French P2P start-up ZSlide has just announced that it is shutting down its torrent hosting service Vipeers and the Bittorrent-based personal file sharing service Podmailing. From the Vipeers blog:

"The VIPeers / Podmailing beta-test has been suspended, enabling our team to do a complete overhaul. VIPeers will be back with a brand new file sharing service integrated into Pump, our Video software for Windows XP/Vista which is currently in private beta."

ZSlide started its foray into the P2P space with Podmailing, a service that enabled users to send files to email contacts via BitTorrent. Podmailing was using Amazon's S3 service as a backup, so users didn't have to be online at the same time to facilitate the transfer, and in fact files could be downloaded from a website as well. (On a personal note, I used Podmailing quite a bit to transfer media files to clients, and it frequently saved my behind because it was able to upload data even when everything else, including FTP, failed.)

ZSlide initially had plans to open source Podmailing to make the Bittorrent protocol extension available to other developers as well, which would have made it possible to include private file transfers into clients like Vuze, but the company instead concentrated on another project ...

... called Vipeers, which was essentially Podmailing plus public sharing. Vipeers users could host files and make them available via Bittorrent as well as through the Vipeers web site. The service was forced to scale back its offering soon after its launch due to high bandwidth bills, but it made a kind of come-back when it launched ...

... a social network for sharing files privately with your contacts. ZSlide CEO Louis Choquel told me back then that Vipeers was going to be more closely integrated with existing social networks in the future, and it tried to monetize through premium services. Vipeers was also going to be a center piece of another ZSlide project called ...

... Pump, which is essentially a Bittorrent client focused on video viewing and sharing. Pump has been in private beta for a while and recently got some nods from Techcrunch via its French blog.

As you can see, that's a lot of projects right there, and ZSlide has shifted focus multiple times. That's not really unusual for a start-up, and it may be further proof for the fact that personal file hosting and sharing services are notoriously tough to monetize.

However, the same can be said about clients. You really need a large user base to make money with a Bittorrent client, and even market leaders like Bittorrent Inc. and Vuze have to resort to things like tool bars and porn to pay their bills.

Moreover, the bar is really high for a new entrant. Miro has established itself as a really good video player for people who don't care too much about the P2P technology that's running under the hood. uTorrent and other minimalist clients like Transmission attract the hardcore P2P crowd, and Vuze is sort of a bridge between the video and the P2P world.

It looks like ZSlide wants to use personal sharing within Pump as a competitive advantage to get users to switch. Somehow I doubt that this will be enough to make a dent, but I guess we'll just have to wait and see what else the company has up its sleeves.

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