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Peer-to-Peer: Harnessing the Power of Disruptive Technologies [Hardcover]

Andy Oram
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

8 Mar 2001 Peer to Peer

The term "peer-to-peer" has come to be applied to networks that expect end users to contribute their own files, computing time, or other resources to some shared project. Even more interesting than the systems' technical underpinnings are their socially disruptive potential: in various ways they return content, choice, and control to ordinary users.

While this book is mostly about the technical promise of peer-to-peer, we also talk about its exciting social promise. Communities have been forming on the Internet for a long time, but they have been limited by the flat interactive qualities of email and Network newsgroups. People can exchange recommendations and ideas over these media, but have great difficulty commenting on each other's postings, structuring information, performing searches, or creating summaries. If tools provided ways to organize information intelligently, and if each person could serve up his or her own data and retrieve others' data, the possibilities for collaboration would take off. Peer-to-peer technologies along with metadata could enhance almost any group of people who share an interest--technical, cultural, political, medical, you name it.

This book presents the goals that drive the developers of the best-known peer-to-peer systems, the problems they've faced, and the technical solutions they've found. Learn here the essentials of peer-to-peer from leaders of the field:

  • Nelson Minar and Marc Hedlund of target="new">Popular Power, on a history of peer-to-peer
  • Clay Shirky of acceleratorgroup, on where peer-to-peer is likely to be headed
  • Tim O'Reilly of O'Reilly & Associates, on redefining the public's perceptions
  • Dan Bricklin, cocreator of Visicalc, on harvesting information from end-users
  • David Anderson of SETI@home, on how SETI@Home created the world's largest computer
  • Jeremie Miller of Jabber, on the Internet as a collection of conversations
  • Gene Kan of Gnutella and GoneSilent.com, on lessons from Gnutella for peer-to-peer technologies
  • Adam Langley of Freenet, on Freenet's present and upcoming architecture
  • Alan Brown of Red Rover, on a deliberately low-tech content distribution system
  • Marc Waldman, Lorrie Cranor, and Avi Rubin of AT&T Labs, on the Publius project and trust in distributed systems
  • Roger Dingledine, Michael J. Freedman, and David Molnar of Free Haven, on resource allocation and accountability in distributed systems
  • Rael Dornfest of O'Reilly Network and Dan Brickley of ILRT/RDF Web, on metadata
  • Theodore Hong of Freenet, on performance
  • Richard Lethin of Reputation Technologies, on how reputation can be built online
  • Jon Udell of BYTE and Nimisha Asthagiri and Walter Tuvell of Groove Networks, on security
  • Brandon Wiley of Freenet, on gateways between peer-to-peer systems

You'll find information on the latest and greatest systems as well as upcoming efforts in this book.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1 edition (8 Mar 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 059600110X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0596001100
  • Product Dimensions: 23.7 x 16.2 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 794,265 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Amazon Review

A collection of 19 essays, Peer-To-Peer: Harnessing the Power of Disruptive Technologies looks at different aspects of the potential of peer-to-peer computer technology.

Peer-to-peer seems dangerous because it is, essentially, hugely democratic. All subversion starts with a conversation and peer-to-peer, "the next great thing for the Internet" according to Web guru Lawrence Lessig, facilitates direct communication even more so than the first wave of Internet technologies. Just as those first wave technologies had a number of established constituencies worried about the demonic effects of the Web so peer-to-peer seems to be the new bugbear. The fears are, again, reminiscent of those that we heard before business found out how to fully exploit the potential of the Web and are tinged, often, with a frisson of excitement: peer-to-peer offers a new chance for a new wave of entrepreneurs if they can bring themselves to understand the technology, make it understandable to others, and give it succour in a business context.

