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"Series of Tubes" Metaphor Implemented 266

meisteg writes to tell us about Tubes: a beta application that uses a tube metaphor to enable users to share files over the Internet. The Windows-only app is free and the company hopes to make money on an enhanced version targeted at businesses. See this video for some details of how Tubes works. From the article: "[Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens] endured ridicule last year for his assertion that the Internet is 'a series of tubes.' But one Web startup hopes to bring that metaphor to life with a new service that makes it easy for people to share videos, songs, pictures and other big files."
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"Series of Tubes" Metaphor Implemented

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  • well (Score:5, Funny)

    by User 956 ( 568564 ) on Monday January 15, 2007 @09:55PM (#17622804) Homepage
    writes to tell us about Tubes: a beta application that uses a tube metaphor to enable users to share files over the Internet.

    Good. Because we all know that it's not a big truck.
    • well-Planespeak. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 15, 2007 @10:01PM (#17622862)
      OK so let's hear your explaination. And NO geekspeak.
      • by liquidpele ( 663430 ) on Monday January 15, 2007 @10:19PM (#17623066) Journal
        "OK so let's hear your explaination. And NO geekspeak."

        Good point. How would one explain how the internet works to someone with no clue at all? I mentioned the word "server" to my sister the other week, and she had to ask what it was. After trying to explain how it was different than her Dell laptop, I finally sent her a picture off google images of a big server rack and she finally got it.

        Geeks take it for granted what we already understand. To others, it might as well be magic.
        • I find it easier to make people understand using slightly simplified explanations which use esoteric terms, instead of trying to "bring it down to their level." People don't like to be coddled like that. If you start saying, "The internet is like a series of tubes, not like a dumptruck." you run the risk of people feeling like you're being a condescending prick. "I'm not 12." That's what sounded so off about the Stevens explanation to most people who had even a passing familiarity with the Internet.
          • by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Monday January 15, 2007 @11:14PM (#17623662) Homepage Journal

            Here goes nothing. Stevens got it ass backwards. The internet IS more like a truck... or really a bunch of them. It's not like a tube. A tube is a continuous flow. A roadway is a bunch of independent bits of flow all moving in different directions, much like the internet.

            The internet is a lot like an information superhighway... or more accurately, a highly interconnected network of roads and bridges that span the globe. Some roads are toll roads where people can pay to get somewhere faster just like you pay for a faster connection to the internet. There's nothing wrong with that. Some roads have fast speed limits, some have slower speed limits, and that all factors into how fast the truck gets to its destination. The internet works the same way. Those trucks are called packets, and the roads are called many names---pipes, trunk lines, and so on---but you can easily think of them as being like roadways.

            One big difference is that in the internet, you can pay money to your home state for the right to drive in the HOV lane or on other fast roads. People who want to get there faster can do so. Every state cooperates to allow drivers from other states to use those fast lanes because they know that those drivers are bringing things that people from their states have ordered. In effect, those trucks are driving at the request of the local residents. This generally works well; it's a lot like a nationwide, flat-rate version of FasTrak.

            However, some companies don't like the status quo. The non-neutral net that they propose can best be compared to Arkansas deciding that they are going to turn some of their faster roads into "special" toll roads. On those roads, they will charge $1 for trucks from Arkansas, but charge $100 for an identical truck from California. Why? Because California provides more trucks. If the truck from California doesn't pay that increased fee, they have take the slower, non-toll road. The people who ultimately are harmed, though, are the local residents who must ultimately bear the cost, either through paying those trucking companies more so that they can pay their state more or through having to wait longer to get their packages.

            Network neutrality laws are designed to make sure that the Arkansas states on the internet can't play those sorts of games. Ultimately, without network neutrality, the consumer loses.

            How's that?

            • Definitely the best analogy I've ever seen to explain the Interwebs. And you even one up Mr. "Bridge to Nowhere" by essentially reversing HIS analogy. Bravo.
            • by MoxFulder ( 159829 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @12:33AM (#17624356) Homepage
              The internet is a lot like an information superhighway...

