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12/28 2008 | 04:03 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Just a quick note for all of my German-speaking readers: I've recently started to work with the German TV / video production company Blinkenlichten that produces a weekly show called Elektrischer Reporter. The show is a hybrid format, meaning it's available as a video podcast online and shown on TV as well.

The most recent two episodes are dealing with intellectual property, sharing and remixing and alternative compensation models, and I think they turned out great, but as I said, I'm somewhat biased. You can check them out below, or just go to the Elektrischer Reporter website for higher-res videos, podcast RSS feeds and more.

Elektrischer Reporter – Urheber 2.0: Jeder Nutzer ein Pirat?



Elektrischer Reporter – Urheber 2.0: Was tun, wenn keiner kauft?



12/27 2008 | 10:39 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Imagine this: You’re an independent filmmaker and your first animated feature is getting rave reviews. It’s being shown at dozens of festivals around the world, and is taking home prestigious awards, such as that of Germany’s Berlinale festival. But unless you can come up with the $220,000 that music publishers are demanding, it will never see a commercial release. What do you do?

Nina Paley decided to blog about it. She started a little online grassroots campaign to get her animated movie Sita Sings The Blues out to movie lovers despite royalty rates that are higher than the film’s entire budget, and she’s been posting details about her struggle (and explaining it in video interviews) on her web site for months. Then a few days ago, the person who could turn out to be her most powerful ally emerged: Robert Ebert. Continue reading on Newteevee.com.

12/26 2008 | 12:24 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Have some good food, get some rest ... as this blog is doing right now (the taking a break part, not the eating). And I guess it's a little too late for xmas wish lists, but I'd love to hear from my regular readers about how I could improve P2P Blog in the weeks and months to come. Just drop me a note or leave a comment. Thanks!

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12/24 2008 | 01:11 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The BBC has just rolled out a new desktop version of its popular iPlayer service based on Adobe’s AIR platform. The new client is available for UK residents as part of the BBC iPlayer Labs beta test, and it will be released to the public some time next year. BBC’s iPlayer client previously only offered downloadable content for Windows PCs. The new client will also be available for Mac and Linux users.

The launch of the new client is a big blow for the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based content delivery service startup Kontiki, whose P2P technology powered previous iPlayer versions. Beep Online media exec Anthony Rose cited falling broadband prices as a reason to shift away from P2P. But the move could also be part of a new approach to appease local ISPs that are increasingly voicing concerns about the growing iPlayer bandwidth footprint. Continue reading on Newteevee.com.

12/21 2008 | 10:50 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
French P2P start-up zSlide has just opened up the beta testing phase of a new Bittorrent client called Pump that combines content-aware web-browsing with the ability to simultaneously search multiple websites for torrents, direct downloads and streaming media. The client is currently only available for Windows and utilizes Microsoft's Internet Explorer for web browsing. It also features a media player for audio and video content.

pump

Pump automatically searches Google for direct downloads of videos and audio files, Jamendo, Youtube, Legaltorrents and Mininova. It also offers the ability to get more search results from torrent search engines like Speckly and other third-party websites. More advanced users can add additional sites to search as well.

Pump is kind of a culmination of things that the zSlide folks have been working on over the last three years. The company is probably known best for its private, Bittorrent-based file sharing service Podmailing.

It recently opened a torrent hosting service called Vipeers in November, but was forced to scale back its Vipeers beta test in recent days due to abuse and presumably exploding bandwidth costs. The company also previously developed a white-label media player, which is clearly present in Pump. users can not only play back content, but also burn DVDs and CDs.

One of the more interesting aspects of Pump is that it automatically scans websites for links to torrents and directly downloadable media content, which is similar to the way the audio player Songbird treats MP3 links.

That being said, Pump is still clearly beta and occasionally surprises you with error messages or even downloads you didn't really initiate. The interface is also a little overwhelming, and one has to wonder whether Pump might almost have too many features. It's hard to get people to replace one program than they know and use, but contrary to what one might think it's oftentimes even harder to replace a whole bunch of them at once.

