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The Internet Businesses Networking

The Commercial Future of Torrrents 314

Posted by Zonk
from the inrush-of-information dept.
acrid_k writes "Yahoo is covering a story from SiliconValley.com entitled BitTorrent moving uptown. From adding Ask Jeeves content in search results to investigating use of torrents for sharing bandwidth for paid downloads, the future is looking both more restrictive and more commercial. You have to wonder about a crucial part of the equation: why would internet users share their bandwidth to benefit media companies?" From the article: "BitTorrent already has struck deals with video game publishers to distribute games with its technology. Cohen's bid to commercialize BitTorrent is a measure of how far the entertainment industry has come since the late 1990s, when Napster introduced millions of people to the power of peer-to-peer technology for downloading songs -- and mobilized scores of lawyers to shut it down."
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The Commercial Future of Torrrents

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  • by rockytriton (896444) on Tuesday August 02, 2005 @01:23PM (#13223245)
    I would say share bandwidth for video game downloads because I hate those sites that make you pay to get a fast download or wait in line for 2 hours to download for free!

    --
    http://www.dreamsyssoft.com [dreamsyssoft.com]
    • Also, it's horrible when a big, very popular, download comes out and you're sitting there at 5k/sec because the site is getting hammered. It's not JUST benefitting the media companies.
    • by xiando (770382)
      It is very simple. Bandwidth must be paid for. You can download a handfull adult movies using BitTorrent from http://hardcoretorrents.com/ [hardcoretorrents.com] or you can click the sponsors and pay $5 to download a huge variety of videos at full bandwidth. What you need to realize is that the adult content at that site, just like the games, must be produced and hence they must be payd for. You may hate that you must wait in line for 2 hours, sure, but think of this: You would not be able to download for free at all if it were n
  • toRRRents? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 02, 2005 @01:25PM (#13223267)
    Note to editors: please add spell-checker to your article dupe checker!

    Thanks.
  • come on editors! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Doctor Crumb (737936) on Tuesday August 02, 2005 @01:25PM (#13223272) Homepage
    Spell Check. Just do it.
    • It's part of a subtle campaign by the *AA's to further associate anything P2P with pircay. I mean, how else would you explain all the RRRRRRs?
    • I'm not a programmer, and I've never seen the /. backend, but I can't imagine it would be that hard to BUILD a spellchecker in that would highlight words not in a dictionary before articles get posted.

      Common Taco, I'm giving these ideas away.
    • > Spell Check. Just do it.

      $ ls -l /usr/dict/words
      -r--r--r-- 1 bin bin 206662 Sep 1 1998 /usr/dict/words

      Back in the good old days, it was short enough that we didn't need a .torrent for a spell checker!

    • I for one think that much of Slashdot's charm lies in the spelling mistakes made by its editorrs you insensitive clod!
    • What's wrrong with the spellling? It loooks goood to meee!
  • For a second there I thought we were going to possibly talk about the chimerical future of torrents. *sigh*
  • I imagine that Bittorrent would work best economically where you pay some fixed amount to be a member of a closed Bittorrent network with exclusive content. The service could then easily track who is downloading what, then portion out your (say) monthly fee among the content producers.
    • How about the micropay model? If you have a closed community, you can use the awesome power of supply-demand curves and free markets. A fractional transaction tax on the community members can pay for the community infrastructure.
    • I dont' think Bittorrent or any other p2p technology makes sense for commercial distribution, because it's inherently wasteful of last-mile bandwidth, which is scarce. Each bit makes one trip up the Internet from a leaf node (somebody's PC) to the backbone, then back down to some other leaf node. That's twice as much traffic as if the bit were simply coming down from the backbone. Ultimately this waste will probably result in higher cost compared to a centralized model. Currently p2p is thriving despite
      • I dont' think Bittorrent or any other p2p technology makes sense for commercial distribution, because it's inherently wasteful of last-mile bandwidth, which is scarce.

        But that idle last-mile bandwidth is essentially free, and bandwidth from central servers or CDNs is not free. Thus BitTorrent is cheaper, even if it is in some sense less efficient.
      • I disagree with you.

