I, one day, would like to be able put up some video, created by me, on my site. No, not that kind of video. Like many contemplating the online media publishing side, and who has a bit of a think about it first, I'm stressing over the bandwidth issue plaguing the Internet. And as I have complained before, bandwidth is at a premium here in Oz.
BitTorrent and P2P are, at this time, looking like the best way to distribute media content using the web. Many of you may know BitTorrent for supplying missed episodes of Lost, or maybe the latest Warez. But Bittorent/P2P can be used for good, and this good is what concerns me and many other content providers.
What is BitTorrent?
"BitTorrent is a peer-to-peer file sharing (P2P) communications protocol. BitTorrent is a method of distributing large amounts of data widely without the original distributor incurring the entire costs of hardware, hosting, and bandwidth resources. Instead, when data is distributed using the BitTorrent protocol, each recipient supplies pieces of the data to newer recipients, reducing the cost and burden on any given individual source, providing redundancy against system problems, and reducing dependence on the original distributor."
The main forte of P2P is the ability to distribute data quickly and cheaply. BitTorrent does this well, in fact, it does it so well that it has become the main way to distribute pirated software, movies, TV and music. A fact not lost on those charged with stopping such piracy, and so the smear campaign and the outright malicious technical attacks begin (Revision3 brought down by Media Defender). And the victim is going to be the P2P technology, but maybe not in the way we think.
One of the problems with P2P and Torrents is that anyone can have access to create them. Those who are good Internet citizens see these technologies as a way to contribute to the greater good. Bad Internet citizens (I like to think of these as campers in Counter Strike, or those Corpse Campers in WOW) those who enjoy behaving like throwbacks, or who are paid to behave that way, see these technologies as a way to waste our time. They do this by seeding false torrents to clutter up the tubes.
One of the ways BitTorrent has been able to get around most of this issue is by having managed Trackers. Trackers like Mininova have moderators, with way more time than me, who check through the Torrents submitted to the Tracker and sift out the rubbish, well, most of it.
There has been moves to make Torrent search engines, but because of the bad citizens, most users prefer to use and support well organised Tracker sites. The only issue with that is that a well organised Tracker site is an easy target for those keen on shutting down any piracy that may also be made available though the Tracker.
Torrentfreak.com has a good article around this subject, with a bit more detail and the some of the solutions, and other problems, well worth a read. The conclusion is that P2P, and more so BitTorrents days may be numbered because, a) It's used for distributing illegal files, and b) done right, it's too big to hide and so easy to target.
Even with all the problems, the technology is sound and can be used for good. How? By commercialising it as a service. One way this is done is by creating a private and white-listed Tracker, and offer it only to legitimate content providers. The IPTV networks starting up all over the Internet would be the prime content providers, to a system that was basically a on-demand TV Station. The Tracker would be heavily policed and the only torrents available would those from subscribers. Couple that with a good front-end like Miro, and/or the web allowing users to create their own TV channels with their favorite Internet offerings.
With a secure and safe environment, and a truckload of subscribers you may even see some of the networks making regular shows available (not that I can see why you would want to watch that rubbish). Don't forget that Linux distributions are also legit users of the BitTorrent system, so there is a bit of scope for the project.
The point is that you need to create a marketing and distribution system that will legally make use of the technology. This is important, because when these sort of technologies are released into the wild, seldom are they used for good, and the publicity destroys them before they can help where they are needed.
Why do I think this approach may work? Well, there is an increase in services starting to use these technologies and one of note is Adobe. In a recent Om Malik article he discusses finding P2P abilities in the Adobe Flash Player 10 beta. This could create an interesting future, couple the Flash Player install base with the stuff being done with AIR, and we would have a powerful distribution network.
In the End.
BitTorrent and P2P are one of the great technologies that popped up out of the open source underground that really needed to be bought by Microsoft and killed early. But now that it is out there, it will be killed by the Technology Philistines, like governments, and the legal system. And that would be a real shame.
Entries in Air (3)
In the old days there were large, evil Corporate Software Companies who would try and run the world and guide consumers computing experience in a way that made them and their programmers truckloads of money. Then all of a sudden everyone coming out of Uni was a programmer, and we began seeing more and more Software Companies, and new software delivery systems. Then came a search company who found better ways of getting truckloads of money, and who started to write the book on the whole Internet thing. They changed attitudes and made large semi-truckloads of money out of all the evil corporate Software Companies.