12/19 2008 | 03:18 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The Recording Industry Association of America has decided to end its five-year-long lawsuit campaign against music file sharers, the Wall Street Journal reported today, with the major record labels opting to instead work with ISPs to combat the practice. Some major ISPs have apparently already agreed to take part in a graduated response program: Share once, and you’ll get a slap on the wrist. Get caught the third time, and your contract gets canceled.

Mathew Ingram over at GigaOM thinks this is a bad idea because it privatizes copyright enforcement, meaning that alleged offenders won’t have any clear recourse when they’re wrongly accused. That’s true, and definitely something to be worried about, but it’s not exactly new. ISPs took on the role of copyright cops a long time ago; for some, the new agreement only formalizes policies that are already in place. And not much changes for the users, either. They can still get sued, despite the agreement. And yet, they will still continue to share music, and a whole lot of video as well. Continue reading on Newteevee.com.

12/19 2008 | 03:15 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Joost has informed its users via email that it will discontinue the support of its desktop client today and instead completely concentrate on its new web site. This is a big step for a company that once aimed to revolutionize online video with P2P technology, and whose founders previously succeeded with P2P apps like Kazaa and Skype. But it’s way too early to declare the death of P2P video streaming, as some seem eager to do in light of Joost shifting course.

Not only are others far more successful with P2P video clients, but it looks like Joost may bring back some elements of its software sooner or later. This includes P2P distribution, but also other social and interactive features that made Joost’s software unique. Maybe we’ll have to hold off writing the obituaries for both Joost and P2P just a little longer. Continue reading on Newteevee.com.

12/18 2008 | 10:50 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Vipeers has started to enforce some tight restrictions for its free torrent hosting and download service. The service now restricts users to "a handful of http downloads per file", after which the following error message is displayed:

pic of vipeers error message

The restrictions are are reaction to abuse of the service, according to the Vipeers blog:

"(W)e're doing what every abused hosting service has to do: detect abuse and block it. Until we have the ultra-fine control dashboard that we aim at, unfortunately we have to be harsher with all our users. That's why we have put some limitations to the number of http downloads."

The restrictions also seem to affect the Bittorrent seeding of files through Vipeers' servers, as users are told that "(t)he file is not relayed in P2P anymore", but the Vipers blog explains that you can always just distribute your file by seeding it yourself. Of course, that was possible all along through other torrent sites.

These restrictions show how tough it can be for hosting and backup providers to strike a balance between being user friendly and not going bankrupt due to exorbitant bandwidth consumption - a lesson that others already have learned the hard way. Nevertheless, Vipeers seems to be willing to go ahead with its service, and the company apparently has some new stuff coming out very soon, so it's definitely worth to keep an eye on them.

12/17 2008 | 03:45 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Joost has announced that it will discontinue support of its P2P TV application by the end of this week, essentially admitting that distributed content delivery for video streams isn’t worth the effort. But if 2008 taught us anything, then it’s that P2P TV is alive and well — in China, at least.

Western services like Joost may have struggled to convince users to share their bandwidth with other video viewers, but Chinese online video fans don’t seem to have a problem with P2P TV at all. In fact, Chinese P2P grew so big in 2008 that it’s putting the audience numbers of Western online TV offerings to shame. Continue reading on Newtevee.com.

12/17 2008 | 11:59 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The MIT Technology review just published an extensive article about P4P. It's a good read, but does not offer too many new details for people who have followed the discussion. Well, except this part, buried somewhere towards the end:

"Doug Pasko, principal member of the technical team at Verizon, says that Pandora and Verizon have plans to roll out a P4P implementation soon, possibly by the end of January."

I guess they meant to say Pando, not Pandora. In any case, we might soon have a chance to to see whether P4P is about ISPs embracing P2P or about subverting net neutrality.

