Netflix Exploring Peer-To-Peer Delivery Just As Spotify Gets Ready To Kill Its Peer-To-Peer Streaming
from the moving-in-opposite-directions dept
From the very beginning of peer-to-peer content delivery, people have pointed out the many advantages it provides to just offering content from a single central source. It’s more resistant to overloading, can more efficiently route traffic, makes better use of bandwidth and a variety of other useful things as well. So, it was a bit of a surprise a few weeks ago to hear that Spotify — whose service was built from the beginning using peer-to-peer technology — was actually moving away from that model and towards a centralized source run entirely by the company. Even more interesting is that the largest example of a content service that had always focused on a centralized source, Netflix, is now looking to go in the other direction, and is exploring peer-to-peer delivery of its video content.
This might just be a “the grass is always greener…” kind of situation, but it does seem inherently odd that just as one of the largest peer-to-peer setups is moving away from that structure, an even larger player is potentially moving towards it. Of course, part of the issue may have a lot to do with Netflix’s ongoing fight with broadband providers (mainly Comcast) who want them to pay extra. Netflix recently got into a bit of a blogging battle with Comcast in showing why Comcast is trying to charge Netflix for access to its users, noting that this is entirely different than paying transit networks, which charge for transit, not access. Comcast replied lamely that this is really about Netflix trying to get all internet users to pay for its costs of doing business.
First of all, Comcast is clearly wrong about that. What Comcast is being dishonest (shocking, I know…) about is that even though it charges users for a broadband connection, it doesn’t expect them to actually use that connection so much. Comcast’s problem with Netflix is that it actually gets users to use the broadband line they bought. So, rather than admit that Comcast’s business model has always been based on lying to consumers in telling them they bought bandwidth it never really wanted to sell them, Comcast is trying to get Netflix to rebuy the bandwidth consumers already bought in order to access those consumers.
Given that, it’s no surprise Netflix has a new interest in P2P technology — because part of the basis of P2P is making use of the underutilized bandwidth that consumers paid for, but which they never use. So, in effect, Netflix’s move to P2P is an attempt to hit back at Comcast, by pushing consumers to actually use more of the bandwith they’d paid for and never used, and do it in a way that makes it look less like it’s all coming directly from Netflix.
Spotify, on the other hand, while it uses a fair amount of bandwidth, doesn’t use nearly as much as Netflix, and thus sees some benefits in better controlling the overall connection experience, by serving up all the content directly. Though, I would imagine it would be smart on Spotify’s part not to throw away all that P2P code. If Spotify continues to grow, it won’t be long until it faces a “Netflix/Comcast” moment of its own — and having that P2P setup in its back pocket can only help in those negotiations.