              No, the Internet is NOT like a superhighway :-) From Usenet, 1994-ish:

                      "Think of the Internet as a highway."

                      There it is again. Some clueless fool talking about the "Information Superhighway." They don't know didley about the net. It's nothing like a superhighway. That's a rotten metaphor.

                      Suppose the metaphor ran in the other direction. Suppose the highways were like the net. . .

                      A highway hundreds of lanes wide. Most with pitfalls for potholes. Privately operated bridges and overpasses. No highway patrol. A couple of rent-a-cops on bicycles with broken whistles. 500 member vigilante posses with nuclear weapons. A minimum of 237 on ramps at every intersection. No signs. Wanna get to Ensenada? Holler out the window at a passing truck to ask directions. Ad hoc traffic laws. Some lanes would vote to make use by a single-occupant-vehicle a capital offense on Monday through Friday between 7:00 and 9:00. Other lanes would just shoot you without a trial for talking on a car phone.

                      AOL would be a giant diesel-smoking bus with hundreds of ebola victims on board throwing dead wombats and rotten cabbage at the other cars, most of which have been assembled at home from kits. Some are built around 2.5 horsepower lawnmower engines with a top speed of nine miles an hour. Others burn nitrogylcerin and idle at 120.

                      No license plates. World War II bomber nose art instead. Terrifying paintings of huge teeth or vampire eagles. Bumper mounted machine guns. Flip somebody the finger on this highway and get a white phosphorus grenade up your tailpipe. Flatbed trucks cruise around with anti-aircraft missile batteries to shoot down the traffic helicopter. Little kids on tricycles with squirtguns filled with hydrochloric acid switch lanes without warning.

                      NO OFFRAMPS. None.
                      Now that's the way to run an Interstate Highway system.
                      (author unknown)
              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by Kjella ( 173770 )
                Look, the point of an analogy is that it's supposed to be related in some aspect - if they had to be similar in every aspect, nothing would be analogous to anything but itself.

                As for the basic flow, there's basicly two kinds of tubes - those that move liquid through pressure (hydraulic), and those that move liquid through decent (drains, sewer pipes). Pressure doesn't make sense - I don't send packets and then have to sent more packets to push the first ones. Neither does the other one, that'd imply some so
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by kruhft ( 323362 )
              I think he meant 'tubes' like the old fashioned air driven tube messaging systems like they used to have in offices and factories (and I think I saw one in Costco a while back for the cashiers to transfer cash to the back of the store). This makes the most sense to me, since the system was essentially email-like, and would be the closest thing that someone with limited technical knowledge talking to an older crowd could analogize to.
            • Except the trucks are very small, and only carry a very small load. If you want to send something larger there is a simulation of a tube that attaches to both ends of the route, where you can push a larger load into the tube, it's broken up into pieces small enough to fit on a stream of small trucks, which are sent on their way, reassembled at the other end of the tube where you can pull it out again.
        • by Gulthek ( 12570 )
          Did you also explain that her Dell laptop could, in fact, be a server if she so chose?
        • Re:well-Planespeak. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by dangitman ( 862676 ) on Monday January 15, 2007 @10:30PM (#17623196)

          After trying to explain how it was different than her Dell laptop, I finally sent her a picture off google images of a big server rack and she finally got it.

          But what did she "get" by looking at the picture? Did she actually understand the server conceptually? Or did it further add to mystery, just with an added mental picture of racks of intimidating equipment?

          After all, her Dell laptop could easily perform as a server. And a rack-mount machine can easily function as a workstation. The type of enclosure does not determine the function.

        • I generally use mail as a metaphor for packets, but I suppose it works as a metaphor for the whole process.

