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A Perfect Storm for Filesharing?
November 6, 2007
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Depressed over the loss of OiNK? Fed up with Comcast's blocking? Scared straight by the $220 000 ruling against Jammie Thomas? Judging by the headlines, the going seems to have gotten very rough for filesharers lately. Fortunately, several recent and imminent developments seem to bear out the adage that it is always darkest before the dawn.

Verizon FiOS goes symmetrical

Verizon promotional site MyHome 2.0 gave filesharers who live in the right places something to smile about recently as it announced that the company will be offering symmetrical 20Mbps access speeds in parts of the Northeastern United States and up to 13 other states where the service is available.

To give you an idea of how fast that is, according to Converber, 20Mbps is 2.5MB/s. That means 100MB in 40 seconds, or 9GB in just over an hour. 30 and 50GB? If you start seeding just before you leave for work, you'll be done before you get back home. Tired of hit and run downloading? Prepare to see hit and run uploading. An original uploader could conceivably dump a discography to a swarm of peers in under 5 minutes and then disappear into the ether. Other similarly fast peers would complete their downloads even faster, and the churn rate - the rate at which current peers leave the torrent and new peers join - would skyrocket.

Of course, those who live in countries such as Finland have had even faster speeds for quite a while now. However, since the US is the world's largest technology market, Verizon's announcement is significant. Its effects may also be surprising. Earlier in the summer, Slyck published a news article about seedboxes - dedicated servers for lease on 100mbps connections. A 20mbps connection is obviously not as fast, but provides a far cheaper alternative to hardcore uploaders. It also helps that, thanks to competition - the level of which is debatable in the US - other ISPs will probably soon offer matching performance.

But what about the mainstream filesharer who just wants to send a large file to a friend, or a group of friends, or make his collection available for them 24/7? Another development is on the horizon for that:

The rise of the (home server) machines?

Home servers are nothing new - they've been available on the market for several years. They could either be built by users or bought from a wide range of manufacturers in a wide variety of configurations. The problem with that situation was that the resulting extremely diverse server OS ecosystem meant that 3rd party apps for OEM devices were few and far between, thus limiting users to the functionality the devices shipped with. Of course, the possibility of building one's own server and running some flavor of BSD, Linux of even Windows on it still existed, but building your own system is not exactly a task the average user wants to undertake.

That's where Windows Home Server (WHS) comes in. Cutting through the usual flowery marketing statements, the most important points of WHS are:

1 - It will ship preinstalled on OEM machines. This takes care of the DIY installation problem mentioned above

2 - Because it's not OEM-specific and can be installed on a DIY machine, the user has plenty of options when it comes pairing software with hardware

3 - Microsoft is already actively sponsoring coding competitions for 3rd party apps for the OS

4 - Remote access and media sharing are 2 central features of the OS

Given the above, it's doubtless that innovative developers will find many ways of turning a home server into a full fledged seedbox and even more. Rather than simply leaving an password protected folder on a server, users could effectively set up their own topsites for their content, complete with individual accounts. Add BitTorrent to the mix, and all of a sudden you can have your own truly private site for yourself and trusted friends.

Those who'd prefer to use a FLOSS OS would be happy to know that the Ubuntu team is planning a competitor, though that seems to be in the extremely nascent stage at this point. Either way, it is apparent that the home server's time has come in terms of availability and connection speed.

Apple hasn't yet announced anything similar, but it's arguable that the Mac Mini had been intended to do/is capable of doing the same.

At last, your extended family will have no way of getting out of suffering through your father's horrible video of your graduation. Nor from your "really awesome" Grand Canyon vacation video where you essentially panned and zoomed back and forth at the same scene for over 100+ minutes in 720p HD glory with awful wind noise captured in surround sound! Good thing you invested in that 4-figure consumer HD camera! Or maybe, just maybe, other uses will be found for the new capabilities.

Imagine a Facebook - or OpenSocial, if you prefer - app that would link to your home server, thus making your shared files available to all your friends, and your friends only, conveniently and searchably from your Facebook profile. It's not that far fetched - hosting site already provides a Facebook application allowing users to share files from their profiles, and even to attach files to wall posts. Unfortunately, they have both filesize and bandwidth limits. A home server Facebook app would have none.

Selling MP3s through your MySpace page? No need to go through Snocap. Just use OpenSocial + a home server app + the OpenSocial Paypal gadget. Disruptive? More than that. We'll leave readers to come up with more ideas.

Of course, hardware is rarely the paramount concern of the sharer. A quick look at the discussion threads here suggest that that honor probably belongs to privacy and security. Realizing this, a Swedish outfit is now encouraging such users to:

Relakks, just do it ...

Frankie Goes to Hollywood probably won't be returning to the top of the charts any time soon, but anonymizing services such as Relakks and the US-based SecureIX could soon be pretty high on users' lists. Slyck did an article on Relakks last year, readers are encouraged to revisit it for more details.

Besides the offer of privacy and claiming to be able to support connections as fast as 100mbps, Relakks can also be configured to use whatever DNS servers users want, thus giving them all the features and functionality of their regular internet connection. OpenDNS, for example, has servers relatively close to Sweden in London and can be configured to not log DNS requests. A word of caution though: Sweden is currently considering legislation that would eliminate some of the protection Relakks provides. For now, though, the service remains available to users globally.

So why are the above, combined, a perfect storm? Just as such a weather event would display the entire spectrum of meteorological threats for its climate zone, these developments simultaneously address all the main concerns of both average and hardcore filesharers - speed, security/privacy, storage and access/ease of sharing. And that's even while ignoring the Hydra effect, which was deliberately excluded from this article to show just how profound the changes afoot are.

The future is stormy indeed, but the winds are on P2P's side.

This story is filed in these Slyck News categories
File-Sharing/P2P Related :: Statistics/Analysis

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