

Later on all these file sharing sites started to pop up everywhere as a result of this great protocol. So don’t blame the innovator for other people’s file sharing.

Michael Kohne says:

Traditional CDNs...

Actually, I don’t think the need for a traditional CDN goes away with this move – it just mutates.

The great thing about torrents is that when lots of people are downloading them, the speed goes way up. But torrents have a tendancy to ‘rot’ if you will – the trackers go down, and/or people lose interest, etc and it becomes hard or impossible to get hold of the material.

So, if you really want to distribute your content well, you not only need a torrent-like network (to handle the massive loads) you also need a traditional-ish CDN to provide permanant seeding, so that your content doesn’t go away.

Shred303 says:

Obtaining distributions via torrent's rock!

Torrent’s are terrific for distributing large content. The America’s Army game started providing an official torrent to get their giant 700MB plus releases as an alternative to ftp. The torrent was faster and network glitches don’t cause you to loose your connection. FTP can be terribly unreliable and loosing your connection in the middle of a two hour download is more than frustrating. The biggest hurdle to torrent distribution is torrents aren’t familiar to all users and you don’t have the protocol built into the browser like FTP.

Anonymous Coward says:

Bittorrent is much harder to tackle because it is much more modular. Systems like Kazaa consist of a single mesh network. Even though it’s not centralized around a single point of contact, it’s still a single network.

With, bittorent, on the other hand, every single torrent file created is essentially a different network, and could potentially be on a unique tracker as well. Just like VCRs, the software itself is not inherently illegal. If VCRs and DVD recorders can be legal, so can Bittorent. The people that use the technology for illegal practices are the ones that need to be targeted. In the case of VCRs and DVD recorders, the illegal practice would be those who make copies of TV shows and other VHS/DVD films for anything other than personal usage. In the case of Bittorent, it would be those who operate tracker sites that allow torrent users’ computers to communicate, and possibly websites that exist solely to search and/or host torrent files which contain illegal content.

Joel Coehoorn says:

I think a lot of people misunderstood me. BitTorrent is a protocol, but it is also a company that makes software that uses the protocol. Because this software is used by many music pirates the recording industry would like to see the company just go away. If a law suit were to occur and the recording industry could show that 99.9 percent (or some other large number) of BitTorrent users only downloaded illegal music than they may have a case. Sure, bittorrent (the protocol) is used for linux and open source software distribution, but that’s a small crowd to begin with and not all of them will use the client written by BitTorrent (the company).

CW says:

I think we need to clarify if the article refers to BitTorrent – the bittorrent network client and company that makes the client, or bittorrent – the protocol used by the clients. The companies and creators can legitimately (all i’d disagree with it) get sued, however the protocol is here to stay, nothing’s gunna change that (until RIAA or some idiot group decides to try and sue an ISP for allowing bittorrent traffic)

Clueby4 says:

Lets hope Not!!!

Assuming the “content” won’t be free, and contains advertising means not free BTW, how exactly are they planning on compensating users for sharing their bandwidth?

If they’re not, it’s kinda a rip-off.

Using P2P they don’t have to pay for infrastructure, they get to use your machine and your neighbors. And while some of the obtusely gullible people will assume that would make for cheaper content, they would be wrong.

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