        I dont' think Bittorrent or any other p2p technology makes sense for commercial distribution, because it's inherently wasteful of last-mile bandwidth, which is scarce.

        Bittorrent/P2P makes sense because it distributes the bandwidth requirement across various last-mile connections, not a single high-bandwidth connection. So the distributors of content save money by not having to pay so much for their bandwidth requirements. The cable and DSL companies may get the short end of the stick i
  • ...of the Slashdot effect? Sure, we now use bittorrent to distribute software over a vast, distributed network. Why not adapt it to HTTP or the like? Yeah, it would make updating news sites a bit of a problem, but more static sites could brace for a large DDoS-type-hit (intentional or unintentional) by this method.

    Thats one of the more overlooked commercial applications I can think of. Not only quite legal, but useful as well.
    • ...when my cable ISP capped NNTP at 32kB/s because of the binary groups. That's all fine, because I usually use bittorrent or eDonkey for downloading files, but it has the side effect of making headers require several minutes to download in some of the larger groups. I'm sure this wouldn't help small groups, but it would surely take some of the load off of the NNTP server if a torrent-like system could be used to distribute the pages.

      I've posted this before, but supposedly this company [onionnetworks.com] has technology to s
    • We've already discussed this idea on slashdot before so I'll just repost my previous comments:

      Actually I had this same good idea a couple of years ago. It could effectly wipe out the slashdot effect. What if, each time server load went over a preset amount, it served a torrrent containing the HTML and image files instead of the HTML file itself. When the browser sees the torrent with special HTTP headers, it automagically unpacks the torrent after completing the download and displays the HTML locally. An


    • It wouldn't really work unless the webpage/site is already friggin huge. Mostly because to be of any use you first have to download the torrent. Over HTTP. And then unpack it, get a list of the peers, start trying to connect to them, hash out who has what and who's going to give you what and who you're going to give what. And then the transfer starts. And maybe one of the peers dies, so you have to go grab that chunk from someone else. After going through the last few steps a couple times, you're done!

      But r
  • by Iriel (810009) on Tuesday August 02, 2005 @01:31PM (#13223338) Homepage
    "why would internet users share their bandwidth to benefit media companies?"

    Media companies aren't the only people who can be helped by commercial application of torrent tech. Think of this (and it's just an idea):

    What if Apple integrated bittorrent into the next version of iTunes? Users that subscribe to the same podcast could be torrenting from users instead of just from the server. This way, you can get your podcasts faster, and without hogging up one server to do it.

    That's just my idea. But why would we want to make things faster for us? ;)
  • why would internet users share their bandwidth to benefit media companies?

    Because not all people think that corporations are Evil. I would share my bandwith it it helps keeps costs down, and allows me to download the product I buy faster.
    • Because not all people think that corporations are Evil. I would share my bandwith it it helps keeps costs down, and allows me to download the product I buy faster.

      How much is your bandwith worth to you? Would they follow a model like empornium where I would have to keep my share up? What if I didn't want to give out *any* bandwith would I still get to download?

      My DSL connection costs about $60/mo. I can go out and purchase a physical piece of media for about $20 when it's new. Is downloading something
      • How much is your bandwith worth to you? Would they follow a model like empornium where I would have to keep my share up? What if I didn't want to give out *any* bandwith would I still get to download?

        I've been working on a quantitative answer to this question. (There are some notes here [ucl.ac.uk] but they're a bit out of date.) My idea works like this: peers upload to their neighbours in order to obtain downloads from their neighbours (payment in kind, as in BitTorrent). When a peer has to choose which neighbour to

      • How much is your bandwith worth to you? Would they follow a model like empornium where I would have to keep my share up? What if I didn't want to give out *any* bandwith would I still get to download?

        My DSL connection costs about $60/mo.


        My bandwidth is worth about $40 a month today. That is what my bill and checkbook say anyway.

        I keep my torrents open to obtain an average up/down ration of about 1 or greater. I hate those weasels that drop their connection as soon as _their_ download finishes. My roommat
    • Why would it keep costs down? It will lower the cost for the corporations sure, but that just raises their profits.
      • Well American Consumers are usually very stupid. They want their products below cost or they are willing to pay full price for it. Now most sucessful companies will not sell bellow costs and they will add usually a 20% margin above that for profit. If they can get away with more they will. Now if we are smart consumers and we see a company is selling a product and you find out that they have found a way to cut price you can haggle for a better price. When Haggling you need to realize that the person sel
    • I would really only consider providing bandwidth to a corp if they gave me a cut somehow, either $ or services.