Chapters in Andy Oram's invigorating collection by key players, such as Gene Kan of Gnutella, Dan Bricklin cocreator of Visicalc, Tim O'Reilly the publisher and an ever useful history lesson from Nelson Minar and Marc Hedlund, are just some of the highlights from an essential read. --Mark Thwaite


If you have any interest in the Internet and its effect of society, this book will fascinate you. -- Richard Mann, PC Reviews

Oram has taken the bull by the horns and compiled a good introduction to a topic that is not fully defined. -- Lisa A. Ennis, Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, Nov 2001

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the future 13 Sep 2002
a facinating book. I recently did my university disertation on peer to peer networks, and this book was my bible. if you want to know about how peer to peer then buy this book. it covers many issues such as, scalability, performance, accountability, and metadata. As well as this, it also overs the views and theories from experts who have worked on technologies such as napster, gnutella and freenet. i feel that the study of p2p systems will be a major topic in future years, and this book will be held as one of the first great books in this field.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and excellent. 6 April 2001
By A Customer
An enlightening read, and one which should set off some alarm bells ringing in the head of the opportunist forward thinker. A good blend and diversity is gained by having multiple, expert authors. However, as the main author concedes, the book could be a lot more but for 'various reasons'. Thin client advocates, ASP owners and even Microsoft should be wary - when people realise the potential for peer-to-peer the power will shift back to the user on the Internet. As the book says - the PC is the dark matter of the Internet. The second chapter citing Napster's example (Clay Shirky) should make us wonder - "why have we just spent a grand on the latest high spec computer, and why is it having such an easy life?" And companies answer this - what would you give to have the customer base that Napster has? Give the servers a rest and let the Internet get back to what it was (and what it could be).
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The original vision of the Internet was as a tool to allow individuals to partner with others to accomplish more, both by being able to access information more easily, but also by exchanging ideas more rapidly and freely. Peer-to-peer (p2p) as described in this book is defined as any systems structure for the Internet "outside the DNS . . . [with] significant or total autonomy from central servers." Conceptually, "peer-to-peer is a way to decentralizing not just features, but costs and administration as well." Basically, personal computers have unused memories and processors that can be added together to provide giant data banks and processors beyond what exists in one location at tiny cost (less than 1 percent of the alternative) and with richer content. Systems that optimize that untapped potential will accelerate human progress enormously. Think of this as creating a global mind for a specialized purpose. P2P solutions are then, by definition, killer apps compared to most of the server-based solutions.
This book challenges the tendency to turn the Internet into a slightly interactive version of television for the purpose of selling products and services offered by large companies. The essays here encourage developers to "return content, choice, and control to ordinary users." The book mostly avoids the question of how to solve the technical search problems of how to do that, but does consider many methods that create communities of limited-purpose interaction (like Napster, SETI@home, Jabber, and Red Rover). The book is not detailed enough to guide software developers, but is helpful for those who want to think about future developments in the Internet from a sociological or public policy perspective.
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0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent 7 Dec 2001
By A Customer
It is encouragimg to find a computer book as entertaining and enthusiastic as this. Covers a broad range of issues and good value for money.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  21 reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The avalanche is coming ... 9 Mar 2001
By Ross.Anderson@cl.cam.ac.uk - Published on Amazon.com
I expect this will be one of the really important computing books published this year.
Five years ago, I proposed a filestore that would be impossible to censor because it was too widely distributed across the Internet. I called this `The Eternity Service' after the `Eternity circuits' described by Arthur C. Clarke in `The City and the Stars'. I had been alarmed by the Scientologists' success at closing down the Penet remailer in Finland; this showed that electronic publishing can make it easy for rich people with ruthless lawyers to suppress publications.
Gutenberg's invention of print publishing made it impossible for princes and bishops to censor troublesome books, but might electronic publishing not make it possible once more? If there are only half a dozen servers containing a controversial document, then court orders can be purchased to close them down. Might not electronic publishing compromise the enormous gift that he gave mankind?
I could never have imagined the effect my paper would have. Rather than sedition, blasphemy or pornography, the battle is being fought over music copyright. Thanks to the Recording Industry Association of America, and its lawsuit against Napster, the Eternity Service has spawned a host of peer-to-peer systems such as Gnutella, Mojonation and Publius that have become front page news. There are also less-well-known systems, such as Red Rover, whose goal is to enable dissidents in places like China remain in contact with each other and with the rest of us. Sometimes, I have felt a bit like a skier who sets off an avalanche, and can only watch in fascination as it thunders down the valley.
