OC Register

From: Gregory Alan Bolcer (gbolcer@endtech.com)
Date: Thu Feb 22 2001 - 07:45:00 PST

I didn't know Gene Kan lived in Anaheim Hills. Heck, I live
in Anaheim Hills. AH must be the new p2p hotspot. 8-)


Net's next Napster?

      February 22, 2001

      The Orange County Register

      Napster is dead. Long live peer-to-peer.

      Out of the underground and into the
      mainstream, peer-to-peer technology, or
      P2P, has made its way from unknown
      techie term to dinner-table discussion
      topic. It has Napster to thank for that.

      With the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
      decision earlier this month to halt Napster's
      music giveaway, P2P is at a crossroads.
      The technology could be in your home in
      the near future. That is, if anybody figures
      out what to use it for or how to make any
      money off it.

      "The real idea behind peer-to-peer is that
      it's a way to allow computers to
      intercommunicate," said Gene Kan, a
      computer engineer from Anaheim Hills
      who is developing a P2P-powered Web
      search engine with friends from the
      University of California, Berkeley. "From
      that arises a lot of interesting effects, like
      Napster and instant messaging."

      In the same way the Internet indelibly
      changed how we use computers, file
      sharing could change how we work and

      True P2P is when two people have P2P
      software and share files over the Web
      without the interference of a central server,
      which still is needed to provide Internet

      An office working on P2P could
      collaborate instantly. If one employee is at
      lunch with a cell phone and another is at
      the airport with only his Palm Pilot, they
      could simultaneously edit a power-point
      presentation on a third employee's personal

      The rise in prominence of P2P can be
      greatly attributed to the unbridled
      popularity of Napster.

      Napster gives anyone with access to the
      Internet the ability to download songs for
      free. The songs come from other Napster
      users in the process called file sharing.
      And file sharing is the essence of P2P.

      In a technical sense, however, Napster is
      not true P2P. Users share each other's files
      but only within the framework of Napster's
      centralized servers.

      Two people who download P2P software
      could peer into whatever files they give
      each other permission to view. One of
      them could edit word-processing
      documents saved on the other's hard drive
      or download a copy of a video game or a
      music file.

      P2P is expected to make Internet searches
      more penetrating because files won't be
      limited to static information posted on the
      Web. Instead, it should allow Web
      browsers to poke into files of other
      computer users to find more telling information.

      But remember: P2P is only as successful as the number of people using

      "If you have a telephone and no else does, the network effect is zero,"
      said Greg Bolcer, chief technology officer for Irvine P2P software
      developer Endeavors Technology. "Every phone you add, the network
      effect becomes greater. It works that way with the Internet.

      "With P2P, all these different components are equal peers
      communicating over the Web, and the network effect goes up


      "A lot of people are chasing after peer-to- peer because of the success
      of Napster, but it's not clear how business fits in," said Peter Christy, a
      research fellow at Jupiter Research. "I don't think people are unwilling
      to pay a reasonable amount, but the Internet is a very untrustworthy
      environment. That dark space out there is unfriendly."

      Since it is a software-based network, the software itself can be passed
      along and downloaded easily. In fact, many P2P Web sites offer free
      versions of the software solely to propagate the technology.

      Executives at Endeavors, which is backed by London
      mobile-computing vendor Tadpole Technologies, see opportunities for
      business to cash in at key points if everyone is connected. Like
      charging a nominal fee for a video game or music file every time it is

      "You're using the distribution power of the network without losing
      control," Endeavors CEO Brian Morrow said. So instead of one person
      paying a huge upfront cost and everyone else getting it for free, the
      game's manufacturer encodes the game to automatically charge about
      $7 every time the game is downloaded.


      The software that will allow games, music, DVDs and other valuable
      digital property to be protected from mass piracy is called Digital
      Rights Management.

      "It would be incorrect to say that the information is unbreachable even
      with Digital Rights Management," said Robert Weber, chairman of the
      industry advisory board for TrustData, a digital-rights firm in San
      Jose. "If someone provides me access to their machine, it's conceivable
      that, if I am skilled, I can compromise that data."

      Weber estimates that 10 percent of those who download valuable data
      pay for it. If that number jumped to anywhere near 100 percent, it
      could make P2P a viable business model.

      But some caution that too many fees and forms could jeopardize P2P.

      "If DRM is the slightest bit complicated, customers will avoid it," said
      Malcolm Mac lachlan, e-Media analyst at IDC. "People are so used to
      getting stuff for free, you have to put it in an environment that feels
      free. There's a lot of stuff on cable that wouldn't sell on pay-per-view."

      "If you use (DRM) to fingerprint audio files - something that says,
      'That's ours' - that would allow record labels to make money," he said.
      "Before Napster, there were hundreds of sites where people put up
      MP3s (music files scrunched into a manageable format). Suddenly
      peer-to-peer allows these collections to be connected."

      So far Endeavors hasn't licensed its technology, which embeds P2P
      software in any machine with access to the Internet and in a Windows

      Until someone pushes P2P ahead, its future remains uncertain.

      P2P could gain immeasurably from having a company such as software
      Microsoft, with its limitless customer base, include P2P software in its
      Windows package. The world's largest computer-chip maker, Intel, is
      already on board. Its latest model, the Pentium 4, was earmarked to
      speed up P2P applications.

      Kan said P2P will catch on as soon as people get over the notion that
      information can only travel in one direction.

      "We're going to be able to use the computer like they do in the
      movies," Kan said. "They're user-friendly, and they communicate over
      time and space."

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Fri Apr 27 2001 - 23:18:13 PDT