I spent some time this weekend testing the new Redswoosh 2.0 service. First the basics: Redswoosh is a P2P service that allows webmasters to distribute files with the help of their users. It's based on a small client application that, at least for now, is Windows-only.

Downloads are coordinated with the help of Redswoosh's servers instead of a local tracker server - so you don't have to set up anything on your web server. That's especially helpful for people with budget web hosting accounts, since many of them don't allow setting up Bittorrent trackers.

Preparing your files for P2P distribution
is a snap with Redswoosh. You just go to their website, paste the URL to the file in question into their web form, click on the red button - and you got yourself a swooshed link, as they say at Redswoosh central. It looks something like this:
http://edn.redswoosh.net/http://www.site.com/file.avi

This link can then be used on your website in exchange for the original link. Your users will in turn be redirected to Redhwoosh's servers, where they wil be asked to download the client.

But what about Mac / Linux / my Granny's lawnmower? As I said, Redswoosh is only available for Windows. You won't lose users of other operating systems tho: The Redswoosh server just redirects them to the original file that is still being hosted on your webserver. That's pretty clever. Windows users however don't really have a choice, they have to install the client. Unless they take a closer look at the URL in question. It still contains the link to the original file ...

Redswoosh also offers free and paid accounts for webmasters that have some additional features. Free accounts give you access to a Javascript API that can be integrated into your page as some sort of Ajax media manager, as well as statistics. Or so they say. I registered for an account, logged in - and found myself in some sort of internal forum. I clicked around to find my statistics, but all I got was discussions and a Wiki. Very confusing. It looks like the Redswoosh web developers just forgot to activate a dashboard module. It definitely doesn't encourage you to get a paid account.

The end user experience unfortunately isn't much better. Redswoosh didn't want to bother end users with complicated client settings - so they didn't make any UI at all for their client. It's just a program continuously running in the background that manages downloads. It clearly does it's job, and Redswoosh is very much trying distance itself from spyware. They also have web-based control panel that shows which files you have downloaded. But unfortunately it doesn't tell you anyhting about uploads. So you have to guess how much of your bandwidth has been used, whether there are any active uploads, and so on. Also, the control panel is hard to find. It's not entirely clear why they didn't go for a small icon in your task bar.

Finally, it's hard to say how the ads will affect Redswoosh's operations. Right now there are none - or at least I didn't get to see any. The Redswoosh website states that the client won't be used to deliver the ads, so it's presumably some sort of a splash web page that gets served before users get access to their content. I don't think this is too much hassle for the end user - but it might make some webmasters think twice about using Redswoosh. Sure, they save some money on their bandwidth. But at the same time someone else is making money with their content, and they get nothing. Redswoosh should think about doing some sort of revenue sharing to get more webmasters on board.

So what's my take on Redswoosh? They could be some sort of Bittorrent for Dummies, having the advantage of super-easy publishing. But they clearly have some work to do to give webmasters and end users a better user experience.

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