          A message is addressed and sent to somebody, who opens it up and reads it, then reacts to whatever it says--possibly by writing their own letter and sending it to the original person. The difference being, of course, that the messages are sent over a wire at extremely fast speeds rather than put into a post office box. You could probably extend the analogy to include "mail sorting machines" along t

          • A message is addressed and sent to somebody, who opens it up and reads it, then reacts to whatever it says--possibly by writing their own letter and sending it to the original person. The difference being, of course, that the messages are sent over a wire at extremely fast speeds rather than put into a post office box. You could probably extend the analogy to include "mail sorting machines" along the way for routers/switches, but it might be more than they need (or want) to know.

            One problem with that m

            • by swv3752 ( 187722 )
              Email is like a PO Box. You can either go get your mail (Pop3) or hire a document archival company to store and send you a copy(imap).
        • Tell them internet is a giant cup of soda, you the kind you get a mini marts and such. Broadband is one of those jumbo straws and dial up is one of the coffee stiirer dealies.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Having (for the first time) just read the "series of tubes" quote on Wikipedia, it doesn't seem so bad to me. The only glaring error is having been "sent an internet" (rather than e-mail) but this could just be a slip of the tongue - I take it this was off-the-cuff, not a scripted speach.

          "Pipes" would have been a better word than "tubes" (stuff flows along pipes, but not necessarily along tubes) and I feel roads would be a better metaphor, but "tubes" isn't a bad one.

          I confess I don't understand what incorr
          • by FLEB ( 312391 )
            I agree that he did hit on a correct idea with "series of tubes", but in context with the rest of his speech, it's clear that the proper explanation was due more to coincidence than any sort of insight into the workings of the Internet. This rather-true statement was sandwiched on one side by "The Internet is not a truck, you can't just dump things on it." and on the other by "My staff tried to send me an Internet, and the enormous amounts of material clogged the tubes, making it so I got it [how ever-- I d
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Bodrius ( 191265 )
            I believe you need to listen to the speech to understand the full effect.

            There is one main thing that made this a particularly awful speech:

            Mr. Stevens was trying to 'educate' his fellow Senators, assuming the condescending tone of a self-appointed 'expert' in the subject.

            He was not trying to explain it in the sense of 'this is sort of how I understand it, as a simile', but more like 'you kids don't understand this interweb thing, and I do, so I'm going to extemporate here until you get it'.
            This makes silly
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by aussie_a ( 778472 )
        There are special computers that have pages, like from a book. Those special computers have something that lets you go to them, like each telephone has a unique number, but it more resembles words. Like is the "phone number" for the special computer with Woolworths pages on it. You type in the "phone number" into a special program, and it sends the "phone number" over the telephone line and like a telephone number, it knows where to go. It goes to the right computer, gets the page and sends i
        • is the "phone number" for the special computer with Woolworths pages on it.

          No, is like the "phone number", and DNS is like dialing 411 or looking up "Woolworths" in a phone directory. I use this all the time to explain what IP addressing is all about. People understand the hierarchical nature of phone numbers, being organized into Area Codes and exchanges, much like networks and subnets. I even wrote up a tutorial using this metaphor: Demystifying IP Addressing [], which opens

          • Right. But when you're explaining the entire concept of the internet, rather then domains, seems better to be slightly less detailed for the sake of understanding.
        • by sshore ( 50665 )

          There are special computers that have pages, like from a book. Those special computers have something that lets you go to them, like each telephone has a unique number, but it more resembles words.

          That's how far I got into your explanation before my eyes glazed over.

          "Tubes" was a perfectly good metaphor for the layman - you put data in one end, some magic happens, and it goes to the right place. This metaphor also implies the limited capacity of the connection, unlike your description. The senator was ref

    • As Mac users know, The Big Truck [] file-sharing application has been around for years!
    • Wish it was. A truck full of movies would arrive in a lot less time than it takes to bit torrent a truck load...
  • by Timesprout ( 579035 ) on Monday January 15, 2007 @10:00PM (#17622842)
    Initially it will be a series of pringle tubes duct taped together and connected to users computers thru which they can share files.
    • by 1u3hr ( 530656 )
      Back in the 60s our local post office had a pneumatic tube inter-office mail, stick the capsule in and poof, it gets pushed to the destination.

