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P2P Web Promises Many Freedoms - Part 1/3

Aims to Prevent Domain Seizures by Governments

In a lightning-fast response to recent and pending actions by the US Government cracking down on several different kinds of Internet activity by seizing perpetrators' Internet domains, a group calling itself Dot-P2P has formed to develop and promulgate an alternative domain name system (DNS) that will be immune to action by the US or other governments.  In this, the first of three parts, we examine what led up to the creation of Dot-P2P and the technology that might make it possible.

About a week ago, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement unit of the US Department of Homeland Security seized the Internet domains of about eighty web sites for selling counterfeit merchandise and for distributing pirated music and movies.

It is widely believed that this action was conducted to lend credibility and urgency to new legislation sponsored by Senators Leahy (D-VT) and Hatch (R-UT) in September, the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA).  In their informative FAQ on the bill, DemandProgress.org describes it like this:

"The bill creates a blacklist of Internet domain names which the Attorney General can add to with a court order. Internet service providers, financial transaction providers, and online ad vendors (everyone from Comcast to PayPal to Google AdSense) would be required to block any domains on the list."

A cynical reading of the situation would suggest that the unfettered perpetuation of piracy is the only real raison d'être for Dot-P2P.  But, reading through the pages of comments generated by the announcement shows that it is not the only motivation of the people who want it.  Another is ideology.  There are many libertarians and anarchist who are not necessarily media pirates who heartily endorse the idea on general principal.  And, although they are not vocal, visible supporters, we can assume that both professional and amateur pornographers will think it is a swell idea, too.

But, Dot-P2P is substantially an explicit response to the COICA bill, and that bill has many opponents who are not pirates, pornographers or provocateurs. Other opponents of the bill include a wide variety of organizations including library associations, free speech and human rights advocates, electronics and technology trade and professional organizations, academic groups, and many, many more.

Public Knowledge a "public interest group working to defend citizens' rights in the emerging digital culture" has pulled together an exhaustive list of other reasons to oppose COICA that is well worth reading and that they summarize by saying, "These problems make the bill a danger to innocent and beneficial sites, create potential technical problems, and put it in conflict with the United States' agenda for a single, global, Internet."

Many of the sites shut down by the ICE domain seizures employed the otherwise perfectly legal BitTorrent P2P file sharing protocol and software to do illegal file sharing.  One site that was shut down, though, was Torrent-Finder, a meta-search engine for finding BitTorrent-enabled sites, something its owner thought was itself legal but that ICE said constitutes facilitating infringement.

The BitTorrent technology comprises highly distributed, peer-to-peer software that breaks files into smaller pieces and scatters them redundantly across many different peer systems.  Then, when a user wants to download a copy of a file, the software, working in conjunction with coordinating "tracker" sites, enables its reconstitution from the pieces stored on the peers.

The BitTorrent software's design enhances both the efficiency and evasiveness of the media file sharing process.  The BitTorrent P2P network has been around for a decade, is made up of around 25 million peers (the systems that contain the content), and accounts for 25-50% of all Internet traffic.  So, the BitTorrent network, infrastructure, ecosystem, whatever you want to call it, is huge.

And, it is on that enormous, distributed infrastructure, and, to some extent the BitTorrent technology running it, that Dot-P2P hopes to base its new, decentralized outlaw DNS, which is intended to function as an alternative to the current domain name system.  In so doing, it also effectively creates another Internet, connected to, but apart from the one we know today.

In Part 2 of this article we will examine the existing Internet DNS and how Dot-P2P aims to compete with it.

More Stories By Tim Negris

Tim Negris is SVP, Marketing & Sales at Yottamine Analytics, a pioneering Big Data machine learning software company. He occasionally authors software industry news analysis and insights on Ulitzer.com, is a 25-year technology industry veteran with expertise in software development, database, networking, social media, cloud computing, mobile apps, analytics, and other enabling technologies.

He is recognized for ability to rapidly translate complex technical information and concepts into compelling, actionable knowledge. He is also widely credited with coining the term and co-developing the concept of the “Thin Client” computing model while working for Larry Ellison in the early days of Oracle.

Tim has also held a variety of executive and consulting roles in a numerous start-ups, and several established companies, including Sybase, Oracle, HP, Dell, and IBM. He is a frequent contributor to a number of publications and sites, focusing on technologies and their applications, and has written a number of advanced software applications for social media, video streaming, and music education.

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