      Yep, I'm greedy. So are a whole lot of you. :)

  • "...why would internet users share their bandwidth to benefit media companies?"

    Because it's a cheap, easy, and very scalable way to get fast downloads. I'd rather pay for less a company to provide content via Bittorrent than pay more so that they can build and maintain and infrastructure capable of hosting a huge number of http or ftp connections.

    On a related note, most internet users aren't crazed slashdotters who obsess over their upstreams.
    • Good answer. Thinking down the road, imagine this:

      People start using their upstream bandwidth a lot more than ISPs intend, and they start charging more because of it.

      Could it happen?
    • very scalable

      Up to several hundred clients, yes. Beyond that? Things don't look quite as cheery. Try connecting to a torrent with a thousand peers and a thousand seeds. A substantial part of your bandwidth- especially precious upstream bandwidth- is spent replying to peers. I blame the third party clients, mostly, for flooding peers with requests.

    • Besides, if Internet Movie Company $foo makes a dedicated program to (legally) acquire movies built on BitTorrent technology, who's to say you can't turn off the program once you're done?

      The quote we all seem to borrowing from comes off as if we have to permanently offer 1/10th of our total bandwidth at all times to the corporate giant. For one: BitTorrent is a sort of 'You scratch my back, I scratch yours' technology. Unless you want to be branded as a leech, you have to give to receive. The other problem
      • The other problem I have with that quote is that I don't understand how we sacrifice our bandwidth for the corporate machine or anything. If we're part of a commercial service that uses torrents, then we're actually benefitting the other users, too. Once again, we all give and receive and therefore, get our files faster. Unless we'll be charged more for using 'advanced technology', then I see this as a benefit for the users more than the companies.

        I think the logic goes somewhere along the lines of "We ar
    • BitTorrent is a brilliant method of localising bandwidth. For example, if I download the latest popular movie from the US (and I live in the UK), then there has to be sufficient bandwidth between my house, down to the ADSL exchange, across to my ISP, up to their trunk provider, under the ocean, along to the host's ISP, and into their server.

      On the other hand, if I can download it from my next door neighbour, all you need is more bandwidth down to the telephone exchange. Couple of miles of high bandwidth cab
  • Grrrrrrreat (Score:4, Funny)

    by BlackCobra43 (596714) on Tuesday August 02, 2005 @01:32PM (#13223350)
    We now have Tony the Tiger posting on Slashdot.
  • by EggyToast (858951) on Tuesday August 02, 2005 @01:33PM (#13223360) Homepage
    The beauty of bittorrent is that on top of being efficient is that it's easy to use. You find a torrent link, you click it, you're good to go. If you need to pay for a link, then arguably you need to log in to a secure site and then click the link.

    What's going to stop them from propagating those commercial links around the web? Arguably, I'd say that they need to force users to log into the tracker. That suddenly makes accessing those torrents more difficult.

    I do agree, though, that such a setup would likely be a lot more secure than just a "pure download" method. If they DO set up some way for users to log in and access (and download) their torrents, then that means they would just need to store a list of torrents, making it easy for users to re-download stuff that's lost.

    Similarly, a business could keep bandwidth and speed up by simply distributing a release among, say, 5-10 permanent seeding machines for their various releases. Most of the bandwidth would come from those, but for popular files, it wouldn't matter if you're leeching due to the increased speed of everyone on the network.

    I can see how it would work for commercial stuff -- pretty much just the same as any non-commercial torrent release with dedicated distribution. What I don't see is how they're going to control access to the torrents, trackers, and the like.


    I can say right now, though, that if they expect me to use my bandwidth for a download that, in all likelyhood, will take longer than a pure straight http/ftp download, I better get a "seeder" discount.

    • >>> "The beauty of bittorrent is that on top of being efficient is that it's easy to use. You find a torrent link, you click it, you're good to go."

