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06/30 2006 | 05:46 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Allpeers got a lot of attention when they announced private file sharing for Firefox back in December. Since then it has been kind of quiet around the company - with the notable exception of the well-maintained Allpeers weblog. Now Dmitri Popov has broken the silence and published a review of the service at Newsforge. It's not that detailed, but a few things are still worth mentioning.

Popov says that the first public beta of Allpeers will start in early July, which is just around the corner. He also thinks that there is still some work to be done, but remains optimistic:

"All in all, while there are some kinks in the AllPeers extension that must be sorted out before the public release (most notably, re-installing the extension requires a manual reset of your account at AllPeers' end), the software looks very promising, indeed."

One observation that isn't explicitly mentioned in the review: The screenshot shows options for sharing files, with one of them being "anyone". This might mean that Allpeers offers some public p2p distribution mechanism alongside its private sharing options. Or maybe "anyone" just stands for any of your buddies. So far we can only guess. Anyone?

08/15 2006 | 04:20 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Techcrunch did a short review of Allpeers.com today, combined with a giveaway for invites for their still-private beta. Unfortunately people had to leave their e-mail addresses in the Techcrunch comments - soemthing that will make spam harvesters very, very happy.

Here's my offer for the privacy-conscious: Send me your e-mail address via this contact form, and I'll hook you up with an Allpeers invite. I can't promise that everyone will get one - I might run out of invites or patience sooner or later. But you don't have to publish your address on a high profile weblog, and I won't give it to anyone except the Allpeers registration server.

Also, stay tuned for a more detailed Allpeers review later today or early tomorrow.

01/01 2007 | 08:20 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Is it too late of yet another look back at 2006? Not according to VH1, those folks are still busy reviewing the 80ies. Anyway, here's a quick list of the most popular stories of 2006:

1. Allofmp3 is giving away entire catalogue

2. 60 percent of P2P video downloads are porn

3. Allofmp3 vows to continue despite tougher copyright laws

4. Azureus 3.0 and Zudeo: Some first impressions

5. Germany: P2P lawsuits cost taxpayers millions

6. Allpeers review

7. Rob Lord: Songbird will be more disruptive than Firefox

8. TIOTI: The next step for Bittorrent TV downloading

9. Online Music Recorder: A free replacement for Allofmp3.com?

10. Snocap starts selling MP3s through web widgets

P2P Blog started in early summer 2006, and the first few months were admittedly a little slow, so this list might not be the best indicator for what was really important in the P2P space in 2006. But it's still always nice to take a look back.

Oh, and while we're at it ... here's the list of most requested search engine key phrases that led folks to P2P Blog:

1. relakks
2. allpeers review
3. azureus 3.0
4. redswoosh p2p
5. doubletwist ventures
6. zudeo
7. p2p blog
8. p2p
9. relakks review
10. music for masses

Okay, enough lists and charts. 2006 was an exciting year to start P2P Blog, and I think 2007 will have a lot to offer as well. So stay tuned, and happy new year!

08/15 2006 | 06:29 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The Prague based P2P company Allpeers is gearing up for their public beta. They are in the process of inviting 50.000 registered testers during the next few days, they are spreading invites amongst readers of various blogs - and they announced there will be no more major updates befor the beta launch. So it's probably a good time to take a final peek behind the curtain and write up a short review.

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09/11 2006 | 08:35 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
150 posts isn't really anything to brag about - but since I'll be going to Europe this week and posts will be light during the next two weeks I thought it would be a good time to look back at some of the stories of the last couple of months. Think of it as a "best of", if you will.

AT&T & Co. rally consumers against net neutrality - I just got a phone call by a nice lady that tried to persuade me that net neutrality is bad. Because there is an internet price increase coming really really soon, and Google wants me to pay for it.

AllofMP3: IFPI's favoured enemy
- Of course every mention of Allofmp3.com in the press is driving more customers to the site. So why would the music industry help Allofmp3 with their advertising? Because the Russian website will have to shut down this fall, and IFPI is just waiting to claim this as their victory. Update: Obviously it didn't shut down just yet. More about that later.

German P2P users don't care about lawsuits - A few weeks ago German law enforcement officials launched a massive strike against Edonkey / Emule users. 130 residencies were raided, and a total of 3500 users are under investigation. The average German P2P user couldn't care less, apparently.

Peerthings: Siemens tries to compete with Skype - Siemens demonstrated a SIP-based Skype alternative called "Peerthings" at the last CeBIT.