Not being content with just making the semi-truckloads of money, and being the biggest, and having a cool campus, they are going to hand over to the world the tools to further segment the Internet and the computing world. And in turn cement their place as "The Almost Evil Empire".
Google have just fired up the Google App Engine, which will start with application servers, database access, and data storage services. So it's a one-stop shop for the online application developer. As with most of the Google line-up, it is Beta, so there is likely to be additional languages, other than Python, and servers to come. The theory is that developers will have a level development platform provided by Google so that they don't need to worry about it. Leaving more time to make that next social network a whole lot better.
There are a couple of these projects around and all I can do is worry about how this is going to give us lots of Facebook Apps and Twitter clones, and I'm going to be wasting 30% of my time trying them all out, and getting annoyed that "if they would just get together and provide one product with all these features".
I find myself beginning to wonder if building all these software creation tools (Adobe Air, etc) is just going to break up the the already fragmented software industry. This is a little scary, because for a long time the Evil Corporate Software Companies created and set the standards that we, as the user, could follow. We are only just beginning to the see the impact of format wars in the Office Suite space. What is going to happen when there is Office Suite for Facebook, MySpace, or Twitter, and they all have their own format? Sys-admins will be working around the clock to find compatibility tools just so that that report that started Google Spreadsheet, can be viewed in Numbers and Excel.
In an effort to avoid all of this, I have shifted to Google Docs as my main word processor, but have OpenOffice and Microsoft Office to back me up with files from work, family and friends. I have never been a fan of cloud computing, but in a few ways I guess the idea does make sense, and for what I'm doing, it is working really well. Maybe this is Google's plan, flood the space with lots of half right options and then everyone will fall back to Google because they have the most mature beta in the space.
I’m fundamentally against anything that restricts my computing. I love computers and have been lucky enough to have spent quite a bit of time in the industry, in a number of fields. I love the tech and really enjoy building, playing with hardware, looking at the hardware, spending time with the hardware….. I really get a buzz out of messing around with new and alternate Operating Systems as well. That being said, I'm really exited to look at the new Macbook Air, and just as much for what it doesn't have as to what it has. I'm keen on not so much the product, but the philosophy the product promotes.
I started/switched to Apple only a few years ago. After making most of my money and career off Windows and Linux I decided that for home I wanted to have a computing experience that revolved around things just working, and less of the wrestling match that was much of my working day. So I went to a Powerbook and have only looked back to thumb my nose at those still hanging on the hope that service pack 23 will fix Windows.
Apple are not the great PC saviors but they're having a good crack at it. And the Air is a milestone in the journey that we may need to take to move forward in the world of personal and business computing. That may sound a bit profound, but what it means is Windows has been training us as users that we are the problem when something doesn't work. I mean, most of us spend huge amounts of time sourcing fixes to problems/features which made it to our expensive hardware. Apple on the other hand are working on the user experience first, which makes their products more usable for the consumer in the first place.
The iPhone was a great example of how leaving features out made a product work and become popular. The Air, though, is more about creating the perfect portable computer. It is underpowered, but overkill for Internet and business applications. It is missing ports, but makes use of wireless technologies we all seem to be putting in our homes and offices. It is missing a DVD drive, but helps us to rely more on digital distribution of software and media. It has only 80 Gigs HDD for storage, but if you want more, that's what your desktop is for. It is really thin and light, but what we have always wanted.
I watched the launch of the Air, listened to all the negative press, then listened to the same press respond positively some time later once they had got their paws on one. It is a good piece of hardware and a product that fits into the computing lifestyle between your phone and your desktop. It is the computer you grab when you move to the couch, or head to the cafe for that coffee fix/muse, or head off to the beach for the weekend to do that report/blog post.
I do super agree that it is too pricey and this will keep me banging away at this heavy Powerbook keyboard for a while longer. I understand the pricepoint, milestones should mean something to the wallet, but as I mentioned previously, I see the Air as a compliment to the iMac or Powermac. So I could see it being like an add-on in the future, and one I would shell out for.
Me "Yes that will be a 24" iMac, 2Gig RAM, Macbook Air, Applecare, and hold the Mightymouse." Young Geek behind the counter asks "Would you like .Mac with that, Sir?" Me "Why?"