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P2P: Technically Speaking,...

Napster and Beyond

Issues to Consider

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P2P: The O'Reilly book

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By Thom Gillespie, Café TECHNOS Maître d¹Igital

Peer-to-Peer, Harnessing the Power of Disruptive Technologies

Andy Oram, Editor
ISBN 0-596-00110-X. 448 pages, Hardback. $29.95

This is an interesting book because it deals with P2P as a disruptive technology and also as a social disruption. P2P is applied to networks where members donate files, access, and computer time to share resources directly with other members. P2P systems allow multi-millions of users to connect their PCs directly to the Net and control data flow, which previously was only controlled by portals such as AOL, MSN, or Netscape. Until Napster, the Net was looking manageable and very commercial with most folks searching online and buying what was offered by the likes of Amazon, Software/Hardware vendors, Travelocity, and Expedia. Napster suddenly changed all that when millions of folks began sharing and trading songs directly from one hard drive to another without DoubleClick caching user clicks in between. P2P is less about new technology, since the basic P2P concepts have been around for 30 plus years, than it is about new communities configuring themselves in unexpected ways.

Oram¹s book is divided into three sections: an introduction and overview of P2P technology with particular emphasis on the lessons of Napster; a collection of project reviews such as SETI, Jabber, Remailers, Gnutella, Freenet, and more; and a section on technical topics ranging from metadata to accountability, reputation, security, trust, and performance.

The first section is the most accessible for general readers, particularly Clay Shirky¹s "Listening to Napster" chapter. The projects section have enough technical detail to satisfy programmers but the discussions of anonymity and censorship in the chapters on Red Rover, Publius, and Free Haven should be particularly interesting to readers interested in education and privacy on the Net.

­ Thom

­ Thom