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TechPost03: The Future of P2P File Sharing

April 1, 2010

It is not unprecedented for trends to emerge in the span of world history. The copious system of peer-to-peer online file sharing is no different and has its own span of repeated evolution. The 1999 demise of the first site to popularize peer-to-peer sharing technology, Napster, is a memorable moment in tech history (Gowan, 2002). Napster was sued by the recording industry and subsequently changed the way it operated to appease the plaintiff. In 2009 the situation repeated itself only with popular BitTorrent site The Pirate Bay as the accused (Raphael, 2009). Both of these publicized trials have failed to cease online sharing and have forced P2P technology to shift and adapt to new regulations. At present the NDP is trying to pass a new Canadian levy on the sale of each iPod, similar to the levy currently present on CD’s and cassettes (Ditchburn, 2010). As legal trials progress, laws change and adapt to appease corporate officers. There is a vicious cycle of evolving technology, followed by copyright lawsuits, followed by new taxes, which has continued to repeat (note: the word followed is used loosely here, the actual order of these events is debatable). The question now is what form the next technological evolution will take.

Another emerging technology, darknets, offers a limited and closed network which also attempts to keep the authorities in the dark about which files and shared and to whom. Similarly,  OneSwarm addresses the issue of preserving privacy. According to their website, “OneSwarm uses source address rewriting to protect user privacy. Instead of always transmitting data directly from sender to receiver (immediately identifying both), OneSwarm may forward data through multiple intermedaries, obscuring the identity of both sender and receiver.” (OneSwarm, n.d.). These applications promote limited “friend-to-friend” networks instead of the current standard “peer-to-peer” network. These services limit users. They force people to ask themselves if they are friends with the right people (or the people who give them what they want). Has the term “friend” not suffered enough because of facebook’s degradation? As an alternative solution, services like The Pirate Bay’s IPREDator (Ricknäs, 2009) allow users to be even more anonymous than before, preventing tracking of downloads by authoritative agencies. The key issue is privacy concerning piracy. Whatever the next widespread file sharing protocol is, it will have to address this problem.

2015: The First Milestone

In the past file sharing milestones have been marked by expensive lawsuits. 2015 will be no different. It will be remembered by future generations as the year encrypted file sharing was attacked. This new file sharing system will gain popularity and then the film and recording industries will look for ways to take it down. This system will employ encryption technology and will not keep any records of user information (for example ip addresses or logs of shared files). File sharing will occur on a separate and specific channel of Internet usage that will be virtually untraceable. This untraceable approach protects users but leaves the creators and distributors “free” to take the fall. The courts will rule in favor of the recording industry at first but this decision will be appealed and more legal wars will commence. As a result the government will begin working on an “Internet levy”. This fee will be charged along with regular Internet fees and proceeds will filter to the recording industry corporations.

2020: The Second Milestone

The government proposed Internet levy will spark major debates and discussions about freedom of information and record keeping. Certain groups will lobby towards having virtual audits concerning the web information one views and downloads throughout any given year. At first few politicians will support this movement but as it grows political and personal debates will spark. Bloggers will blame pirates (somewhat hypocritically) for the controversy. Untraceable file sharing will continue but users are forced to rethink virus protection. Untraceable files mean less reviews, making quality of content harder to gage. File integrity will also be harder to convey (how can a user be sure a file is what it is labeled as?).

2029: The Final Destination?

In 2029 P2P file sharing will spread even further. A new application called “peer-to-pod” will allow users to download files directly using their portable WiFi-enabled ipod and iphone style devices. The technology will be widespread in use and because of the encryption revolution of 2015, it will continue to be untraceable. The pirates will continue to spread viral content and the authorities will keep trying to shut them down, as is the cycle of life.

References:

Ditchburn, J. (2010, March 17). Conservatives launch protest against proposed iPod levy. The Canadian Press. Retrieved from: http://www.ctvbc.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20100317/bc_ipod_conservatives_levy_100317/20100317?hub=BritishColumbia

Gowan, M. (2002, May 17). Requiem for napster. PCWorld.com. Retrieved from: http://www.pcworld.com/article/100004/requiem_for_napster.html?tk=rel_news?tk=rel_news

OneSawrm. (n.d.). OneSwarm: Privacy preserving P2P (Overview). Retrieved from: http://oneswarm.cs.washington.edu/index.html#overview

Parrack, D. (2009. March 6). Are darknets the future of online file-sharing. Tech.Blorge. Retrieved from: http://tech.blorge.com/Structure:%20/2009/03/06/are-darknets-the-future-of-online-file-sharing/

Raphael, J. (2009, April 7). The pirate bay verdict and the future of file sharing. PCWorld.com. Retrieved from: http://www.pcworld.com/article/163339/the_pirate_bay_verdict_and_the_future_of_file_sharing.html

Ricknäs, M. (2009, March 24). Pirate bay founders to launch new service. PCWorld.com. Retrieved from: http://www.pcworld.com/article/161859/pirate_bay_founders_to_launch_new_service.html?tk=rel_news

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