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The End of an Era – BitTorrent Challenged by Netflix
October 26, 2010
Thomas Mennecke
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There’s clamor from both sides of the fence – whether BitTorrent remains the king of Internet protocols, or whether something leaner and meaner has taken over. That something leaner and meaner, so the numerous reports contend, is Nexflix. Eh, really? Yeah, really.

It’s hardly any surprise that Sandvine’s latest Internet snapshot paints a rather dire picture for the king (or former king) of Internet protocols. With numerous lawsuits, litigation, hefty fines, and other detriments making the BitTorrent landscape looking like a minefield, netizens have predictably jumped ship to alternative methods such as the newsgroups, or as Sandvine points out, Netflix. Let’s take a look at the following graph. It shows the various protocol usage from 2009 and 2010, and the growth or decline of each in North America from a fixed (not mobile) location.

But Slyck, it’s showing that P2P is growing, surely you’re wrong!

No one is saying that file-sharing isn’t growing, or that BitTorrent isn’t expanding. Instead, it’s rather evident (if we are to believe Sandvine’s stats), that file-sharing isn’t growing at the same clip as other entertainment venues such as Netflix. Need more evidence? Here we have a rather dire picture for BitTorrent. As you may have notice by simply looking around, mobile internet is rapidly becoming the norm. P2P is comparatively very limited on mobile devices, but there is some exception through the use of laptops with air cards. iPhones, iPads, Androids, and Palms simply aren’t designed to run BitTorrent clients – nor are they any clients designed to run on these systems that appeal to the masses.

You’re right Slyck, I’m on my iFoon all the time, and I can’t run µTorrent on it. But I can run Netflix!

As you can tell, then percentage of those using P2P (primarily BitTorent) on mobile devices is contracting. With the number of individuals using mobile devices increasing steadily, we wonder what future, if any, BitTorrent may play in the future of mobile computing.

But cmon Slyck, surely BitTorrent is a leader in some capacity, right?

Yes, you’re right. BitTorrent does an excellent job in creating Internet traffic – especially upload bandwidth. According to Sandvine, BitTorrent upload traffic leads in globally in North America, Europe, and Asia. BitTorrent was actually second to Ares Galaxy in Latin America, where strangely this protocol still dominates the P2P landscape. Additionally, the disparity between fixed and mobile file-sharing usage was notably narrower as well.

Ok, so it leads in upload traffic, how does that help us mere downloaders?

This could be argued either way – and also provides ammunition to those who feel that BitTorrent still dominates the Internet. If you’re uploading, then obviously someone is downloading and receiving that data. However, across the board BitTorrent is not number 1 in total download bandwidth usage – it’s 4th in North America, 5th in Latin America, 2nd in Asia, and 4th in Europe. Hardly the powerhouse it used to be.

So what’s the verdict Slyck, is BitTorrent no longer the King?

The answer to that is, there is not enough data to support the argument one way or another. But we can say this, entertainment is the #1 driving force on the Internet. We can also say that NetFlix, with its 20.6% peak traffic in North America, has made a serious dent in BitTorrent’s once viral growth. And with encryption, obfuscation, and other methods used to hide BitTorrent traffic, perhaps there is an explanation to the disparity between the upload and download traffic. But then again, maybe BitTorrent’s day has simply passed. And we’ll say this too – if file-sharing can’t find a way to adapt to the mobile market place (something it appears to be doing well in Latin America), then next year’s report will leave little doubt as to who is the king of internet protocols.

You can read the report here.


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