12/16 2008 | 02:19 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
It's debatable whether civil liberties really make for good Christmas carols. The EFF has tried anyway, and the result is a non-denominational flash animation highlighting some of the organization's efforts in 2008, featuring, amongst other things, the Switzerland tool aimed at detecting ISP interference with BitTorrent transfers, and, yes, happy dancing babies.

Check it out below, or click through to the EFF's website for further details.




12/16 2008 | 05:01 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The social file sharing and storage platform Wua.la is releasing a new web UI as well as an API for developers today. Users of the service can now make some or all of their files available on the web where others can view and download them without first installing the Wua.la client.

pic of wua.la web ui

Wua.la has been offering its users the ability to securely store and share files through a Java application ever since it launched its private beta test in late 2007. The service opened up to the public this summer and also released a web-based Java applet around the same time that made it possible to access files through Wua.la without first installing anything n your local system.

Users did however still have to run Wua.la in some form or another to access other peoples' files. The new web UI makes it finally possible to send links to your photos or videos stored in Wua.la to anyone without worrying that they won't be able to look at them because they don't know what to do. The web UI also offers access to public Wua.la groups, making it possible to browse files that have been aggregated by various Wua.la users.

It's an interesting move for Wua.la because it will definitely help the service to become more popular, but it's also a step a way from Wua.la's clever distributed storage system. Wua.la utilizes shared hard disk space of its users to save parts of files in the cloud in a redundant fashion, meaning that a file will still be accessible even if some users that provide backup space for it go offline.

The service has always used centralized servers as a secondary backup layer, but the new web UI will certainly put a lot more stress on those servers.

The same is probably true for the API, which will allow developers to integrate Wua.la into their own applications and web services. The API is read-only at this point, meaning that third-party developers will only be able to access contet on Wua.la's network, but not actually add to it.It also looks like the API is restricted to publicly shared files, which probably makes a lot of sense in order to keep private files secure.

Wua.la announced that it is now storing more than 30 million files. It will definitely be interesting to see how these will be utilized in mash-ups. I personally still think one of the most interesting aspects will be a more advanced integration with existing social networks like Facebook.

12/14 2008 | 11:48 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Techcrunch reported earlier today that Bittorrent Inc. essentially had to renegotiate its latest round of funding under pressure of lead investor DAG Ventures. Techcrunch published a letter of BiTorrent CEO Eric Klinker to shareholders, which in part reads:

"Last spring the Company was focusing its business efforts on content delivery services (DNA), embedded software (SDK) and our direct to consumer portal (the Store). Over the course of the summer it became clear that some of the Company’s businesses were not gaining sufficient traction, and that the Company would significantly miss its projections. (...)

Given the changes in our Company’s business model and projections that occurred in close proximity to the Series C financing, DAG claimed that the Series C financing should be substantially renegotiated."


What really baffles me about this is that the failure of the Bittorent download store was pretty clear to anyone following the company for quite some time. In fact, then-president Ashwin Navin told me a whole twelve months ago that Bittorrent wasn't competing with Vuze anymore and that the store was at that point merely a demonstration platform for the company's CDN services.

So why did DAG Ventures put 17 million into this project nine months later, only to pull back out after Bittorrent closed its store? There are two possible explanations:

1. Serious communication problems between DAG Ventures and Bittorrent leading to the investors not understanding the company's direction and getting cold feet once it finally became clear.

2. Serious monetization issues with something other than the store, namely the so called DNA CDN services.

I'm not really sure what would be better for Bittorrent at this point. Either one should be a reason for concern, and a possible combination of both could mean that the company could be in far deeper trouble than we have thought.

12/13 2008 | 02:18 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
In 2008, ISPs started to really feel the heat when it comes to video file-sharing. Comcast got reprimanded by the FCC for blocking BitTorrent transfers and consumers rebbelled against P2P throttling. Meanwhile the entertainment industry has been demanding harsher enforcement and HD-swapping users have been eating up more and more bandwidth. In other words: It’s been a big mess.

The good news is that the increased pressure from all sides has forced ISPs to come to terms with the reality of file-sharing and other forms of P2P video distribution, which is essentially: You can’t stop it, so you might as well find ways to make it run more smoothly on your network. Continue reading on Newteevee.com.