      For the youngsters amongst us, this was featured on Lost recently.

      I have the impression from movies that at least in some large cities this was used to send packets and letters from one building to another in business districts in the 40s and 50s.

  • No thanks (Score:2, Funny)

    by solevita ( 967690 )

    No more emailing or uploading large files. Shared content is pushed to you automatically without you taking any action and everything shared is always available on everyone's computers, even when there isn't an Internet connection.

    I don't care who I've invited to do what, I really don't want my friends to be able to put stuff on my PC as they feel fit. Anyone that has ever shared a printer in a University house will know the feeling - it doesn't take long until a hundred pages of "you're gay" wake you up i

  • by jspoon ( 585173 ) on Monday January 15, 2007 @10:09PM (#17622952)
    How long does it take to send an internet over it? Sometimes it takes days to receive them on the current implementation.
  • by XorNand ( 517466 ) * on Monday January 15, 2007 @10:09PM (#17622958)
    There are a zillion apps out there that accomplish the same thing. This is just one company riding a meme for publicity sakes. God how I hate marketers...
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 15, 2007 @10:27PM (#17623156)
      I am the marketer at and my name is Steve. And no, we didn't name it Tubes because of the Senator from Alaska although we do get a chuckle out of it here in Boston. We named it Tubes because of the metaphor we borrowed: the pneumatic tube used at many bank drive ins to transfer documents & cash. You know that cool thing at the bank the teller uses to send you money with a whoosh? Tubes is the digital version of that - letting you share with many people at once. Just like that bank tube, Tubes is secure, bi-directional, personal (you see and wave at the teller behind glass while she counts out your money), private, nearly instantaneous and fun. I remember getting lollipops in the tube when my Dad would drive to the bank (way before ATMs) and I practically begged him to use the bank tube because I was trying to figure out how it worked. We could have called it Star Trek (but we didn't, that would really be bad marketing) since some people think of it as part Replicator and part Transporter. We think it is cool and I hope you try it. It is beta software and we're hoping the slashdot crowd helps us make it better.

      And to the other person worried about getting his computer filled with stuff that other people send you, be aware that we implemented a feature called "On Demand" that lets you see what people are sending you before you accept. Or you can accept it all, delete your local copy, and request a local copy any time you want, on any computer.

      Hope that helps. If you have any other questions, feel free to post them on our forum!
      • by Zen ( 8377 ) on Monday January 15, 2007 @11:38PM (#17623866)
        I don't get it. The techie link does not explain in the least bit how it actually works. Does the data transfer happen directly between the users? Does it go through a server first where everything has the potential of being logged? In the case of multiple recipients is it unicast or multicast? What level of security have you done (I assume that the file transfers are encrypted). The email looked like a custom app to me, not any old email client, does that go through a centralized server before it is sent out as 'real' smtp email? What ports do you use for transfer, and does it work through a NAT?

        All right - going through their website quickly before I hit submit I got most of my answers. It's TCP 80 and 443, it appears to use a centralized server (thereby having a 2GB limit, and logging all access), and does not work through NAT yet.

        But this information should definitely have been available in the techies video. There was no technical information in that video at all.
      • by Attaturk ( 695988 ) on Monday January 15, 2007 @11:54PM (#17624030) Homepage
        I am the marketer at and my name is Steve.
        Hi Steve. We here at /. have no problem with innovations and new technologies. We love the stuff. We're not good with "marketers" though. You were innocent/ignorant/brave enough to come here so I'll try to be kind even though I know some of us would probaly like to eat your brain with a spoon.

