The P2P wars re-ignite


In the wake of the (most likely pre-emptive) shutdown of suprnova and it's ilk, we have some of the very similar calls to action that we saw when the Napster deal went down.

Several thoughts immediately come to mind:

a) Protocol adoptions emerge slower than people expect. It took Bram Cohen three years to get BT working as it does now. And BT is a single-function app - compare this article by Joel for multi-function app development lifecycle & maturity statistics/industry practices.

b) A lot of people are saying that true anonymity is the solution. Not so: true anonymity protects more than just copyright infringers. Anyone who's peeked into Freenet knows that there is a lot of truly disgusting stuff out there that people will not download if (e.g.) law enforcement can pin a name on the downloader.

When you go for true anonymity, this is the kind of people that the MPAA et al. will associate you with, as the RIAA already prematurely attempted to do at various other levels.

c) Alternatives to Suprnova have already sprung up, and this is what's going to keep the MPAA occupied for the forseeable future: the old game of whack-a-mole, as known and loved by the RIAA. People will migrate between these, always one step ahead of the subpoenas.

d) Contrary to Pesce's statement, the centralisation of BT is a feature, not a bug. In every P2P system the 'net has seen, quality control has been a product of centralisation. Some decentralised networks have URL schemes containing hashes of 'certified' files, but these URLS have to be hosted on a site somewhere.

To put some spin on Jeff Jarvis' approach, trust and authority (therefore verification of quality) are an intrinsic function on centralisation. This goes back to my idea on community metrics and filtering, but existing P2P protocols already scale to levels far above that to which any net-based community has ever scaled, let alone a decentralised community built on anonymity. Community metrics are not the answer here.

e) Although anonymity is not the answer, cryptographically verified pseudononymity may be. At this point the conversation gets a lot more complex than I could hope to understand, but smart crypto boffins will tell you (a) it's nowhere near as easy as it sounds, and (b) this was the dream of the cypherpunks, and look where they ended up (nowhere, or co-opted by the gentlemen producing wholesome DRM such as TCPA & NGSCP etc.).

Finally, when Adam Fields says this:

Here’s what I think it boils down to - a simple choice. We as a society have to choose one of:

1) Copy protection.
2) General purpose open computing.

He's absolutely right, except you should replace "copy protection" with "information control", which is what George Tenet is actually talking about. Compare Neil Postman. This battle is bigger than BitTorrent, bigger than P2P, bigger than the Internet. And we're on the loosing side, unless we do something about it. Lessig got here way before the current crop of enraged P2P users, and I look forward to seeing what conclusions they arrive at, and how they've changed since then.

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