Monday, November 29, 2004

Content Ecosphere - Part 2 / BitTorrent

I had a couple of comments to the last Content Ecosphere post and wanted to hit on a couple of the issues raised.

Jason mentioned that BitTorrent has great stats, which I think is very important, and its great to see it. I started down the path of experimenting with BitTorrent a bit, and bought a TShirt, and found that BitTorrent isn't very user friendly, even for someone who is fairly technical. More importantly I think some of the following as existing roadblocks for the time being:

1. BitTorrent seems best for widely distributed files. If you are Adam Curry, or you want to distribute content that has a certain critical mass in terms of audience, then this works well. If you are looking for more marginal content in terms of audience, then you throughput is really low. An example I tried was a copy of Max Headroom shows. I thought they would be plentiful but when I started the downloads the transfer rate was really slow, although it did spike up occasionally.

2. The architecture inherently puts you at risk given the current copyright litigation jihad. The key rulings so far around copyright infringement speak to those that share as guilty of violating the various copyright laws of your jurisdiction of choice. Because you have to share on BitTorrent, you are exposed. Granted sharing open source or Creative Commons material doesn't necessarily put you at risk, the concept that its ok if I download only gets hurt by the architecture, which I think will scare some people off.

3. Nothing is really free. The adware invasion inflicted on people who have used Kazaa and similar services puts a damper on the likelihood of mainstream consumers to use P2P services like BitTorrent even though I don't believe that the situation is similar. I think the lesson many people have learned recently is that opening up your firewall to these types of programs, or making the installation, can become a big drag on computer resources.

4. Barring the above, BitTorrent seems like a really strong distribution option for those who want to proliferate content at low expense. I think that the rate of the MP3 file downloads cited by Jason in his comment is more a function of the relative newness of torrent files relative to MP3 files.

There was another comment regarding how this relates to wireless that I will address separately. If you are interested, the other podcasters displaying the data around this conversation can be found here:

Radio Brothers

Jason and Ben sent theirs in email. If they post them somewhere to link to, I will update this post.


Anando said...

I like what you have written and your points are very accurate but I find torrent pretty good compared to few of my own points. The number of clients out for torrent is numerous and if one uses a good plugin even speeds improve not counting the other advantages. Files are never corrupt (atleast I havent faced one yet). Other p2p softwares are simply full of virus inflicted corrupt files . If some particular torrent plugin has spyware can be easily found out ( agreed that finding out inclusion of spywares might not be easy for the end user ). I guess as every other file distribution network torrent has its own share of good and bad points but you only pointed out the disadvantages which I feel is kind of unfair.

Derrick Oien said...

Don't get me wrong, I think that BitTorrent is by far the best Peer to Peer option I have seen yet. I meant my points to be more issues that will impact adoption rather than a critique of what it offers. I think the stats reporting is awesome, and the ability to get files from multiple sources is great, provided the file you are seeking is widely distributed. I also think that the integration of BitTorrent into applications like iPodder is awesome.

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