Redswoosh review - Redswoosh is a P2P service that allows webmasters to distribute files with the help of their users.

P2P Currency Exchange
- First there was MP3 swapping. Then people started to trade CDs and DVDs. What's next? How about exchanging some of that spare money from your last vacation?

Former Limewire programmer starts new P2P venture - first product combines SIP with file sharing and social networking
- Adam Fisk used to be a senior software engineer at Limewire until Jaunuary 2004. Now he has started blogging - and in turn dropping hints on what he's up to now.

Swedish Pirate Party launches VPN service, calls it "World's First Commercial Darknet" - The Swedish pirates seem to have learned their first lesson in politics: It's all about the spin. Today the Pirate Party announced the launch of the "World's First Commercial Darknet" through a Swedish company called Relakks.

Allpeers review
- Allpeers is a Firefox plugin that enables private sharing with groups and individuals.

Allofmp3 vows to continue despite tougher copyright laws - A few weeks ago I proclaimed that Allofmp3.com would give up it's current business model by September 1st. Turns out I was wrong - for now, at least. But things are changing in Russia, at least when it comes to the letter of the law. Russia toughened it's copyright law back in 2004, but a few key amendments were delayed to take effect today.

10/13 2007 | 09:41 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Fellow European Dominik Grolimund recently stopped by in Los Angeles to show me the new distributed storage and sharing platform Wua.la. He gave me the chance to look at it even before Om Malik could give it a try, but I was a little too preoccupied with other projects to review it right away, and Wua.la has since been mentioned on Gigaom as well as Techcrunch UK. Oh well. Maybe I can go for the review with the most buzz words instead :)

So what is Wua.la all about? It's a file sharing application that is built on the notion of secure, distributed storage and social relationships. You can share files with your friends, private groups or the general public - features that are somewhat similar to Allpeers or other private sharing services. It's a stand alone Java application that is available for Windows and OS X, with Linux support promised for future releases. Wua.la is still in closed Alpha, but a beta launch is planed for early next year.

wua.la

There are a couple of things that set Wua.la apart from Allpeers and the likes, with the distributed storage component being one of the most obvious. Sharing files on Wua.la automatically means uploading them to the network, the upside of this being that your contacts can download your files even when you are not online. Files are split up into little pieces, encrypted and then spread around on the network, with each piece being saved on at least five different nodes.

The interesting part about this is that there is a bit of redundancy built into this process: A file might be split into a hundred pieces, but you don't actually need all those exact pieces to reassemble the file. I guess one could compare it to the role of PAR files on Usenet that give you access to extra data blocks in case an original fragment gets lost or corrupted.

Each user starts of with one gigabyte of storage that is initially supplied by the company's servers. You can get extra storage space for sharing some free gigabytes of your own hard disk, but Wua.la doesn't just take anyone. You need be able to accept incoming connections as well as have your client online for at least five or so hours per day to be considered as a node for their distributed storage system. Keeping the client online longer will earn you some extra credits. From the Wua.la website:

"If you provide 10 GB of your local storage and you are online 70% of the time, you get 7 GB of additional online storage."

wua.la

Of course one could argue that storage really isn't worth that much of a hassle in the age of S3, but this is where the second unique aspect of Wua.la comes into play: The platform utilizes an extreme degree of decentralization as a way to protect your privacy. All the metadata associated with your files is stored locally, and private searches are carried out completely independent of the Wua.la server, so the company has no clue what kind of files you and your contacts are exchanging, as long as you don't make them public within the Wua.la network.

This sounds like a wet dream for lawsuit-plagued file sharers, and Techcrunch UK writer Mike Butcher even worried whether Wua.la migh be poised to become "a system to store things you donít want anyone else to see", whatever that means. Kylie Minogue MP3s?

wua.la

I'm not really sure if Wua.la makes for such a good darknet. Hardcore file swappers tend to share tens or even hundreds of gigabytes, something that would be a little hard to accomplish even for the most generous Wua.la users. I do believe though that Wua.la, or a system like it, could become really important as some kind of secure, distributed storage for the social graph.

Okay, here we go with the buzz words. Social networks like Facebook or Myspace have become the primary way for many people to swap photos with their friends. Flickr and Youtube obviously play a big role in personal media sharing as well, and sites like Pownce merge media sharing with activity streams.

People are however increasingly waking up to the fact that many of these offerings are in fact not as private as they thought. Average users are starting to remove their beer bong pictures from their Myspace profiles because they have heard of potential employers scouring social networks to find out more about the folks they are about to interview. And then there are those privacy glitches. Remember how upset the Facebook community got when the site first introduced news feeds?

