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Dissecting the problems of P2P video distribution

Posted: 13 Aug 2010     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:P2P video distribution  file sharing  peer to peer systems 

Peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing systems allow users to download files from each other without a centralized server. BitTorrent added the ability to download different portions of files from different peers simultaneously, enabling a user to download entire files much faster than the connection speed with any single peer. After downloading, P2P software shares its files with others. All popular and many niche books, music, TV shows, movies and software are available as torrents, and they are accessed worldwide.

However, because of their size, movies and TV shows represent a large majority of BitTorrent traffic. Although much P2P file-sharing traffic is of misappropriated copyrighted intellectual property (IP), the technology is nonetheless used widely for legitimate commercial purposes.

P2P sharing offers certain advantages to video and TV content producers and distributors. To run servers with sufficient storage and bandwidth capacity to serve mass market video is expensive, prohibitively so for smaller players when the video is at high quality and high definition. With P2P sharing users might download parts of their video from distant reaches of the Internet from which transfer speed will be slow. However, most portions of the video will be downloaded from sources that are topologically closer and faster. In this way, P2P sharing naturally distributes network traffic in proportion to bandwidth availability and keeps more communication local. This is ideal in a world where bandwidth costs money but storage is essentially free.

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