      Hmm, I decided to try out bit torrents via Azureus as I had a few apps to download. The applications were Inkscape, Scribus and Audacity.

      Couldn't find any torrents to use.

      It might be excellent if you're after pirated commercial apps or pr0n, but I was suprised I couldn't find torrents for these OS apps.

      Oh well. Perhaps I'll try again when OOo 2.0 comes
      • Well, not being able to find a link doesn't make the technology more difficult. It just shows that not everyone is using torrents for downloading applications.

        Couple that with the fact that Inkscape is 23 and available on Sourceforge (lots of bandwidth, not a very big file), Scribus is 7 mb (not a big file so torrents don't make much sense), and Audacity is even smaller, and I'm not entirely surprised that you didn't find torrents for those apps. They're far more useful, by design, for large filetypes.

  • by tomhudson (43916)

    the future is looking both more restrictive and more commercial.

    ... and just HOW are they going to restrict it, pray tell? Its not like you can't run it off any port you choose, or modify/extend it ... its' NOT a closed-source app/protocol, and its not like there won't be further developments, or changes that take the tech into another direction, that can't be restricted.

    For example, if I decide to host a pr0n torrent server for free, I'm sure Ill get LOTS more traffic than any paid service. Free (as in

    • This just in from the department of redundancy department:
      Free (as in cost as well as in beer) always wins.

      Free as in beer means no cost. Gratis. Perhaps you meant "Free (as in beer as well as in speech)"?
      • No, free as in beer does NOT mean no cost. Someone has to pay for it - its more along the lines of "here, have a beer, friend".

        Apply the same thinking to code. "Here's the code - its already written, you don't have to pay for it, I'm sharing it with you"

        Stallman has made it quite clear that free as in beer does not mean it has to be free of cost - quite the contrary, he's said many times that he has no problem with people making money off free code, including selling copies of it for whatever the market w

    • by Ricdude (4163)
      Just some random ideas:

      1) SSL connections to a centralized tracker: You pay for the content, you download your own .torrent that includes personal authentication information to allow access to the centralized tracker.

      2) Per-user authentications with public key exchanges added to the protocol: You contact a peer, you have to answer a challenge by decoding with the peer's public key (from the tracker) and your private key. Your public key is maintained by the tracker.

      3) All public keys are specific to a giv
    • and just HOW are they going to restrict it, pray tell?

      DRM. The distribution method is irrelevant if you can't actually use the file once you've downloaded it.
      • DRM. The distribution method is irrelevant if you can't actually use the file once you've downloaded it.
        The quote was about restricting bittorrent, not content ...

        ... and we've yet to see a DRM that hasn't been broken ...

  • You have to wonder about a crucial part of the equation: why would internet users share their bandwidth to benefit media companies?

    Simple. They will check your upload to download ratio and give you incentives to keep a higher ratio. Of course, the incentive will be far far smaller than the actual value of the bandwidth but hey, 1GB upload means 1 song or something like that would motivate people.

  • by argStyopa (232550) on Tuesday August 02, 2005 @01:36PM (#13223395) Journal
    ...but I am willing to return in kind.

    Torrents for files that are being freely distributed - sure, I can share my bandwidth, especially when I don't need it. Even patches for some commercial games I don't mind because it improves games I play.

    Torrents for commercial files that are charging users for the download? Kiss my butt, unless you are paying me for the bandwidth.
    • Torrents for commercial files that are charging users for the download? Kiss my butt, unless you are paying me for the bandwidth.

      You already are paying for the bandwidth. If downloads from a commercial company require more bandwidth, do you think they are just going to suck up the cost or possibly even loose money and go out of business?

      Nope. Up the cost to cover expenses.

      If they go with a torrent style download, _everybody_ pays less, and odds are we all get faster downloads.

      All of this is null and void
  • When did we get a choice if we use torrents or not? A lot of browsers are now able to use torrents by default. If big media companies exploit this others will follow and we're stuck using them like it or not.
  • The question was why people would share their internet connection to benefit media companies. Well, people will do it if there is incentive enough, i.e. they get other stuff faster or access to exclusive content or some other tangible benefits. The current P2P networks have already shown that people are willing to share, adding commercial beneficiaries may not change it radically. The businesses just need to invent the benefits for people for the win-win scenario.

