Evolution and the Internet

What has always fascinated me about the internet is it’s constant evolution. From all the way back to the email and newsgroup days to the invention of the world wide web and HTML, there has always been innovation and progress in the software and the underlying mechanisms that provide the content which makes the internet such an incredible playground for so many people. I often regret not investigating it more while I was in high school instead of waiting until my first year of university in 1995 before I really jumped into the fray. I was there before mp3s and napster though, and signed up with hotmail before it was bought by Microsoft. ICQ was the premier (read: only) instant messenging service and you could still download software illegally from webpages. Ah the good old days.
Things have changed, and yet the underlying themes of evolution is still what makes the internet such a chaotic and upredictable entity. As people add new ideas and new software the complexity always increases and more people buy in. I have an idea (well really a modification of an idea) that I think would put the power back in the hands of the individual, which is I believe a fundamental strength of this CompuGlobalHyperMegaNet.

First though, a brief history of file sharing. Many of you are aware of Napster, and are probably aware of the ensuing reincarnations after it was destroyed. There are many to choose from and they all offer the same basic p2p service, that of allowing others to download files that you’ve already downloaded. It’s a very communistic experience on a whole, however the contentious issue is that of intellectual property rights and compensation for artists. I’m not going to attempt to resolve that thorny dispute here, I’ll save that for another day. 😉
One of the newer technologies on the block is a program called BitTorrent. This is a wonderful tool for people to distribute large, popular files without having to worry about paying massive bandwidth bills. What it does is section up whatever file you’re downloading into small chunks which are downloaded piecemeal, not unlike other p2p software packages. The kicker here is that while it’s downloading you upload the chunks that you’ve already downloaded to other people. The end result that as a file becomes more popular, you actually download it faster, and with a considerably smaller bandwidth load to your server. Of course in principal it’s only useful for popular files, say something linked from slashdot.org, or a movie or television show from SuprNova.org.
What I’m proposing is the utilization of this idea for a floundering and expensive to operate technology: Streaming audio and video. As you connect to this bitTorrent stream, your computer finds other peers who are currently not uploading as they’re downloading. The software negotiates an entry point and then you start getting the stream. There would have to be redundancy (as you wouldn’t want it to be interrupted if a peer drops out) but as the stream got more popular there would be more than enough to choose from.
What this does is puts streaming technology back into the hands of individuals. The technology could be a replacement for current bandwidth intensive tools like internet radio or streaming mp3s, and could eventually be used to create an alternative to traditional TV and radio shows. Imagine that – news and entertainment from a wide variety of people and biases as opposed to just one or two from Fox and CNN.
Anyways, I just thought I’d put the idea out there as a) I don’t have time to program it (if it’s even programmable) and b) If I did have to write the software it would probably be so crappy as to leave a bad taste in the mouth of anyone who did use it. Basically I’m hoping some crazy ass software programmer likes the idea and goes with it.

7 thoughts on “Evolution and the Internet”

  1. Shoutcast, the mp3 streaming server for winamp, has the ability to act as a relay server for another shoutcast streams. Unlike your idea, this type of relaying wouldn’t be hidden from the user. Relays have to be manually configured by a user willing to donate some of their bandwidth to their favourite streaming radio station. The resultant server will then be advertised as a mirror stream by source server. (I’ve google my way to an example: Chaosradio Relay Configuration.)
    There are other projects in the noosphere that implement “true” distributed streaming:
    -Open Mash – Distributed Streaming Media Application Middleware
    I’m sure there are others.
    Imagine if web-broswers had the ability to share their Internet cache files through a back-end p2p system. Now that… would be dope.

  2. and here I am…a 63 user (been using computers for 30 years, starting with big IBM systems in healthcare)but a basic dummy when it comes to templates, HTML, FTPs, etc….been struggling all week with Blogspot Help over these issues……but the point I want to make about the computer world: The programmers/system designer/etc. really have to put in their place. When IBM hit my hospital(in the 70’s), they ruled the roost! Then we got a new financial director (my boss) who said to the “roost rulers”—–“look at US as a dog………..we (the users) are the main body of the dog–you, the computer folks are the ‘tail’ of the dog……WE WAG YOU, YOU DON’T WAG US!…but even today, as I struggle with Blogspot, Apple, the guy I bought my Emac from, Att & T…….these “TAILS”, still are WAGGING me–pisses me off……but I like a good fight.

  3. http://www.peercast.org
    “PeerCast.org was established in April 2002 as a non-profit site providing free peer-to-peer broadcasting software. The aim of the project is to create an easy to use, simple and reliable software client that enables anyone to broadcast streaming media on the Internet without the need for expensive servers or bandwidth.
    PeerCast offers considerable savings for broadcasters because they do not have to provide bandwidth for all of their listeners. A single 56K modem can be used to broadcast to the entire network.”

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