Finally, there is the discussion about social network portability and openness. Currently, people are focusing on the fact that Facebook owns your social relationships and that you have to start rebuilding those relationships every time you join a new social network.

Well, guess what? The exact same thing is true for the relationship between people and media. Sure, you can save all your files at Box.net or all your photos on Flickr and then just post an application or a widget on your new profile page. But there is no easy way to give your contacts on Facebook and Linkedin access to a certain file, or even to be selective within a network about who gets access to what. Once you added someone as your friend on Facebook you automatically give him access to all those photos you shared back in those days when you only had your five best buddies as friends.

Media sharing has huge privacy implications, and that's where something like Wua.la could come to the rescue as kind of a secure, personal storage vault for your social graph. Just upload files to the Wua.la cloud, define access rights on a case by case basis, generate links for your personal profiles that are scattered around the web - and you're ready to securely share files with your friends, no matter which service they are using.

wua.la

Granted, Wua.la doesn't have the best Web integration right now. You can link to individual files you re sharing, but there are no widgets, no public profiles and no APIs - something that would make really a lot of sense to get other developers involved and plug Wua.la into other social platforms. But the potential is definitely there, and it will be interesting to see where this is going.

08/14 2008 | 02:01 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The Swiss-based file sharing platform Wua.la is finally launching its public beta today after almost a year of closed alpha-testing. Part of the launch will be a completely revamped application that is now based on a Java applet, making it possible to use the service without installing any software. I had the chance to play with the new offering in the last couple of days as well as talk to Dominik Grolimund, CEO of Wua.la maker Caleido.

pic of wuala app

Wua.la got quite a bit of attention when it started its private beta test phase late last year because it has been combining private file sharing with a novel approach of distributed data storage. Files shared via Wua.la are automatically uploaded to the P2P cloud, making it possible to share files with friends even when you're not online. File fragments are redundantly stored both on users' computers as well as on Wua.la's servers. You can read more about the actually pretty clever way Wua.la stores files in my original review.

The applet itself was running pretty smooth when I tested it. I initially had a little bit of trouble, but that went away once I deleted the old Wua.la alpha version - something to consider if you've been an alpha tester.

Grolimund told me that the alpha test has been really successful for the company. They were able to get 40,000 registered users just through invite codes, and those users shared a total of 50 Terabyte of data. The alpha test apparently also helped to refocus Wua.la. The company was initially thinking about approaching indie musicians and other content owners and market Wua.la as a P2P publishing tool, but is now focusing more on social networks.

pic of wua.la web interface

Users of Facebook and Myspace can already link to their Wua.la folders, leading their friends to personalized web pages like this one, where new users can start the Java applet without installing any software on their local machines. Public files can also be downloaded without registering for an account first. Next up on the horizon are widgets, apps and other forms of integration into social networking platforms, and an API is also in the works.

I really believe that this potential of integrating Wua.la with sites like Facebook is the most promising part of the beta launch. I've been writing about this ever since Wua.la launched its private alpha last October: Secure, P2P-based cloud storage could be the best thing that ever happened to users of Myspace and Facebook.

Just consider for a second all the security holes that have led to the exposure of supposedly private files from social networking websites. Valleywag has been covering this extensively, publishing photos from both Paris Hilton's and Lindsay Lohan's Myspace account in June. Those photos were supposed to be private and only accessible to direct friends of Hilton and Lohan, but Valleywag was able to access them with a simple trick.

pic of wua.la privacy settings

A service like Wua.la on the other hand makes sure that no one except your friends will access your files by using cryptography, with your private key securely being stored on your hard drive where no one else can access it. Grolimund told me that the company doesn't even know who accesses which file as long as the files are not shared as public.

Of course, monetizing online and personal file sharing solutions isn't easy. Allpeers, Tubesnow, Mediamax and a bunch of others all tried it without success, and even an online giant like AOL doesn't think this is a business worth pursuing. Grolimund however believes that Wua.la will profit from its viral nature and the fact that it offers more security than purely web-based solutions. Wua.la has been experimenting with context-relevant advertising, but its also starting to offer premium services with the launch of the beta test, starting with the ability to buy additional storage.

Viral growth, ads and paid services - that sounds like a good combination for success. Combine that with the fact that Wua.la seems to be flexible enough to reinvent itself - and you got a company worth watching.

06/30 2008 | 09:01 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
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.