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Inventing the Post-Web World
The O'Reilly Peer-to-Peer and
Web Services Conference

Washington, D.C. -- November 5-8, 2001


A New Way of Understanding P2P

Cory Doctorow, Canada-US Fulbright Chair, Annenberg Center on Public Diplomacy, University of Southern California

Track: Overview/Infrastructure
Date: Monday, November 05
Time: 10:30am - 11:15am
Location: Washington Ballroom

To date, all the roundups and analyst reports on P2P have had a stilted, shoehorned feel. That's because the wrong metrics are used to categorize and evaluate P2P tech. On the one hand are the financial people, who distinguish among P2P offerings based on their markets and possibilities -- B2B, B2C, subscription, licenses, etc. On the other hand are technical people who divide up the world according to what the software is used *for*: file-sharing, instant messaging, distributed supercomputing, etc etc.

Doctorow believes both of these approaches are flawed, and miss the point entirely. The way to group and understand P2P offerings is to examine what makes them *cool*. In a Niftiness Hierarchy (NH), P2P companies might shake out like this:

  • Exposing the Dark Matter of the Internet
    Letting the contents of the desktop be shared to the world, extending DNS to the desktop

  • Doing an End-Run Around Sysadmins
    Puncturing firewalls and engaging in guerilla networking

  • Foiling Censorship
    Storing and transferring files without restraint

  • Letting Anyone Talk to Anyone
    Collaboration across the org chart, across the world

  • Giving Anyone the Power to Compute Anything
    Cheapo renderfarms, big science gone dingo, homebrew biotech

  • Letting Industrial Processes Proceed on Human Generated Routes
    Modeling industrial decision-making on TCP/IP: I know how to complete part of this task, I know what the task looks like when it's done, and I know who the next person in the chain is, but I don't know the whole thing.

  • The Sheep that Shits Grass
    Solving Metcalfe's Paradox by allowing users to provision the resources they consume.

  • Trust Through Topology
    Relay networks whose connections reflect trust: as with OC Folders, where self-organized topologies take the place of directories Home | Conferences Home | P2P & Web Services Home
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