The phrase "peer-to-peer" VASTLY predates Napster. Was: Re: [p2p-hackers] Re: Hi! (Why Peer to Peer?)

Jeffrey Kay jeff at
Thu Nov 6 09:05:48 PST 2003

I agree.

I'd go back even further than that.  Prior to LM, we used ArcNET token
passing networks that were called peer-to-peer.  This was around 1985 or 86.
These networks were the basis for LM and Windows Networking (remember
OrchidNet?).  In fact, I recall in 1985 when we tossed out the peer-to-peer
network software in favor of Novell Netware because we were looking to
centralize our disk storage (at the time disk was very expensive, IIRC).  So
I'd easily say that the peer-to-peer term has been in use from the early
80s, although it's certainly legit to apply it to the internet in general.

FWIW, the original Internet was merely about interconnecting a few computers
on a peer basis.  (One of the dudes who did that original work sits in my
office about 20 feet away from my desk and we've gone over the history a few
times.)  I'm not sure they used the term "peer-to-peer", however.  It was
merely thought of as networking back then.

One could even argue that there was really nothing but peer-to-peer until
client/server became a dominant architecture.  Every system was supplied
with the same tools and could be accessed by any other system.  Only after
we created the term client/server did we decide to distinguish everything
else as peer-to-peer.

-- jeff

On 11/6/03 11:52 AM, "Joseph S. Barrera III" <jsb at> wrote:

> Okay. This just pisses me off to no end. "Peer-to-peer" is a term that
> the networking community had been using for years before Napster.
> I first saw it in references to networking where services could
> be provided by any workstation and not just designated server machines,
> and in particular to network stacks where any workstation could
> accept connections.
> Here's a pointer to a comp.os.os2 post from 1989.
> Note the reference to "Peer Services" in Microsoft OS/2 LM 2.0.
> - Joe
> Eugen Leitl wrote:
>> ----- Forwarded message from Brandon Wiley <blanu at> -----
>> From: Brandon Wiley <blanu at>
>> Date: Thu, 6 Nov 2003 02:48:08 -0600 (CST)
>> To: "Peer-to-peer development." <p2p-hackers at>
>> Subject: Re: [p2p-hackers] Re: Hi! (Why Peer to Peer?)
>> Reply-To: "Peer-to-peer development." <p2p-hackers at>
>>> Peer to peer is the Internet.
>>> Peer to peer is:
>>> 1) TCP
>>> 2) IP
>>> 3) DNS
>>> The reason for peer to peer is innovation, that's all.  Separate the
>>> transport from the content and application layer, and you can build
>>> anything.
>> This is something I hear a lot from people who weren't paying attention
>> when "peer-to-peer" started as a thing people talked about. Peer-to-peer
>> started when Napster, Gnutella, and Freenet all popped up at the same time
>> from out of nowhere. It was a technologically-mediated movement to achieve
>> social ends that a bunch of college kids started. Then some more people
>> jumped on writing similar but more advanced applications or had been
>> working on them for a while but decided to sign on to the p2p meme. Then
>> Tim  O'Reilly or someone else over there called it Peer-to-Peer in order,
>> I assume, to try to get something marketable out of it. Suddenly there was
>> a P2PCon and everyone working on this stuff met each other and it became a
>> "thing". Then some P2P companies popped up and crashed, the RIAA shut down
>> some people, projects died, were reborn, or splintered. Also Sun,
>> Microsoft, and IBM tried to pretend that they had some involvement.
>> Then some guys at MIT published this Chord paper and after that people
>> started spending a lot of time reading and writing papers and attending
>> this new batch of academic p2p conferences. That's about where we are now.
>> There's a lot of innovation in the academic field and limited interesting
>> stuff going on in industry and open source, but that balance will shift in
>> various ways over time as it has been doing so far.
>> So I am disdainful when I hear things like the Internet is P2P and Usenet
>> was P2P, etc.. Such comments ignore the fact that P2P as a thing people
>> talked about specifically, as a term, refers to a specific set of
>> developments and philosophies which came out of this brief decentralized
>> movement. The Internet is not p2p in spirit. All of the traffic is routed
>> by large centralized hubs. 802.11b mesh networks are p2p.
>> _______________________________________________
>> p2p-hackers mailing list
>> p2p-hackers at
>> _______________________________________________
>> Here is a web page listing P2P Conferences:
> _______________________________________________
> FoRK mailing list

jeffrey kay 
weblog <> pgp key <> aim <jkayk2>
share files with me -- get shinkuro -- <>

"first get your facts, then you can distort them at your leisure" -- mark
"if the person in the next lane at the stoplight rolls up the window and
locks the door, support their view of life by snarling at them" -- a biker's
guide to life
"if A equals success, then the formula is A equals X plus Y plus Z. X is
work. Y is play. Z is keep your mouth shut." -- albert einstein

More information about the FoRK mailing list