So I eagerly awaited my advance copy of this book, and I have certainly not been disappointed. Although it has been put together rapidly by a number of different authors, this is not just a list of what systems X, Y and Z do, and how they work.
The first chapters place the peer-to-peer movement in a broader context: the early Internet was peer-to-peer, as was usenet. More recently, IP address congestion has led the builders of systems such as ICQ to design their own namespaces; alternatives to DNS are one of the emerging features of peer-to-peer.
After the introduction, there are chapters on a number of different systems: SETI@home, Jabber, Mixmaster, Gnutella, Freenet, Red Rover, Publius and Free Haven. Although many of these systems are relatively young and evolving quickly, their successes and failures to date help sketch a map of the peer-ro-peer space as of the beginning of 2001. They teach us what has worked, what hasn't, and what just might.
The lessons learned are distilled in the last seven chapters of the book. The themes brought out here have mostly to do with how these services can be made predictably dependable. Performance and trust are intricately intertwined; only by having means to protect against a wide variety of flooding and other attacks can service be maintained in the face of hostile action. However, technical mechanisms alone are not enough; there will probably have to be economic and social incentives for users to behave in apropriate ways. This is very timely, as people have recently come to recognise the major role played by perverse economic incentives in creating and maintaining information security vulnerabilities.
I believe that this book will become essential reading for a surprisingly broad range of people. Peer-to-peer issues do not merely affect designers of systems such as freenet, but potentially any system that has to deal with large scale and intermittent connectivity. If you believe that within ten years we will see all sorts of devices from burglar alarms to fridges and heart monitors able to establish ad-hoc communication with each other using mechanisms such as Bluetooth, then the next thing to consider is how these ad-hoc networks can be defined and protected. Here, the lessons from peer-to-peer may be invaluable.
If you need to understand the peer-to-peer movement - where it came from, where it's going, and what it can teach those of us who are working in related fields - then this book is a must-read. I also think it deserves a place on the shelves of everyone doing serious research in computer science.
Ross Anderson, Cambridge University Computer Laboratory
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Overview of the Technology and Policy of P-2-P 12 Dec 2001
By Hans Atlanta - Published on Amazon.com
I consider Peer-to-Peer to be one of the finest books on Internet issues that I have read. I highly recommend it to business and policy professionals, teachers, social scientists, and engineers.
When I first picked up the book, I had modest expectations. I have been disappointed by technical experts treating topics from the social sciences -- and this book does just that. Different chapters focus on such issues as: incentives on users to cooperate, the vulnerability of computer networks to social control, strategies for reliable communications, and censorship. Yet in this volume each topic is treated clearly, intelligently, and insightfully.
The authors not only summarize their topics well, they regularly offer sparkling insights. For example, in the chapter "The Cornucopia of the Commons," Dan Bricklin explains how certain peer-to-peer applications are enriched by consumption. The more that users consume from the electronic commons, the larger that electronic commons becomes. In the case of Napster, as users download files those files become part of the overall archive available to others. This turns the tragedy of the commons on its head: well-designed peer-to-peer applications can create explosive processes of value generation - an insight I find both provocative and profound.
The book sits squarely at that most difficult spot on the intellectual spectrum: the place where technology and policy overlap. Is this a policy book? Yes, it is. The topics above are all policy-relevant, and for a technical expert many of them would be new. Is this a technology book? Yes, it is that, too. It talks about network architecture design, technical implementations of trust and reputation, name spaces, and searching. For social scientists, the book is an excellent introduction to computer networking.
Peer-to-Peer is nearly 400 pages long and has 19 chapters. Amazingly, every chapter is worth reading. I can't say that about many edited volumes that I know! The editor also did a good job of integrating the different chapters so that the book has overall coherence.
This book is perfect for a university-level class about the Internet. The chapters on name spaces are useful to study of ICANN and global governance. Chapters on Napster help when studying intellectual property, those on FreeNet are useful when studying free speech. In my Internet policy class, I sprinkle chapters from the book throughout the semester.
Aside from teaching, the book is useful for anyone who wants to understand computer networking. It is accessible and readable, yet surveys a wide range of technical topics.
Considering the importance of the Internet and of peer-to-peer networks, it can be surprising difficult to find good explanations of the issues. This book does just that.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Groundbreaking 19 Mar 2001
By Cees van Barneveldt - Published on Amazon.com
