Cable Tech

P2P Camp Swarms Video

Could peer-to-peer (P2P) save Internet video?

Startup founders from the P2P camp are claiming there's no other way to present high-definition video to millions of users, while also pointing out that P2P requires less of an infrastructure investment than direct video downloading.

"There's no other cost-effective way to do it. The amount of money YouTube spends to deliver you short grainy videos is already big," says Dmitry Shapiro, CEO of P2P-based video site, Veoh Networks Inc.

Based on that argument -- and the P2P philosophy of wanting to "democratize" things -- P2P video sites are kicking into gear.

Veoh formally launched yesterday, although its service has been available in beta for 11 months. (See Veoh Launches.) And Azureus Inc. , which is temporarily calling its video site Zudeo, is planning its launch for later this quarter.

They're being joined by a couple of big names: Joost , the latest project from the founders of Kazaa and Skype Ltd. ; and BitTorrent Inc. , which was offering short videos but has morphed itself into an online storefront. (See Skypsters Fast Forward to Internet TV and BitTorrent Preps February Launch.)

There's even room for trash-talking among the P2P camp, as they all form a kind of fraternity at this point. Joost is "interesting, and Niklas Zennström has done some pretty disruptive things twice," Shapiro says. "They'll be a competitor, but we're going to whup their ass."

The case for P2P even has a timely edge. Last week, Vincent Dureau, the top TV exec at Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), reportedly told the Cable Congress audience in Amsterdam that the Internet, and even Google itself, can't scale to handle TV.

Proponents say a P2P network would fare better because of its distributed nature. A P2P setup has users' computers contributing spare processing and bandwidth to help one another complete downloads. That's made P2P useful for distributing large files to many people, as the music industry found out.

Azureus says it wants to target high-resolution video, particularly in longer formats (full movies, for example). By working with an established consumer base -- the Azureus version of the BitTorrent P2P protocol has users in the millions -- a P2P service wouldn't need the armies of servers that Google Video or YouTube use.

"We're not incurring massive costs by distributing these services for free, because of our infrastructure," says Gilles BianRosa, Azureus Inc.'s CEO and the creator of the Azureus client.

Azureus plans to have 16 to 20 seed servers around the world. These would house the name-brand content that Azureus licenses, such as programs from the BBC or recently named partner Starz Entertainment LLC . (See Azureus, Starz Media Team.)

"It is still P2P. It just happens to be with very big seeds," BianRosa says.

Taking the idea a bit further, Azureus could manipulate the seeds to push certain content to the fore. A new movie that hasn't yet found a fan base could be given more of the seed servers' uplink bandwidth, for example, to speed up downloading.

Not all of the Internet video world is convinced P2P is the way to go, however. For now, most sites are doing fine with direct downloading of video, often in browser-friendly formats like Flash.

"It's very early in the game. The Internet's doing a great job keeping up with what's there now," says Eric Elia, vice president of programming and design at Brightcove Inc. .

Brightcove isn't wholly opposed to P2P and would be willing to go that route if BianRosa and Shapiro are proven right, Elia says. It's just that Brightcove hasn't found the Internet to be a problem so far.

Like many sites, Brightcove displays the video inside the user's Web browser. Transport for the video packets is handled by the content delivery network of Limelight Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: LLNW), which announced its contract with Brightcove six months ago. (See Brightcove, Limelight Team.)

Is the frugality of P2P reflected in the venture funding doled out to sites? Possibly. Brightcove has raised $81 million total. By contrast, Azureus, with 20 employees, raised $12 million in a second round late last year; Veoh, with 75 employees, has raised $14.75 million to date. (See Brightcove Bags $59.5 Million.)

Then again, YouTube, while admittedly a lot bigger than it used to be, grew up on just $11.5 million before being bought by Google.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 3:14:35 PM
re: P2P Camp Swarms Video P2P "feels" mainstream to me, and probably to you, if you're reading this ... but I don't know how well it's understood in the general public. If P2P is truly the only way to get internet video to scale, how hard a sell job will it be to get the masses using P2P?
OldPOTS 12/5/2012 | 3:14:35 PM
re: P2P Camp Swarms Video While P2P makes sense from a BW perspective and supporting multiple viewings at a site/home if you do it like VOD except with fast channel change.

Does this mean that Telcos and MSOs will become BW providers only, or will they shoot this down (layers) to spite their face.

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 3:14:34 PM
re: P2P Camp Swarms Video Yes -- security is another great point. Some companies forbid employees from installing P2P for just that reason (which seems prudent).
Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 3:14:34 PM
re: P2P Camp Swarms Video OP -- I have to admit, I couldn't follow the first sentence. But this:

>>>Does this mean that Telcos and MSOs will become BW providers only, or will they shoot this down (layers) to spite their face.<<<

You can just see the latter happening, can't you. Wonder how that would affect the business model here.
paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 3:14:34 PM
re: P2P Camp Swarms Video

P2P has a huge issue with security. I understand the bandwidth argument, but I think people will eventually understand that part as well. This is what makes me question the entire P2P model for the general public. Really like the idea of downloading stuff from random_guy_01 and executing on your computer?

materialgirl 12/5/2012 | 3:14:34 PM
re: P2P Camp Swarms Video Looking to the future, other variables that will determine network usage include DRM and client type. Current DRM and fat clients will not scale with peer-to-peer. A new DRM model, and a thin, java-based client that primarily displays video would do much to promote peer-to-peer.
Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 3:14:25 PM
re: P2P Camp Swarms Video We've decided to create a poll on this topic. Step up and be heard:

OldPOTS 12/5/2012 | 3:14:23 PM
re: P2P Camp Swarms Video Craig,

Maybee I was ahead of myself.

But if someone does video, like people are doing audio with, as materialgirl suggested, a light/fast client for authentication and channel surfing and an optomised video protocol they relegate the Telcos and MOS to BW haulers.

Now these guys could start with unique content and grow into Movie and Porn distributers and let MSOs and Telcos fight with standard basic fair. They could then grow to offering/distributing premium things like sports and first run movies


BTW In my neighborhod FIOS just offered me a basic price for 200 channels (some HD and premium - non-encrypted). Now the catch was that you also had to subscribe to Internet or Phone service. But since I have VZ Phone service (Twisted pair) they would move me to FIOs Phone service for the same price. This is their business plan to move people to fiber phone service to avoid truck runs maintaininng aging copper distribution. They have been to most houses in my neighboorhood twice for barried cable terminations at the post behind my house.
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