Re: Free riding on Gnutella white paper

Date: Tue Nov 28 2000 - 09:18:34 MST

Max More writes:
> An extensive analysis of user traffic on Gnutella shows a significant
> amount of free riding in the system. By sampling messages on the Gnutella
> network over a 24-hour period, we established that almost 70% of Gnutella
> users share no files, and nearly 50% of all responses are returned by the
> top 1% of sharing hosts.

Gnutella's woes demonstrate that making a scalable, usable peer to
peer file sharing system is not as easy as it looks. In retrospect it
is amazing that Napster was able to do so well. Of course the other
systems are handicapping themselves technologically by trying to avoid
the centralized servers that make Napster so vulnerable to legal attacks.
But at this point none of the alternatives appears to have the usability
that made Napster so successful.

Gnutella's real problem is network overload, as their broadcast based
system doesn't scale. The network is fragmented and transitory, and
the only reason it's stopped getting worse is that people have largely
given up on it. ("Nobody goes there any more, it's too crowded.")

Freenet is really still alpha quality software, breaking regularly,
with still more incompatible changes planned before the 1.0 release
(hopefully in 2001, but no promises from the core developer (yes,
there's effectively only one developer)). The system is designed to be
scalable, but there is as yet no search mechanism. It's much harder to
make searches scale and there is deep dissension about whether and how
searches can be made to work.

Mojo Nation is also early alpha and suffers major reliability problems.
Their economic model doesn't seem to be right for the net: you get paid
for offering server space, but you have to pay to publish content.
In other words, content providers pay, while disk space providers
get paid. The problem is that disk space is much more available than
content these days, and as a result there is almost nothing to download in
the system. It's the "free rider problem" to the nth degree. They are
looking at new design ideas to address this but most of the effort now
is just in getting the basic system to work stably.

All these systems are still in active development, and hopefully the
technical problems can be solved, or at least ameliorated. It's not clear
how long this will take, though. As long as Napster continues to operate
there is not a sense of urgency on getting these alternative working.

There are a dozen or more other P2P systems out there that I don't know
anything about. This fragmentation is itself a problem because these
systems have to reach critical mass to be useful.


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