In my search
for innovative web and Internet applications, I noted the buzz around new P2P company Skyrider at the end of last week. While it’s hard to
say whether Skyrider is truly innovative, seeing as they don’t actually have a product on
the market yet (it’s due “in the fall”), they are making interesting noises about
commercializing P2P. 

In particular Skyrider states in its
press release
that “P2P has the potential to be the dominant network architecture of
this century” – which of course Skyrider is poised to take advantage of. This is
echoed by Tim O’Reilly on his
blog
, in which he likens Skyrider’s potential to that of Google:

“Just as Google crystallized a new vision of how to monetize the web, leading to the
explosion of innovation that we now call Web 2.0, Skyrider is building technologies that
could bring a rich new commercial ecosystem to P2P.”

Those are big claims, especially as the dominant network architecture currently is the
client-server model of the Web (i.e. one to many). P2P is about many-to-many distribution
and has so far been most useful for distributing music and other large multimedia files.
And when it comes to video and audio, I don’t think many would argue that P2P is more
efficient than a client-server model – as long as it’s managed well.

Other P2P contenders

Perhaps Skyrider will be the platform to bring P2P to the fore again, but there are
others in the game too – like Red
Swoosh
(TechCrunch
review here
), AllPeers (the Firefox plug-in),
Enfra (a Korean app founded by Hyung Yong Jun, the
guy behind Cyworld – hat-tip Danny for the
info), open source Dijjer, and let’s not forget the BitTorrent network.

Opera has also integrated
BitTorrent
into its browser and there are
rumors
it’ll be integrated into Apple’s new Leopard OS too (hat-tip Steve O’Hear).

Note that there is a difference between a P2P network (like BitTorrent) and a P2P
client (like KaZaA). I can’t claim to fully understand this market, but Zeropaid.com has
more info
if you’re interested:

“P2P clients like Grokster, KaZaA, Linewire, Morpheus and eDonkey do not make a P2P
network; they only allow the user to connect to an existing network by using common
protocols. There are a large number of P2P networks out there: Gnutella, Gnutella 2,
Ares, FastTrack, eDonkey2000, BitTorrent and even Freenet. Clients are applications used
to connect to those networks. […]”

Skype’s P2P success

An example of a
P2P success story in the ‘2.0’ era of the Web is Skype
(Tim referenced them in his post). Developed by the same people who created KaZaA, the music-sharing P2P network that recently went
‘legit’, Skype calls itself “the first P2P telephony network”. They claim P2P has
enabled them to raise call completion rates and call quality “to levels exceeding that of
POTS (“Plain Old Telephony System”)”.

Summary – untapped P2P market

I have no doubt that P2P networks will be vitally important in our increasingly
networked world of media. Early P2P pioneers like Napster and KaZaA have now ‘gone
clean’, after years of overbearing pressure from the music industry. Likewise the movie
and tv industry has been keeping a close eye on video-sharing websites. But beyond all
that fear and loathing by media companies, there is a largely untapped market for media search and distribution via the Internet.

So are we at a turning point on the Web, where P2P comes into serious play again? I
think we are and this will be one area of innovation to look out for. Contact me if you
know of a current innovative P2P technology doing big things on the Web.