    (Argh, I actually used words like "incentive
  • It's not all bad (Score:3, Insightful)

    by alpharoid (623463) on Tuesday August 02, 2005 @01:43PM (#13223467)
    Though I'm not quite in favor of using torrents to help the media conglomerates save money, the implications can be positive in some respects. For one thing, it'll legitimize P2P and make it a crucial part of the Internet experience.

    If the big players depend on the technology, it means we'll have an easier time defeating some of the current restrictions planned to curb P2P... such as limiting DSL upstream to a bare minimum, or charging for higher-than-average upstream.

    Lots of providers all over the world are still considering this as we speak. Using commercial torrents would put enormous pressure against such measures.
  • Oh geeze...I can only imagine the roommate hell that will surface if this becomes more commonplace. Roomies slurping stuff off the net in p2p networks was bad enough. When my one roomie discovered the joys of Bit Torrent, oh my poor router...

    I feel for all the self-appointed sys admin roommates who are supporting their roomie's habits.
    • if you can't stop your users from getting on fast p2p, you aren't worthy of calling yourself admin.
  • Try out http://popcast.com/ [popcast.com] for an example of BitTorrent TV.
  • I don't think I've ever had a torrent that didn't just peter out and stop, never to complete. Mac version. PC version. Doesn't matter.
  • Bit Torrent sounds great, in thory....

    Lots of people want to download say a Linux distro on release day and I know of no Linux company that will be able to have a server that will hold up. So, they create a torrent and when millions are all trying to download it at the same time can because bit torrent speeds this up immensly. What happens later that month? What happens in 2 months? That iso isn't ALWAYS going to be in hot demand. After a while, the torrent becomes slow since there are no downloaders.
    • One way to do this would be to only provide the torrent link, but have the download server seeding it 24/7. In low demand times the few downloaders share the bandwidth of the server, and then in peaks they share each others bandwidth. Nice and easy for the company to set up but it would need widespread support for .torrents in web browsers. Maybe if firefox/ie follow opera's lead?
  • by Duncan3 (10537) on Tuesday August 02, 2005 @01:57PM (#13223614) Homepage
    But the problem everyone has, and why we get 1k/sec torrents from them here, isn't that torrents suck until somthing is popular, it's that 1 or 2 users with 100+++ TCP streams each can consume all available bandwidth at the company/campus/etc.

    Of course, that's also exactly why it's so popular and people like it.

    Movies are just BIG, and since the torrent protocol is lets face it, about as hostile as you could design to any other traffic, it's always going to be packet shaped/blocked/filtered.

    Still, gotta love free as in not paid for :)
    • I'm assuming you're referring to the fact that BitTorrent doesn't actually work at all well with TCP's congestion control methods? This is a solvable problem:

      Basically, TCP is not the ideal protocol for BitTorrent. It is designed for passing around data which both needs to have a guaranteed arrival, and must arrive in order. The congestion control methods are also applied (typically) on a per connection basis, meaning that having a very large number of connections reduces the effectiveness of its congestion
      • Again, this is why people like it. It nukes the network in order to get you every last KB/sec so you can watch your content ASAP.

        Back in my day, we set up the zmodem and woke up the next morning with files.

        The TCP/UDP change wouldn't solve anything, and wuold only make the NAT/firewalls issues parger.
  • it's a network (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tacokill (531275) on Tuesday August 02, 2005 @01:58PM (#13223628)
    Like the internet as a whole, BitTorrent is a network. Anyone (including media companies) can put stuff ON the network assuming someone is willing to host it. Having said that, however, there are a few rules to follow (MEDIA COMPANIES PLEASE PAY ATTENTION!):

    a) The network is not yours to do with as you please. It is OUR network and you are participants. Participants != owners, no matter how would much you would like it to.

    b) You don't get to choose your neighbors on the network.

    c) It is a priveledge, not a right, for you to participate on the network.

    d) You don't get to control what goes OVER the network. Yes, there may be things you don't like but deal with it.


    Thank you for your time.
    • Like the internet as a whole, BitTorrent is a network.

      Traditional torrents, perhaps... The way torrents are starting to go, not so much.