Peer-to-peer technology is a buzzword today., mainly because of all the publicity about Napster. The picture people get about this technology is not pretty; the main benefits seem to be free music and anonimity, and the core competencies seem to be superdistribution and the lack of any control.
On September 2000 O'Reilly organized a peer-to-peer summit with a number of experts (computer scientists from MIT and AT&T Labs, CTO's, architects, human rights activists). This book is basically an offspring of this summit, with contributions from many of those experts.
One of the goals of this summit was to answer the question what peer-to-peer really is, and about what technologies we should think when we hear the term. There are also a lot of lessons to be learned from well known applications as Napster, Gnutella and Freenet. One of the outcomes is peer-to-peer is much more than file sharing; we also can think of projects regarding Web Services (Bluetooth, .NET, JINI), instant messaging, Web hyperlinking and networked devices. Core benefits include "more effective use of Internet resources through edge services" and "overcoming barriers to formation of ad-hoc communities and working groups". Peer-to-peer should be positioned as a natural next step in the development of the Internet.
After setting the context the book continues with chapters about a number of systems (already developed or still on the drawing table): SETI@home , Jabber, Mixmaster Remailers, Gnutella, Freenet, Red Rover, Publius and Free Haven. The focus of these chapters is on high level requirements and design choices: what works, what does not work and why?
The last part of the book contains descriptions of core technologies and research areas. These chapters deal with questions as performance and scalability, search strategies, accountability, trust, reputation and security. The approach of these topics is scientific: performances issues in Gnutella and Freenet are illustrated mathematically via graph theory. In the chapter about accountability several techniques for digital payments are described for ensuring accountable behavior amongst peers. These chapters also show that peer-to-peer is not an isolated area, many of the requirements also apply to other Internet related areas: think about encrypting e-mail or authentication of users by a server ("How do I make sure that only persons above 21 years old can look at my Website" or "How can I trust the person I am dealing with at an auction site").
This book is clearly not meant for developers. This is a book for people who want to be up to date about developments in computer science. Hereby I am thinking about CTOs, architects and researchers. In my opinion this is a groundbreaking work about a new and important topic that has many people's attention. The level is high and academic, and many of the technologies actually would require a separate book. All the articles are well written and of good quality.
I want to place one critical remark however. One of Tim O'Reilly's goals was to show the world that peer-to-peer is much more than violation of copyrights, or other activities that might be viewed as subversive in one way. However, in this book applications for file-sharing and censorship resistant publishing are overrepresented. There are many categories of worthy projects not included, such as "Servers/Services as Peers", "Devices as Peers" and "Writable Web". In order to get peer-to-peer on the map as more than a fringe technology , we also need attention for applications that are more garden variety, affecting our daily live or useful within a business context. Hereby I am also thinking about UDDI, JINI, Bluetooth, .NET and WebDAV.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent coverage of p2p 12 Mar 2004
By W Boudville - Published on Amazon.com
In 2000, O'Reilly surveyed the field of peer-to-peer computing, and published this book. It has an excellent description of the key concepts behind all the major p2p implementations then existing. Napster, of course, was the best known. But Seti@home, Gnutella, Jabber, Freenet, Free Haven and others are also explained. These are compared with each other, so that you can see the different emphases and strengths of each.
Since the book's release, p2p usage has grown, and the attendant controversy about the downloading of copyrighted material, mainly music, has continued unabated. Napster in its original incarnation has gone. But other p2p networks, like Kazaa, have arisen.
Another type of p2p network has also emerged - for social networks. Companies include Friendster, Tribe.net, Ryze and others. Of course, these aren't covered in the book, because they did not exist when it was written. But as a measure of how comprehensive the book is, one of its chapters describes the key work on social networks and encompasses this entire group of companies.
The technical level is moderate throughout the book. While XML, SOAP and cryptography are described, you only need slight familiarity with these topics. The discussion involving them tends to be at a higher level of usage.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars dasper 25 July 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I've been a big fan of O'Reilly & Associates for years because of their consistent ability to provide highly readable and accurate technical books, often about technologies I find fascinating and useful. To me the editorial bias of most of those books is simply the love of the technology they describe. But O'Reilly has increasingly become a force in the organization and direction of new technologies. And it is that aspect of this book on P2P which has made the biggest impression on me. This book is different from the many other O'Reilly books I've read because it discusses the publisher's own ideas about P2P and involvement with it.
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