12/12 2008 | 10:09 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
2008 was supposed to be the year when Internet video finally reached the living room, thanks to a whole bunch of set-top boxes. Part of that mix was supposed to be P2P, either in the form of distributed streaming, or good old BitTorrent downloads. Well, guess what: It hasn’t really happened — at least not on a large scale. Most of us still watch YouTube and Hulu on our laptops, and file-sharing continues to be almost exclusively PC-based.

So whatever happened to all those P2P set-top boxes that were supposed to revolutionize not only how we watch video, but also how those bits reach our living room? With the year coming to a close, we decided to check back, report about progress (and failures) and give an outlook for the fate of these boxes in 2009. Continue reading on Newteevee.com.

12/11 2008 | 12:24 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Wired News has unearthed a few more details about Warner Music's plan to license noncommercial file sharing over P2P networks through a voluntary collective licensing scheme.

Warner hired Jim Griffin back in March
to develop this idea and convince other record labels to join in, and it looks like he has been pretty successful: Griffin has apparently come up with an independent non-profit organization called Choruss that will oversee the licensing and administer all fees and payments. The Choruss.com website hasn't launched yet, but it's already registered to Griffin's Onehouse LLC.

And Warner is not alone: Sony as well as EMI are already on board, according to Wired News, and the labels are currently trying to convince Universities to try campus-wide licensing that would essentially make it legal for students to download music from P2P networks as well as Usenet groups or hosters like Rapidshare.com for a small fee.

I've been a proponent of collective licensing for P2P networks for quite some time now, but honestly never thought we would see anything like this within the next ten years, at least not in the US. Now it looks like it could even be realized next year.

12/10 2008 | 10:42 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Limewire has taken a big, bold step forward with the release of version 5.0 alpha of its file sharing client today. The new version features a completely revamped UI, an integration of the Limewire store, support for private file sharing and chatting based on Jabber / XMPP and contextual text ads, among other things. It's a major milestone for Limewire, and it could help to stop the erosion of its user base as well as actually win over some new and former users.

I had a chance to test the new client as well as talk to the Limewire folks a few times over the last couple of weeks, and one of the first questions that they asked me was what I thought about Vuze's efforts to revamp its client. I didn't think that much about it at the time, but it has now become clear that Limewire has studied the transformation from Azureus to Vuze very carefully.

pic of limewire 5 ui

One thing that turned Azureus users off of early Vuze versions was the in-your-face nature of the content platform that seemed to have taken over the entire client. Limewire carefully tried to avoid this mistake. Users are first greeted with a splash screen and explains some of the new features, and search is still front and center of the new client, with the store actually taking a back seat.

pic of limewire store integration

Limewire uses XULRunner for its new UI, which makes the whole thing look very much like a modern media client, hiding all the Java ugliness that Limewire users have learned to hate but live with over the years. The look is very clean, and many of the advanced network information pieces are now hidden in a separate menu.

pic of limewire advanced info

One of the most remarkable features of the new client is undoubtedly the ability to share files with your friends. Limewire uses the Jabber / XMPP standard to achieve this and actually makes use of existing Jabber servers, which makes it possible to simply log in with your GTalk, Jabber or Livejournal account.

pic of limewire jabber integration

I had some occasional trouble logging in today, but was able to try the feature with a preview version supplied to me by Limewire a few weeks ago - and it is actually very nicely done. The new client lets you manage a media library of files that are not automatically shared with anyone, and you can go ahead and selectively share single files or folders with your Limewire-using GTalk / Gmail friends.

You also automatically see all the shared files of your friends as soon as they are online. You explicitly have to share files with the entire Gnutella network if you wish to do so, and a separate sidebar tab makes it easy to see what exactly you are sharing with the world.

pic of limewire friend sharing

One last thing to mention are probably the contextual ads. Limewire has been talking about big plans for its upcoming advertising network for a while now, and the company always made it clear that they want to separate themselves from P2P ad companies that inject "sponsored content" into search results.

pic of limewire ads

The new version of the client definitely shows where things are going: Ads are separate from search results, and pretty much look like the contextual advertising you see on a search engine like Google. Very unobstrusive, in other words. For now, these ads only link to Limewire's own download store, but one could easily see this work for other advertisers as well.