      Torrent trackers have the ability to track usage, logins, and IPs. People can be limited to joining the BitTorrent network by the tracker. So then it shifts the ownership of the BitTorrent network to THEM.

      It's always going to be up to the members that will make up that BitTorrent network whether or not they are willing to play by the rules set down by the media conglomor
    • Wrong. There is no single BT network. Each BT tracker is completely self-contained and may accept or reject files and users at the operator's discretion. If a tracker operator (whether a media company, a pirate hub, or a hobbyist distributing files whose license allows it) wants to forbid certain people or types of content from their tracker, they have every right and ability to do so. If demand is sufficiently high for whatever has been rejected, the people demanding it are free to start their own tracker
  • The real question is if ISPs are going to support this. Sounds like a lot of more work for them.

    but seriously, if the choice is either to use bittorent or deal with an infestation of obnoxious advertizements needed to pay for the content (or not getting the content at all) I think the choice is pretty easy. Why would it bother me to help distribute something cool?
  • Article wrong (Score:3, Informative)

    by afay (301708) on Tuesday August 02, 2005 @02:13PM (#13223770)
    From the article:

    It helps that Cohen never cast himself as an anarchist who bragged that his technology would vanquish the old entertainment industry. He has gone out of his way to castigate those who use BitTorrent for piracy.

    Or not...

    From his homepage [archive.org]:

    I build systems to disseminate information, commit digital piracy, synthesize drugs, maintain untrusted contacts, purchase anonymously, and secure machines and homes.

    • In the past four years, his stance on this may have changed somewhat. I can't see that kind of comment on his site anywhere now. Either he's trying to hide that side of himself or he's changed.
    • Cohen's explanation [wired.com]


      I wrote that in 1999, and I didn't even start working on BitTorrent until 2001," Cohen said. "I find it really unpleasant that I even have to worry about it. ...

      That was written in a combative confrontation style; I wasn't really talking about anything. It was a reaction-getting thing.... I think it's pretty clear the way that was written is that it was written in voice. It was an exaggerated character speaking it.

    • FYI, Cohen says that piece was written as satire. Even if it wasn't, it was written well before he made Bit Torrent.
  • by bahwi (43111)
    "You have to wonder about a crucial part of the equation: why would internet users share their bandwidth to benefit media companies?"

    Why? Why? So I can download it at 200k/sec from all over the net instead of 10k/sec from the central server. Because I want my media when I click "Download" and if not then, then as fast as possible.

    Besides, I'm not paying per meg, so as long as it's extra bandwidth, they can have it, as long as it benefits me, which is does. Faster downloads.
  • My question is: How much will downloading stuff via P2P, instead of from web sites, save me as a consumer. After all, the delivery method takes advantage of the bandwidth I pay for instead of the bandwidth they were previously paying for and to some degree, charging me for.

    Now, I'll grant, compared to the cost of making a movie or software, the cost of bandwidth for distributing it is pretty minimal. That said, I don't really see an advantage to me to use P2P unless I'm getting something in return. Otherwis

    •   It won't save you anything. Businesses exist to make profits.

        On the other hand, when the thronging masses all try to download an update, it's much more likely that you will be able not just to download it, but to download it quickly, so at least there will be some benefit.
  • bittorrent bandwidth on my computer...sure I would.
    I wouldnt do it 24 hours a day...but i could leave it on when Im not there.

    They dont have to pay me just give me something
    of value.

  • That's "torrents" (two r's, not three).
  • Not much details in the article. It just says Bram Cohen is having meetings with businessmen. It doesn't say how it will become a more restrictive technoloyg. In either case, non-commercial, non-restrictive use of BitTorrent will never die. For example, the idea of combining BitTorrent with RSS has been brought up before. With podcasting currently rapidlly growing in popularity, bandwidth is quickly becoming an issue. Amazingly, the podcasting community haven't embraced P2P technology yet. So BitTorrent mig
  • I thought Downtown [wikipedia.org] is where all the money is.
  • What, is this the new DRM enhanced version? The extra 'r' makes it uncrackable!
  • ...They're GRRREAT!

    (as Tony the Tiger would say)

One good reason why computers can do more work than people is that they never have to stop and answer the phone.

Working...