Napster-like companies may come and go, but P2P is here to stay. At least thats what peer-to-peer companies say. Why these companies think they can eke out a business plan inspired by a company that made only its lawyers rich and ultimately collapsed is another question. This doesnt mean that there arent interesting companies in this market, however. Netscape vets Marc Andreessen and Jim Barksdale, who know all about collapsing businesses, are the big investors behind Zodiac Networks, a P2P company focused on the content delivery network.
Zodiac reportedly enhances content delivery networks, such as Akamai Technologies, by distributing and sharing data among their client nodes. For example, content creation sites may use Akamais services to cache content at the network level. Zodiac will recache the data at the client level and distribute it via P2P, making the entire network more efficient.
Andreessens Loudcloud, which should have gone public by the time you read this, has a deal with Akamai. Andreessen bills Loudcloud as the "leading software infrastructure services provider" (pretty arrogant for a startup). Loudclouds customers apparently will have easy ways to tap into Akamais network. We can speculate that Akamai will leverage Zodiacs technology, making Andreessen a key player in the content delivery space.
Meanwhile, Sun announced that it is dumping Gnutellas protocol in its P2P efforts. Sun purchased a company called Infrasearch (which is also known as gonesilent.com) as part of its Project Juxtapose, a P2P and collaboration technology. Interestingly, Andreessen is also an investor in Infrasearch, making it excruciatingly apparent that he believes the next big thing is P2P technology. Warning to everyone: Get out now while you still can!
It is too early to see where all this will lead. P2P is definitely coming. Its not going to be the big, all-out music-sharing technology that Napster is, however. P2P is spreading in lots of small bits. Some of it will be used as caching and sharing technology in the content delivery network. Some of it will be used for collaborative work. Most of the rest will die.