P2P Networking Steps Into Spotlight

By Grant Du Bois  |  Posted 2001-02-19

Against the backdrop of last weeks court verdict that virtually dooms music-swapping service Napster Inc., dozens of companies gathered at the OReilly Peer-to-Peer Conference here to demonstrate P2P applications that they said have viable business models.

P2P networking pools PC resources by file sharing—text, audio and video files are sent via PCs instead of servers—and by distributed computing, in which many PCs combine their processing power to solve complex problems.

At the show, two new content delivery companies, OpenCola Inc. and 3Path Inc., introduced technology that they said could prompt enterprises to look seriously at P2P.

OpenCola, next month, will ship OpenCola Folders, which the San Francisco company describes as a distributed resource discovery application that can be used by Web content producers to acquire a larger audience. It consists of a desktop plug-in that uses machine intelligence to determine other users who share similar interests with a user. The software then spiders networks (such as the Web, Usenet and Napster) and fills up the OpenCola Folder with music and video files and Web pages based on what similar users liked.

OpenCola said it hopes to drop the cost of marketing to zero by routing documents intelligently to places where they will be perceived as most relevant.

The company will license its server software to media content providers, which will be free to charge a subscription fee to their users.

Separately, 3Path, also of San Francisco, last week released an enhanced beta version of its Priority Communication Network with improved performance, easier registration and expanded publishing capabilities.

The PCN service, which supplements e-mail and Web sites, enables business users to deliver messages, documents and other content directly to their customers and partners desktops. Early applications include one-to-one and one-to-many document delivery between home office and remote personnel. 3Paths target customers include market researchers, consultants and recruiters. Due in the third quarter, 3Paths PCN will cost less than $10 per month per user.

Although undecided on whether OpenCola or 3Path have that killer application, developers such as Richard Braman are looking to use P2P to take advantage of the extended collaboration functions that P2P provides.

"I want to use P2P to monetize our existing user base and attract new users," said Braman, vice president and co-founder of DesktopDollars Inc., a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., maker of desktop Internet tool-bar software with 1 million users.

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