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.

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Companies: comcast, netflix, spotify

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Comments on “Netflix Exploring Peer-To-Peer Delivery Just As Spotify Gets Ready To Kill Its Peer-To-Peer Streaming”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: One long term truth in computing...

Who said cloud computing has to be centralized?
I can run a private cloud in datacenters around the world with data replication using swift or another block storage, geolocation using anycast or geolocation dns. IE run your own CDN. Sure you have central servers, but that also ensures data integrity…

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: One long term truth in computing...

Yes, I should have said “cloud computing”. Since it’s little more than a marketing term to begin with, there’s quite a lot of disagreement about what “the cloud” actually is.

I was talking about using a single provider, be it Amazon, Google, whoever. That’s how it’s usually done, and that’s centralization.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: best solution

The biggest problem is that it would mean Comcast using their systems to help out a competitor when they’re trying to promote their own streaming services. That’s a no go, unless they’re forced to properly separate their content, delivery and ISP services to allow real competition. Guess why they’re opposed to net neutrality?

PaulT (profile) says:

Yeah, I’d say it’s all about bandwidth. Netflix already has a huge bill, and people trying to pretend they’re freeloaders by not paying their bill twice. It won’t be a long term solution (Comcast will still try to throttle traffic, overcharge and pretend it’s Netflix’s fault), but if it works well it makes sense – and services like Popcorn Time have demonstrated that it’s seemingly quite workable for high quality video streaming.

Spotify’s position is a little less clear, but they undoubtedly have a lower bandwidth burden than Netflix, and I’d expect they’re more interested in functionality and stability that they might not be getting from their current setup. Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re simply building some functionality that the labels whine about needing to actually pay royalties, and they’ve just found it’s much easier to do that with a centralised service.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Think of the NSA! Won't somebody please think of the NSA!

Netflix and YouTube together use up half the bandwidth on the internet. And that’s early on, before 4K streaming gets off the ground. But the NSA’s “record and store everything” operation can safely ignore everything coming from Netflix servers.

Now imagine all that content NOT coming from Netflix servers, but bouncing from peer to peer. Encrypted thanks to DRM. With people like us dropping hints about using fake peer-to-peer Netflix traffic to send other content. The NSA would have to record it. Their storage and bandwidth requirements would double overnight, at a time when Congress is less likely to provide extra funding.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

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.

Please don’t call it lying; that lets them off the hook far too easily.

Let’s call a spade a spade here. In any other context, (except airline tickets, which get away with this same trick somehow,) selling something you do not actually have available is known as fraud, not lying.

Anonymous Coward says:

I honestly see this more as a threat to ISPs. In Hasting’s Blog post, it was just a subnote: **in other words, moving to peer-to-peer content delivery link
IRL, the increased traffic would probably slow down ISP networks even more and cause more complaints for both Netflix and the ISP. IE No one wins.

Technically though it’s more then feasible, just look no further than Xunlei.

Whatever says:


Actually, Netflix interest in P2P may be much more on the side of obtaining content from various servers it has around the nation, and not in using customer bandwidth. A solid variation of P2P is to look only at your seeds and determine which can provide the blocks faster at a given moment, effectively allowing them to get the best network performance on a case by case basis.

P2P technology does not inherently mean using the customer bandwidth.

Ninja (profile) says:

It’s amusing, i called my old ISP to complain about their egregious upload speeds in the age of Youtube and cloud storage (1 mbit, really?) and they basically told them that’s all I needed based on their market expertise. I have ditched them on my place and I’m going to do the same on my parent’s home as soon as possible.

That said, only in the minds of the telcos the current system is working. They had tons of tax incentive and time to build networks that can handle everything. If I want to give my bw to Netflix so I can get a better experience then I will do it. I paid for the pipe. It’s not my fault that they sold more than they can deliver expecting people not to use it.

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