Song-Swap Networks Still Humming
Peer-to-peer traffic has not declined despite the music industry’s aggressive pursuit of illegal file sharers, according to a new study.
Researchers from the University of California at Riverside and the Cooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis evaluated packet data on the internet and found that P2P continues to thrive. Their results are published in a study, titled “Is P2P dying or just hiding?”
“In general we observe that P2P activity has not diminished,” says the study, which will be presented at IEEE Globecom 2004 next month. “On the contrary, P2P traffic represents a significant amount of internet traffic and is likely to continue to grow in the future, RIAA behavior notwithstanding.”
The abstract of the paper:
Recent reports in the popular media suggest a significant decrease in peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing traffic, attributed to the public’s response to legal threats. Have we reached the end of the P2P revolution? In pursuit of legitimate data to verify this hypothesis, we embark on a more accurate measurement effort of P2P traffic at the link level. In contrast to previous efforts we introduce two novel elements in our methodology. First, we measure traffic of all known popular P2P protocols. Second, we go beyond the “known port” limitation by reverse engineering the protocols and identifying characteristic strings in the payload. We find that, if measured accurately, P2P traffic has never declined; indeed we have never seen the proportion of p2p traffic decrease over time (any change is an increase) in any of our data sources.
From the Conclusions:
P2P users vs. the entertainment industry. According to our results, the P2P battle seems to be entering a new phase with the P2P community making its second comeback. The first comeback was the switch from the easy-to-locate Napster, to distributed Gnutella-like protocols. Thus, locating a single responsible entity became impossible. The industry then relied on detecting P2P traffic. Now, the users take a step further by making P2P traffic hard to identify.
Network economics. The increase in P2P traffic is a mixed blessing for end-user ISPs. P2P fuels the demand for home broadband (e.g., DSL) connections; however, the fixed monthly fee paid by home users may not cover the ISP’s expenses caused by volume-based charges of upstream providers: flat rate at the network edge is in direct conflict with usage-based charges imposed by carriers. .
Another trend that is currently gaining momentum is an intent to directly manipulate P2P applications into desirable traffic patterns , e.g. exchanging most of the data inside the ISP’s infrastructure. This trend may result in ISPs competing to provide better bitrates for rate-aware applications like BitTorrent , in accordance with their economic relations (upstreams pushing more traffic to customers and customers trying to minimize traffic exchanged with upstreams.)
Breaking the asymmetrical bandwidth assumption. If P2P traffic continues to increase and legal complications are overridden, the P2P paradigm will bring dramatic changes in supply and demand in edge and access networks. Bit rates of many access links, in particular for DSL and cable modems, are currently provisioned asymmetrically with significantly lower upstream bandwidth. This provisioning was based on the expectation of users downloading much more data than they send upstream. The relevance of such technologies will be challenged and their market share will dwindle if alternative broadband technologies can offer comparable upstream and downstream performance.
And the concluding line of the paper:
There is no doubt that the P2P paradigm will change Internet engineering as we know it today. Given the observed trends, the only remaining question is when, not if.