Peer-to-Peer, don’t queer it.

Sunday, June 10th, 2007 UTC

Open Source, as described by the Open Source Initiative:

Open source is a development method for software that harnesses the power of distributed peer review and transparency of process. The promise of open source is better quality, higher reliability, more flexibility, lower cost, and an end to predatory vendor lock-in.

Nowadays, many Open Source projects base their distribution on Peer-to-Peer technologies, which makes it easy and reliable. A relevant aspect in Peer-to-Peer technologies is that the network resources, such as storage space, bandwidth and computing power rely on users rather than on centralised servers to provide access to content. Thus, as more peers arrive and demand for content increases, the total capacity of the system also increases. This is not true of a client-server architecture with fixed server resources, in which adding more clients could mean slower data transfer for all users.

The internet as we know it is based on a decentralised packet-switched network, where communication can occur even with the failure of several nodes. In the same fashion, the distributed nature of Peer-to-Peer networks also increases robustness in case of failures by having redundant data over multiple peers, and by allowing peers to find the data without relying on a centralised server. Thus there is no point of failure in the system, making it extremely effective.

What this means for Open Source projects is:

  • Inexpensive distribution and collaboration worldwide
  • Reliable and robust framework for distribution
  • Accessibility to information without mediator or censorship

Open Source tends to be an “information gift economy” of sorts, where there is no quid pro quo: the technology can be simply given away, as the actual cost of distribution of information is virtually zero; it is no other than the cost of the readily available internet. In this manner, the betterment, expansion, and redistribution of technologies are possible at close-to-nil costs. This is further encouraged because of the effective distribution methods.

Being much more efficient than the traditional methods of distribution, these networks also facilitate piracy and copyright violations. The Peer-to-Peer technologies have become the target of various industries, who merely blame the technology for the use it is given; without regard for any of the beneficial aspects inherent to it.

This is similar to saying that newer roads that substitute the old are to be blamed for whatever illegal merchandise is distributed through them, since the technology makes it “more available”. If this was the case, the interstate highways which are much more efficient than state highways would have to be blamed for what people transport through them; this is absolutely preposterous, as it would also slap senseless any legal activities carried out through them, such as the very essential trade and commerce.