Open Peer to Peer Technologies

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Department of Computer Science, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University


Peer-to-peer applications allow us to separate out the concepts of authoring information and publishing that same information. It allows for decentralized application design, something that is both an opportunity and a challenge. All the peer-to-peer applications, in various ways, return the content, choice, and control to ordinary users. Tiny end points on the Internet, sometimes even without knowing each other, exchange information and form communities. In these applications there are no more clients and servers, instead the communication takes place between cooperating peers. There are many applications nowadays which are being labeled as peer-to-peer. A way to examine the distinction of whether an application is peer-to-peer or not is to check on the owner of the hardware that the service runs on. Like Napster, if the huge part of the hardware that Napster runs on is owned by the Napster users on millions of desktops then it is peer-to-peer. Peer-to-peer is a way of decentralizing not only features, but costs and administration also. By decentralizing data and therefore redirecting users so they download data directly from other user's computers, Napster reduced the load on its servers to the point where it could cheaply support tens of millions of users. The same principle is used in many commercial peer-to-peer systems. In short peer-to-peer cannot only distribute files. It can also distribute the burden of supporting network connections. The overall bandwidth remains the same as in centralized systems, but bottlenecks are eliminated at central sites and equally importantly, at their ISPs. Search techniques are important to making peer-to-peer systems useful. But there is a higher level of system design and system use. Topics like trust, accountability and metadata have to be handled before searching is viable.



Information retrieval