Bittorrent and the rise of streaming media


**DISCLAIMER**: I am //not// advocating piracy. I am //not// suggesting that I indulge in illegal content sharing, or that you should. I am merely making observations.

We are all greedy by nature, and despite the best intentions of the MPAA and RIAA, we will always try to get by without paying any money (if you missed the sarcasm, shame on you). We would like to watch our movies for free, get all our music and all our TV shows without having to shell out a single penny from our pockets. Ok, may be not all of us, but lets say a non-trivial fraction.

Back in the day, IRC was the king of sharing such content. A very small number of very adventurous people just put up MP3s and videos on their public web servers. While there is still a fairly large underground IRC community for file sharing, just putting up copyrighted content on public domain is not possible, for a variety of social and technical reasons. For one, you will surely hear from the friendly folk at MPAA/RIAA very soon. And if you don’t, then you will quickly become bankrupt paying your hosting/bandwidth bills.

For a while then Napster and friends (Kazaa, Limewire, DC++, eDonkey) ruled the stage. The idea was simple — you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. End users donated bandwidth as well as content. However, most of these systems were plagued by leachers — people who never uploaded anything — simply because there was no incentive for a user to share.

Enter [[wp>Bittorrent|BitTorrent]] — the poster child of peer to peer technology. What started out as an experiment in content distribution, soon became the most widely deployed technology for sharing illegal content. In all fairness, BitTorrent is also used for distributing a variety of legitimate content (Linux ISOs, for instance). However, the amount of BitTorrent traffic due to pirated content probably dominates traffic due to legal content by a huge margin. In any case, recent years have seen an [[http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/p2p_growth_trend_watch.php|explosion]] in [[http://torrentfreak.com/bittorrent-dominates-internet-traffic-070901/|P2P traffic]] to the point that [[http://torrentfreak.com/comcast-throttles-bittorrent-traffic-seeding-impossible/|ISPs are actually taking measures]] to curb BitTorrent traffic in their networks.

But things have changed a lot since then. A lot more people have Broadband connections, so bandwidth is becoming less of a premium to home users. [[http://youtube.com|YouTube]] and friends have revolutionized the way we think about video as a medium. People are a lot more comfortable with watching streaming videos online than they were a few years back.

Which makes me think — why would I ever want, or even //need// to download anything (using BitTorrent or anything) ever again? Not withstanding the fact that I absolve my self of a lot of potential mental and financial stress by abstaining from such activities, it is simply so much easier and quicker to access content online and stream it home.

If you haven’t already, check out some of these sites and you will see what I mean:
* [[http://southparkzone.com|Southpark, online]]
* [[http://alluc.org|everything, online]]
* [[http://stage6.divx.com|High quality videos. Coupling. Hustle.]]
* [[http://arresteddevelopment.msn.com|Arrested Development, online. **officially**]]

I have read scattered reports of streaming functionality being incorporated in the BitTorrent protocol, but honestly I don’t see the point. What do you think?

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