The P2P Witch Hunt

Peer-to-Peer (P2P) distribution networks have been much maligned. Instead of looking at the infrastructure in an unbiased manner, the media, as usual, decides to focus on negative publicity. So lets quickly discuss what P2P really is.

client-server model and p2p

P2P is a method of content distribution where individual computers link to each other to transfer data. The main other data transmission method is the client-server model, which uses centralized servers to send content to end-users. In this context, P2P has many advantages relating to its decentralized approach to the web. First, it is harder to track users because watchdog organizations no longer have central locations to search through. P2P also allows for bandwidth offloading, which saves content providers money. Further, it reduces network congestions, thereby boosting internet speeds.

So why does P2P have a less than stellar name? Mainly for being associated with certain companies that have had their names dragged through the mud (think Napster), but the technology itself isn’t illegal, certain programs have just used it in a less than ethical way. What are some legal, beneficial use cases:


Originally named Sky Peer to Peer, is one of the world’s favorites. The VOIP and instant messaging client runs on a P2P and client-server hybrid network. In 2013, Skype reported that it was connecting users for 2 billion minutes a day.

Linux Distribution

Linux is primarily reliant on free, open-sourced software operating systems. It’s estimated that there are almost 73 million Linux users, many of which receive their operating systems via P2P networks.


A software file sharing project that uses P2P to help faculty, staff and students share academic files. While the origins of this application can be traced back to Penn State, other organizations and universities later joined as partners.

Open Garden

This application has a free P2P mobile internet connection sharing network that makes data transfer more efficient. Open Garden allows individuals to share internet via WiFi, Bluetooth, or laptops and mobile phones. This unique system allows more people to connect to the internet more frequently.

P2P networks are a huge improvement over the current client-server model in many ways. Though P2P may frequently be looked at in a negative context, clearly it has some very legitimate, beneficial applications. In the future, as P2P technologies continue to improve, expect to hear more and more about them.

To learn more about how the Peer5 Downloader uses P2P systems, click here