Limewire's new alpha version 5.0 can be downloaded here.

12/10 2008 | 12:26 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Market research company Multimedia Intelligence is estimating that ISPs are spending almost five billion dollars per year as a result of their users' file sharing habits. US ISPs spent almost 700 million dollars in operating expenses on P2P this year alone, according to the recently published study "P2P Networking: Content’s "Bad Boy" Becomes Tomorrow’s Distribution Channel".

US ISPs also spent around 4.1 billion dollars in "capital expenditures" in 2007 because of P2P, which is Wallstreet's way of saying that Comcast & Co. upgraded their networks to keep up with increased demand. A press release that found its way into my inbox just a few minutes ago quotes Multimedia Intelligence analyst Rick Sizemore with the following words:

"Since the majority of P2P traffic is unlicensed content, our research demonstrates that piracy costs are not only impacting content owners, but broadband providers as well."


As always, I'd advise to take these numbers with a grain of salt. First of all, the nature of capital expenditures is that they tend to pay off later on, meaning this is not actually money lost, but money that will for example lead to more people signing up for higher-speed broadband in the years to come.

Even more important is to remember that P2P is simply a technology that is used to satisfy a demand - in this case for digital entertainment. This demand would not simply go away if P2P didn't exist. Users would just find different ways to satisfy it - as they are increasingly doing with Flash video streams and one-click hosters.

Multimedia Intelligence previously estimated that the music traded on file sharing networks in 2007 was worth 69 billion dollars.

12/09 2008 | 11:57 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Nine Inch Nails' album Ghosts I-IV has been nominated for the 51st annual Grammy awards. The album was licensed under a Creative Commons license, making it possible to legally download the whole thing for free from torrent sites. NIN actually published Ghosts I themselves on the Pirate Bay, where it still has more than a hundred seeders nine months after its original release date.

However, Ghosts wasn't just a success on torrent sites. The band made more than 1.6 million dollars in the first week after releasing the album by asking fans for voluntary donations of five dollars per download as well as selling various CD packages, including a 300 dollar "Ultra-Deluxe Limited Edition". Wired quoted NIN's publicist last March with the following words:

"Nine Inch Nails' 36-track instrumental opus Ghosts I-IV, released March 2 via NIN.com, has amassed a first week total of 781,917 transactions (including free and paid downloads as well as orders for physical product), resulting in a take of $1,619,420 USD."


NIN went ahead to publish a second album through its own torrent tracker just two months after Ghosts I-IV came out.

(via the Creative Commons blog)

12/08 2008 | 03:34 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Bitsmash.com has started a beta test of its API, offering Bittorrent application developers and website admins an easy way to access aggregated statistics about any given torrent.

pic of bitsmash api logo

Bitsmash's website launched in early October, offering advanced statistics for most popular torrents from well-known public torrent sites. The site does for example not only show how many people seed a certain torrent across various trackers, but also how the ratio of seeders to leechers changed over time. It even features a geolocation / mapping feature, which however seems to be very slow and oftentimes inaccessible.

Bitsmash's new API isn't offering all the bits and pieces users get from the site to developers just yet, but it still delivers essential stats and and links as XML data. Developers could use this, for example, to add advanced statistics or even auto-fetch Amazon title art for torrents from Amazon.

All the API data is licensed under a very liberal Creative Commons license that makes it possible to use it for mash-ups and even commercial projects as long as attribution is given to Bitsmash. it will be interesting to see what developes will come up with.

12/06 2008 | 11:53 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) this week published its annual prison census, which puts the spotlight on imprisoned journalists from around the world. 2008 marks the first year in which the report is dominated by online journalists, with 45 percent of those jailed bloggers, online reporters or editors. And the report makes clear that repressive regimes are increasingly targeting online video makers.

