How to make Bittorrent the new network

Dave Winer says Bittorrent is about to explode and he suggests what’s needed. I agree with him and have one more thing I think is needed (and I doubt whether Dave will agree):

If Bittorrent had the means to place and track the audience for ads on video and audio, then program creators and even studios and networks would rush to use it — especially now that they’ve broken the old distribution model with broadcast affiliates and cable systems by putting shows on iTunes and the internet. Of course, not everything on Bittorrent needs to have ads. But if it were possible to earn and measure using it, then we’d find a flood of “noninfringing” uses and this would, in turn, have great side benefits: First, P-to-P would lose its cooties and once Disney uses it, we won’t be hearing people trying to stop it. Second, ISPs won’t try to cripple it. Third, all kinds of new program producers — you and you and you — would be able to find support for their creativity.

  • What they can’t control, they are obsessed with measuring. I suspect the introduction of measurement would just further entrench such types in their command and control mentality of media, which is no good thing.

  • Chris

    My internet provider in Toronto (Rogers) throttles torrents. In other words, they choke my torrent connections, making them very slow. Torrents are almost dead to me.

  • Jeff, surprise — I don’t disagree with you — but I don’t agree with you either.

    BitTorrent is a transport mechanism, imho it can’t count the number of times something has been watched or listened to. The player would have to do that.

  • KC

    I think you are really onto something here. BitTorrent makes sense for multimedia distribution. But as I am finding out as we try to find sponsors for our online news video and podcasts, advertisers need measurement or they won’t invest. A measurement mechanism would be the tipping point that would make BitTorrent the standard.

    Keep preaching on this topic and hopefully someone will find a way to do this.

  • BitTorrent will gain more traction, but not as much as people think for one simple reason. Most daytime internet access happens across corporate networks and most IT managers will rightly restrict BitTorrent usage or block those ports altogether. I would be highly surprised if more than a handful of Global 2000 companies would willingly permit this (although these peer-to-peer applications, like IM, can be crafty in order to get around such impediments). Before Jarvis wails about the irresistable force of such movements, the purpose of corporate IT isn’t to allow the coolest, neatest applications to be deployed or allow people to check the news during the day, it’s to get business done (y’know, boring things like processing words, checking e-mail, creating spreadsheets, etc.). Among commercial web sites, there are already load balancing, clustering, and content network techniques that provide similar throughput, so it’s just providing the “amateurs” better tools to distribute multimedia.

  • Sam

    Your suggestions are misplaced, you’re looking at BitTorrent incorrectly. BitTorrent is a low level protocol for delivering bits to multiple people. By itself, it isn’t a complete P2P file sharing system, as it doesn’t offer search. A complete file sharing system needs a way to find things, and for BT, that is mostly provided by websites, many of which do use advertising already. Also, it is already very easy to track BT usage, as each torrent relies on a central server* (a “tracker”) for clients to find each other. Some BT trackers monitor clients in order to punish deadbeats who only download and never upload bits.

    Because downloading through BT is split up into a number of pieces, it can feel a bit fragmented. There’s no particular reason a unified P2P client couldn’t be built using BT as the transport protocol, which could have advertisements running in the client supplied by a central server, and in effect, that’s already happening with either BT or BT clones, see Valve Software’s Steam game distribution platform for example.

    So for BT per se, its pointless to put ads down in the protocol, you’ll want to focus on search portals, trackers, and lastly clients. User tracking is not only doable, its already being done. If you want to integrate it, this is more a matter of programming the search portal to feed back the information from the tracker to the ad serving system on the portal.

    * with the introduction of distributed tracking, its no longer true that BT is reliant on a central server, but its still mostly true (and many clients don’t support distributed tracking)

  • Back in Nov 2004, CacheLogic reported the BitTorrent was 35% of all Internet traffic (source). I’d imagine that percentage is even higher today.

    I mention that b/c it seems odd to think of it “expoding” in the near future. It has already exploded in a lot of ways.

  • Matt

    What you are suggesting is already envisioned and benig done by Peer Impact who have Music and Games already for sale and next month will have video content from NBCU.

  • bit torrent

    The latest beta of the Opera web browser has built in support for BitTorrent.