        So if you have some "news for nerds" or "stuff that matters", by all means share it with us. We'll want to know all the gory technical details that the mainstream press gets turned off by. If we think it rocks, you'll hear no end of it. We'll be bragging to everyone about how we know about this cool new thing that's really clever and is going to be huge. I should imagine that scenario to be a marketer's wet dream.

        However on a more cautionary note, if you should ever try to use or misuse us, or this site, purely as a marketing tool, we'll tear your product to pieces. It'll be mocked by us mercilessly and swiftly forgotten. The overall marketing effort would be starkly hindered by the historic mauling that we gave it in its infancy. That sounds a lot like a marketer's worst nightmare.

        So please, tell your marketer friends our message. Bring us genuine, interesting news and we'll do your job for you better than you could have ever hoped. Bring us tired, overhyped, nothing new to see here slashvertisements and we'll get mad. Then we'll get even. Then we'll go back to being odd.

        If you think there's something truly new or special about your product, double-check with some really hardcore geek friends. If they say things like "so it's just a file sharing app?" or "and?" then it's probably best not to bring the hype to our door. IMHO you should only bring it here if they say things like: "Holy crap - why didn't I think of that?" or "Damn that's smart. I thought I knew what I was talking about but your guys must really know their shit!" or even "You're shitting me! When did that happen?"

        Good luck with selling the software.
  • It looks like an interesting product. The most useful feature for me would be the ability to synchronize files easily between all my devices. I do have to wonder what would happen if malicious programs were shared through a tube? Sally wants to share a file that has a virus, so it instantly updates all the computers attached to the Tube. I suppose virus scanning software would work, but that wasn't covered in the demonstration.
  • All decentralized version control systems do this kind of stuff already.
  • by mfh ( 56 )
    Many slashdotters so far have commented on the brutal marketspaek going on in this presentation, but this concept has one thing going for it that torrent networks so far haven't touched on very well... the use of a private share network that is collaborative.

    I think Tubes looks like it will catch on. If sites like Facebook and Technorati implement some hooks into it, there is no telling where this could go.
    • I think Tubes looks like it will catch on. If sites like Facebook and Technorati implement some hooks into it, there is no telling where this could go.

      To Alaska, perhaps? But then there probably wouldn't be anything at the other end.

    • I think Tubes looks like it will catch on. If sites like Facebook and Technorati implement some hooks into it, there is no telling where this could go.

      I'm already worrying about how I'll need to block its data traffic.

      This is exactly what kids will love. Kids love to share parts of their life with their friends. They share photos. They share messages. They share stories. Poems. Videos. Every kid socially needs to define themself, and the internet has become a great way to do it.

      Why has myspace (&
  • The slides showed Tubes sending Word files, spreadsheets, and other data through the tubes. But Senator Ted Stevens clearly described the capability to send entire Internets through the Tubes. If this can't send Internets, it is clearly not a complete Tube implementation.
  • A metaphor that enables users to share files! I always thought we needed similes for that. How foolish of me.
  • by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Monday January 15, 2007 @10:41PM (#17623340) Journal
    So, the Linux equivalent to tubes would be, what?... pipes?
  • least, that's what I'm guessing from the "hipcool" language used in their fora (a/k/a "forums"). Nearly every topic is seeded by an "rlunetta" who writes as though she were a 13-yo MySpaceFlickrFrapprButchrBakrCandlestickMakr type. Either Adesso has hired a prepubescent to serve as their public face or they're slickly targeting this at the demographic that has conflated a computer with a keyboard-loaded tellybision.
  • I went to the Miraikan in Tokyo this summer, and one of the coolest nerd things that they had was a physical model of the internet. My geek guy and I passed schmoopy "heart" messages back and forth across a series of connected conveyor belts using black and white colored balls, symbolizing 0s and 1s. The setup had an information display that, as far as my bad Japanese could read, said it was a graduate student project from a nearby University. It was incredibly cool. From the English part of their website
  • by HexRei ( 515117 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @12:05AM (#17624114)
    I mean, it's a good metaphor. Regardless of the medium (electrical or optical) the internet really kind of IS a series of tubes of varying capacity, interconnecting a bunch of nodes.
    • Would you say that Fedex uses a series of tubes to deliver packages to your door?

