Peer-To-Peer Protocols, File Sharing
Peer to peer traffic is a term talked about in high technology circles but many younger people may recognize the term because it is now the primary file sharing technique to download music and entertainment to the desktop.
Peer-to-peer is simply a file sharing technology or group of protocols, enabling end users of computers to download files, often large files, that contain music and video content that they want to have available on their computers. The files they seek are not at a central location but spread around the world, and on the computers of people who share the same interests in videos, movies, and music.
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The origin of this technology goes back to the lawsuits of the early part of the decade against Napster, a company with an indexed server of music which pointed to other servers that downloaded songs to end users for a very small price. Napster was subsequently sued by a myriad of artists and associations, spearheaded by the rock band Metallica, and was forced to shut down by the 9th U.S. circuit court of appeals. Napster was actually a group of servers that had indexes to other servers that contained the files, but they were found complicit in copyright violations because they intentionally assisted those who were obtaining the copyrighted music, free of charge.
After Napster shut down, a myriad of free file sharing protocols using the peer-to-peer technique, abounded to fill the void. Peer-to-peer protocols ascended to enable those requesting music or video files, to obtain them. There are several of these peer-to-peer protocols around, like bittorrent, and e-donkey, that seek out a specific file over the entire internet, find it, and retrieve it. This is why it’s named peer-to-peer as the files are located on host or peer computers all over the world. The protocol is designed to peruse the internet to find the file on someone’s computer and then download it to the requestor’s host computer.
The peer-to-peer file sharing protocols are not illegal. They are simply a method of moving files around the internet. Much of the content contained in these file sharing protocols is illegal, as the most popular use for them is to download files that have been copyrighted, and this has been cause for concern in institutions such as universities and often individual residences as well.
Besides the legal issues with copyright violations, the biggest problem caused by peer-to-peer protocols is the amount of network bandwidth they consume. It is been estimated that traffic from downloads using this file sharing method sometimes takes up to 70% of a given network’s resources. Although this is the highest generated traffic on the internet, it is used by only 20% of all network users. This means that 20% of network customers are using about 70% of its resources, leaving the other 80% of the users to squeeze in the 30% that remains. This causes a slow down of internet browsing, and brings about headaches for the owners of service providers and enterprises alike, and many service providers have “throttled down,” the peer-to-peer traffic, meaning that some service providers regulate this kind of traffic. This has led to a debate, now in the halls of congress, and also at the FCC, from those who believe that there should be no regulation by the service providers for this kind of traffic.
The congress is now looking at network neutrality legislation which included forbidding service providers from any regulation. If this passes, there would be a significant cost increase for internet users who generally pay a low monthly fee for internet connection.