The Internet, CDNs and Bandwidth: The Roots of the Decentralization Movement

There have been a lot of articles circulating the web lately about CDNs and network infrastructure, but many questions remain. What are the discrepancies between the client-server model and the peer-to-peer (P2P) one? What is decentralizing the web really about?

The more I read about hugely innovative peer-to-peer startups, the more I find myself asking these questions. As an Internet user, I think we need to redefine the values into two categories:

  1. Things users absolutely require
  2. Things users want

Users require great Internet service. What I mean by that is that information users try to access should load as quickly as possible. They also need a connection that is always available. If a service provider does not give users these things, users will find a new one, quickly!

Security is a real question here. When you ask someone, they will often tell you that their privacy and security on the web is of the utmost importance to them. But if you offer a slow, but secure experience versus a fast, but less secure experience, people almost always choose the fast one. This means security falls into the Things users want category.

P2P Bandwidth Offloading

From the content provider’s side, there is another aspect, bandwidth and the associated costs. Everyone would love to be able to provide the same quality of service at a lower cost, but there is usually a tradeoff between the two variables. P2P, for example, can lower bandwidth, but it can also limit content availability in many ways (via software installation requirements, lack of peers, etc). Today, as a result, many content providers, place bandwidth on the want list.

Some other providers, without the same capital resources as their competitors, may need lower bandwidth costs for their business models to be viable. As rising trends, including 4K videos, the Internet of Things, Wearables and smartphones continue to get increasing adoption, bandwidth requirements are only going to grow. In the future, this trend could lead to more content providers shifting their level of interest in reducing bandwidth from a want to a need.

While many CDNs focus on the speed and availability issues, most current, infrastructure-based networks don’t focus on reducing bandwidth. This is at least partially due to their customer’s wants versus needs, but also likely has something to do with their own incentives (since CDNs get paid for the amount of bandwidth they transmit). It seems to me that companies capable of reducing bandwidth requirements could, therefore, be hugely disruptive in the industry. It could even be one of the biggest factors that determines which CDNs gain and lose market share going forward.

This is the clear benefit of hybrid models. Thanks to the dual protocols, using both client-server and P2P systems, a network can leverage the best qualities of both architectures to create a fast, always available Internet that significantly reduces bandwidth. While this system might not give users all of the security benefits an exclusively P2P network could, it seems like a step in the right direction. So, perhaps these ideals are what decentralizing the web is really all about; giving users a better experience, while saving content providers from growing bandwidth concerns.

Peer5 created the world’s first hybrid network. Find out more by clicking here