      While on one level an analogy like tubes might make a certain kind of sense, for me at least it immediately brings to mind some kind of silly Rube Goldberg contraption with emails being put into bank teller container things and shot off across the internet in a burst of air. Plus he didn't say the internet works LIKE a series a tubes, he said IT IS a series of tubes. And thats just.... funny.

  • Sounds a lot like Novell's iFolder [] which is a really neat application. Sync files from a central store to multiple computers using a thin client, or access then via a web browser. You can have any number of folders and control who can access what in each folder. Well except iFolder will run on all platforms (mono), not just Windows. And it's free.
  • by SQLz ( 564901 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @12:27AM (#17624306) Homepage Journal
    Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens and the rest of the Senate are a series of giant assholes.
  • We all know that porn and spam block tubes, causing the internets to be congested and slow down.

    Will this new service allow for online gambling to "flush out the tubes", since poker chips are round?
  • by Eskarel ( 565631 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @12:52AM (#17624526)
    As far as it goes, and under very specific provisions, the tubes abstraction is not actually all that bad. Nor is the highway one, or any other abstraction.

    The problem is that while an abstraction can be a great way to explain a technical concept to someone non-technical, it isn't a complete understanding of the concept, and when non-technical people try to make decisions based on that metaphor they are often wrong.

    The internet is, in some ways, like, a series of tubes, but it is not actually a series of tubes, and when you make decisions about the internet as if it were a series of tubes instead of what it actually is, most of the time you'll get it wrong. Most of our elected officials don't have a technical background so we have a bunch of people trying to make decisions based, at best, on abstractions, or on the advice of experts(who are usually bought and paid for by someone).

    Probably the best solution to all of this is to start funding independent pools of experts on technical and scientific fields and then taking their advice, but those sorts of people don't tend to tell the politicians what they're being paid to want to hear, so that'll never happen.

  • by SmurfButcher Bob ( 313810 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @01:08AM (#17624652) Journal
    ... my ferrets have had internets for years! They love 'em! I even got them a router, that connects one of the 25' innernets to two of the 12' internets. The other three 25' innernets are simple PPP, however, and the routes are a tangled mess. I'm hoping to upgrade to a six port router in a few weeks, because as hard as the weasels try, the internets are DEFINITELY half duplex. They're not Cat5, either... he can stuff his head in, but that's all that'll fit without fragmentation.

    The thing that sucks the most is when one of the internets get a hole chewed into it. The damned packets end up misrouted, on the floor, and you have to twist the innernet so that the hole is facing up to make it stop. Having a kitten who repeatedly cannonballs the array doesn't help much, either, because he uses the holes in the web to intercept the traffic.

    In Ferret Internets, PACKETS SNIFF YOU!
  • What's New ? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by shashark ( 836922 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @02:18AM (#17625166)
    Remind me what's new here - We've been seeing this in Grouper (, iMeem ( and Krawler ( - shameless plug, it uses RSS and bit-torrent for file transfers as well). Same old Media sharing. Same old Social Networking. Same old File Transfer.

    Two things -
    (1) That p2p Networks are fringe activities, and 99% of the web users will use to share videos is a fact these p2p networks have to realise.
    (2) There can not be a viable business model for p2p based file-sharing networks which doesn't rely on some sort of Adware or (minor) spyware. Since the volumes can never justify the ad-spend by advertisers, the advertisers will increasingly push for personal information of the users - which, considering the technologies involved, is not very hard to get from the back door.

    I salute the PR team of this company on having managed to get their crap of a product on slashdot.

"You must have an IQ of at least half a million." -- Popeye