Podmailing, a Paris-based personal P2P-service I've already covered a few times on P2P Blog (check here for a review), is celebrating the US launch of it's service today. Here's a Techcrunch-compatible elevator pitch video of Podmailing founder Louis Choquel:

I've had a chance to talk to Choquel earlier this weekend and he told me a little bit about the evolution of the service and some upcoming changes. Podmailing has been available to US users from its first launch back in 2006, but the company has been busy building a server-based infrastructure that had to be optimized for today's US launch. Podmails are uploaded to the company's servers as soon as you send them out so you don't have to be online to transfer a file. The company has been using Amazon's S3 service for that, but there used to be one problem. Louis explained:

"The only way to upload files to Amazon S3 is straight basic http. There is no upload resuming on S3. But we want Podmailing to transfer very large files which has a very high probability of getting a disconnection at some point. Even if your connection is perfect, you might need to go offline and prefer to finish that 2GB upload later on."

Podmailing worked around that issue by deploying its own servers for the users to upload their files to and then transfer those files to S3. Not an ideal setup, especially if you plan to grow fast, which is why the company now switched to virtual servers based on Amazon's EC2 environment. This proved to be much more scalable, according to Choquel: "We can add one new fully configured relay server in less than 20 minutes."

This new setup is part of the reason for the US launch, getting a little PR out of it certainly was another. Most of Podmailing's users have been from Europe so far, and the service isn't exactly playing in the big league yet. Choquel told me that they have had a little more that 40,000 registered users that used Podmailing to send files and up to 30,000 peers downloading files using their trackers. Overall, Podmailing has seen more than 110,000 file packages sent.

Those numbers show that many users seem to send their files to more than one user. Choquel told me that the company has seen users publish their links to Podmails in forums and blogs - something that previously helped competitor Pando to grow quickly. Podmailing now wants to jump onto that bandwagon and launch a free file hosting service in July. The clou: There will be no bandwidth or file size limits, and files can be downloaded through any Bittorrent client or straight-up http. Files will be hosted on S3 for up to three months, but Choquel is already thinking about laving them up for a year.

All of that brings up an obvious question: Where's the money tree? Personal P2P services have proven to be hard to monetize in the past, with Tubes and Allpeers shutting down despite success. Choquel admits that his company hasn't found the holy grail to monetize its services yet either, but he thinks he doesn't need to right now because there are no upfront infrastructure bills to foot, thanks to S3 and EC2.

"I'm watching my Amazon bill and I hope that it grows", sayd Choquel. Podmailing has been experimenting with advertising on landing pages, but he's quick to admit that such ads can't make up for gigs of traffic. "Advertising doesn't look like the best way to make money", he told me. Instead, he's thinking about launching premium services for paying users.

But Choquel has something else on his mind beside revenue. He wants to merge email and Bittorrent, and define new open standards to make it possible to send large files over the Internet. Podmailing will be releasing an open source version later this month as well, with the idea of other developing their own applications, email client plug-ins, relay servers and maybe even business models.

Choquel believes that the first step on that journey is getting more visibility for Podmailing - and a bunch of new features to launch in the next few weeks, including the file hosting service and a Thunderbird plug-in, could just be the way to get there.

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