The findings serve to show how quickly online all forms of online media are gaining importance. When it comes to online video, many repressive regimes are afraid of the worldwide audience garnered by sites like YouTube, using the same laws meant to control state-run TV stations to crack down on video bloggers and video journalists. Continue reading on Newteevee.com.

12/05 2008 | 12:38 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The story about Bittorrent causing an Internet meltdown is still blowing up in people's faces. Richard Bennett, who started the whole thing earlier this week with an article on The Register, backtracked today with a follow-up article, admitting that he "incorrectly characterized" Bittorrent's move to UDP.

That apparently didn't stop Eric Krangel over at the Silicon Alley Insider, who decided to follow up about the story with Skype, and then put his own spin on Skype's answer. Krangel's article is titled "Skype: BitTorrent Protocol Change Might Kill Service", but none of his quotes actually support the fact that the folks over at Skype believe this could be the case.

Skype responded with a comment:

"As a PR representative for the company, I feel that you misrepresented the response that Skype provided you with. (...) (T)he attention grabbing headline you've used is quite a bit inaccurate. (...) (T)he shift by uTorrent to UDP file transfers will have no impact on Skype traffic in Canada. So, it looks to me like you’ve made a whole lot out of nothing. "


If only the Internet collapsed already. We all would have so much better stories to write.

12/04 2008 | 03:08 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Adobe officially unveiled the P2P video streaming capabilities of Flash 10 to developers this week. The technology itself is still in its infancy, but the mere fact that Adobe decided to embrace P2P for Flash 10 made a lot of headlines earlier this year. Many people, including Om over at GigaOM, wondered whether Adobe was taking aim at the CDN market with this technology and whether we will soon all watch our YouTube videos in a P2P fashion.

The short answer is: We won’t — at least not with Adobe’s help. The current P2P implementation, which goes by the name Real-Time Media Flow Protocol (RTMFP), isn’t really suited for mass-scale video delivery. Instead, it focuses solely on scenarios in which one client exchanges live video or audio data with another client. Think video conferences, Flash-based VOIP or even multi-player games. Just not YouTube. Not anytime soon. Continue reading on Newteevee.com.

12/03 2008 | 03:02 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
P2P users and Open Source advocates alike were a little perplexed when news got out last month that the French music industry association SPPF is suing Sourceforge as part of a lawsuit campaign against P2P vendors. Sourceforge has been hosting the Open Source multi-network P2P client Shareaza, and SPPF aparently wanted them to stop doing so. Or so we all thought.

It looks like the reality is far more grim. Informationweek is reporting today that Sourceforge apparently got targeted because "its engineers carried out the development of (Shareaza)". Someone apparently really didn't understand Sourceforge. Or Open Source in general. Or what exactly a hosting provider does. Or this whole Internet thing.

pic of sourceforge shareaza

Sourceforge meanwhile figured out its own way to react to the lawsuit. It declared Shareaza the project of the month and featured the P2P client on its home page.

12/01 2008 | 03:56 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The Internet is close to a meltdown, according to The Register. The culprit, according to author Richard Bennett, is the popular BitTorrent client uTorrent, which introduced a new type of file transfer with its most recent alpha version. BitTorrent clients have long been using the TCP protocol to facilitate file transfers, but now uTorrent is moving to UDP, a protocol that is very popular for streaming media, VoIP and other real-time transfers. This will essentially lead to torrents eating up all of the bandwidth available for VoIP, according to Bennet, who calls uTorrent’s UDP transfers a “net-killing feature.”

Of course, the same argument was made when UDP-based VoIP connections and video streams became popular — and the Internet hasn’t ceased to exist. The truth is that uTorrent’s UDP implementation could actually be a step toward alleviating congestion problems. Bennet, however, decided to ignore this and instead serve up nothing more than a thinly veiled rant against net neutrality. Continue reading on Gigaom.com.