The term "peer-to-peer" has come to be applied to networks that expect end users to contribute their own files, computing time, or other resources to some shared project. Even more interesting than the systems' technical underpinnings are their socially disruptive potential: in various ways they return content, choice, and control to ordinary users.
While this book is mostly about the technical promise of peer-to-peer, we also talk about its exciting social promise. Communities have been forming on the Internet for a long time, but they have been limited by the flat interactive qualities of email and Network newsgroups. People can exchange recommendations and ideas over these media, but have great difficulty commenting on each other's postings, structuring information, performing searches, or creating summaries. If tools provided ways to organize information intelligently, and if each person could serve up his or her own data and retrieve others' data, the possibilities for collaboration would take off. Peer-to-peer technologies along with metadata could enhance almost any group of people who share an interest--technical, cultural, political, medical, you name it.
This book presents the goals that drive the developers of the best-known peer-to-peer systems, the problems they've faced, and the technical solutions they've found. Learn here the essentials of peer-to-peer from leaders of the field:
I really enjoyed this book, but I'm not sure that "peer-to-peer" necessarily focuses on the issues of security and authenticity upon which most of the book seemed concentrated. Indeed, an early contributor noted that what made Napster so nifty wasn't the peer-to-peer aspect, as the hybrid centralized list of peers and what they had available.
I would suspect that issues of self-publishing and collaboration go beyond the extremes of anonymity and methods of publishing despite potential government (or corporate) oppression that came to color the writings, at least as I read through them. Those things =are= important, but in focusing on those particular edges, we lose sight of the fact that current tools do not provide comfortable affordances to self-publishing, nor do current typical ISP relationships (no fixed IP for putting the home computer online).
Having said all of that, I also begin to wonder at the historical review. It was with a great start that I read Andy Orum's comments at the end where he writes: "When a revenue stream that information providers have counted on for over 2000 years threatens to dry up...." If, as I believe, Mr. Orum is referring to the concept of authorship, or modern concepts of intellectual property, he needs to drop an order of magnitude. Indeed, as Elizabeth Eisenstadt pointed out in her monumental "The Printing Press as an Agent of Change," the concept of authorship as we know it today is one innovation that appeared with "mass" printing.
On the other hand, the idea of control over ideas goes back as far back in human history as there are recorded ideas, such that it is neither notable that some people like to control access to information and others (Prometheus, to cite one early legendary example) work to change that. In that context, peer-to-peer, as it applies to intellectual freedom, is only the latest phase of an ongoing tao-ish part of human social behavior! That doesn't lessen it's importance, but perhaps might be useful in lessening the self-importance of some practitioners :-).
Still, a lovely book and an excellent introduction. It will take me months to think things out and explore the new software that the book introduces.
Of course, saying that Peer to Peer is an "up and coming" technology is most likely misleading, given that some form of peer to peer has been around since the early days of the Internet. However, the series of essays in this book explain various parts of peer to peer, its past, present & future, and its benefits to anyone who uses the Internet. Whether it's people looking to download MP3's off Napster, to get documents off Publius, or to download files off Gnutella, peer to peer is changing the way users think of the 'Net. Among the numerous issues discussed in these essays are the handling of metadata, perfomance and security issues (ie how to deal with slower servers or DoS attacks), and the repuation or "credibility" of a service using peer to peer technology. It's also interesting to trace the history of peer to peer, which is done in the book's first chapter. There are also looks at the more famous examples of peer to peer, such as the afore mentioned Napster, Gnutella, Publius, and also Jabber and FreeNet. I like to think of peer to peer as a "past and future" Internet technology, and one that cold still revolutionize the way people interact over the'net. This book gives an excellent "glimpse" into that world.