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Peer-to-Peer: Harnessing the Power of Disruptive Technologies

February 28, 2001

Sebastopol, CA--The cluster of technologies we're now calling peer-to- peer is a melting pot of ideas that's about to boil over. 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. "The recent furor over peer-to-peer file sharing using Napster masks a deeper revolution," said Tim O'Reilly, president of O'Reilly & Associates "It's not just some little market segment, but the new shape of the computer industry as a whole."

Although O'Reilly's latest release, Peer-to-Peer; Harnessing the Power of Disruptive Technologies (edited by Andy Oram, US $29.95) is mostly about the technical promise of peer-to-peer, it also talks 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. "Seemingly small technological innovations in peer-to-peer can radically alter the day-to-day use of computer systems, as well as the way ordinary people interact using computer systems," says the book's editor, Andy Oram.

Peer-to-Peer: Harnessing the Power of Disruptive Technologies 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.

Written by leaders of the field of peer-to-peer, including:

  • Nelson Minar and Marc Hedlund of Popular Power, on a history of peer-to-peer

  • Clay Shirky of Accelerator Group, on where peer-to-peer is likely to be headed

  • Tim O'Reilly of O'Reilly & Associates, on redefining the public's perceptions

  • Dan Bricklin, cocreator of Visicalc, on harvesting information from end-users

  • David Anderson of SETI@home, on how SETI@home created the world's largest computer

  • Jeremie Miller of Jabber, on the Internet as a collection of conversations

  • Gene Kan of Gnutella and GoneSilent.com, on lessons from Gnutella for peer-to-peer technologies

  • Adam Langley of Freenet, on Freenet's present and upcoming architecture

  • Alan Brown of Red Rover, on a deliberately low-tech content distribution system

  • Marc Waldman, Lorrie Cranor, and Avi Rubin of AT&T Labs, on the Publius project and trust in distributed systems

  • Roger Dingledine, Michael J. Freedman, and David Molnar of Free Haven, on resource allocation and accountability in distributed systems

  • Rael Dornfest of O'Reilly Network and Dan Brickley of ILRT/RDF Web, on metadata

  • Theodore Hong of Freenet, on performance

  • Richard Lethin of Reputation Technologies, on how reputation can be built online

  • Jon Udell of BYTE and Nimisha Asthagiri and Walter Tuvell of Groove Networks, on security

  • Brandon Wiley of Freenet, on gateways between peer-to-peer systems

"This book is an important survey of early work and current ideas in the field. It should be read by everyone involved in designing the next generation of networked systems."
--Ross Anderson

"What could be more disruptive than a world of peers who depend on nobody and influence everybody? If you don't know, this is your book."
--Doc Searls, Coauthor, The Cluetrain Manifesto

"A great book. Peer-to-Peer is the best resource available today for those interested in understanding the history, details, and implications of the peer-computing revolution."
--Kevin Werbach, Editor, Release 1.0

Online Resources: Peer-to-Peer
Harnessing the Power of Disruptive Technologies

Edited by Andy Oram
March 2001
ISBN 0-596-00110-X, 448 pages $29.95 (US)

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