P2P Camp Swarms 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