What is P2P Technology: Past, Present, and Future
With the development of the internet, we have been able to exchange all kinds of information very quickly. There are a lot of ways to exchange files with another internet user, but one of the most popular is P2P networks.
P2P is an abbreviation of the expression “peer-to-peer.” They are also called peer-to-peer, decentralized or peer-to-peer networks.
Now, the so-called hybrid (partially decentralized) P2P networks are most often used. In such networks, the server is present, but it is not used to store information, but to coordinate the work of the network.
Such a network combines the speed of a pure P2P network and the reliability of a centralized network.
In the article, we will tell you more about p2p technology and the future of their development.
Centralized vs. decentralized: what’s better to choose? Learn more here.
What is P2P?
To be able to access certain information held by different users, computers were invented to be combined into local networks, with the help of which people had the opportunity to remotely exchange data stored on their devices. At the same time, the methods of organizing networks themselves may be different and have their advantages and disadvantages.
One of these is the option when all computers connected to each other have equivalent functions, that is, they can both receive information, acting as a server, and give it away, acting as a client.
The principle of operation of P2P technology
At its core, a peer-to-peer network is an association of computers that is based solely on the equality of all participants, called peers in such systems.
From the client-server architecture that formed the basis for building the internet, such networks differ directly in that such an organization is able to maintain the operability of the entire peer-to-peer network with any number of available nodes (peers), as well as with any combination of them.
That is, when working with conventional networks, everything depends on the bandwidth of the server itself, and in the case of peer-to-peer networks there is no such significant drawback.
To more clearly understand the difference between client-server and peer-to-peer architecture, let’s look at an example of file transfer over the network in each of them. Any information on the network is transmitted in small pieces, so-called packets.
To transfer a file from one computer to another, it also needs to be divided into many parts (packages), which, after downloading, are assembled into a single unit on the machine of the user who requested this file.
In the case when a client-server model is used, you need to find a specific server on the network with the file you need and download it from there. At the same time, the speed of the file’s return by the server will directly depend on its bandwidth and workload at this point in time.
That is, if there are thousands of people who want to receive some data from this node at the same time, then the rate of return at this moment may be very low, since the server’s capabilities will be divided between all requests. It is also worth noting that in case of any malfunction of the server, all information on it will become unavailable, and you will have to search for a new source of the desired file.
With the peer-to-peer model of data transmission over the network, things are somewhat different. There is no need to find a specific server (node) containing the file you need. With the help of special directories, it is enough just to make sure that it is present somewhere on the network. If the object is found, then you can easily download it using a special program.
The main difference from the above method is that the pieces of the file will be received simultaneously from several sources. Do you remember what we talked about earlier? In peer-to-peer networks, all users’ computers are servers, which means that a file can be downloaded simultaneously from many machines on which it is available.
That is why, if some users who have the object you need will not be online at a certain time, then others will help out, and the speed of obtaining information will depend on the number of people who have it and, of course, the capabilities of your bandwidth channel.
As mentioned earlier, one of the main applications of P2P networks is file sharing. The model of a “pure” peer-to-peer network described above is practically not found in the modern field of file sharing. Despite some advantages of this option, for example, the high speed of request propagation and the reliability of the system itself, there are disadvantages with such an organization of data exchange.
One of these is the difficulty of finding exactly those users who have the file they need at a given time and at the same time are online in an active state. It was possible to solve this difficulty by using hybrid networks, where there are dedicated servers that are assigned the functions of coordinating work, searching for existing machines on the network, as well as determining their current status (“online” or “offline”). This hybrid model was the basis for most modern peer-to-peer file sharing networks.
In order for the user to become a full participant in a particular file-sharing network, it is necessary to install a special client program on his computer, with the help of which files will be exchanged. Moreover, different software is used for different networks.
Popular P2P networks
In the global network, there are several dozen large file-sharing networks and a huge number of small ones, for example, operating within the same provider. Despite the fact that all these systems are peer-to-peer (decentralized) or hybrid (partially decentralized) and use the general concept of data transmission characteristic of these networks, each of them may have its own unique principles and criteria of existence, data transmission protocols, as well as its own client software.
The largest and most popular file sharing networks include:
- Utopia P2P ecosystem — an anonymous and decentralized network with an arsenal of tools for private and secure messaging, file sharing, browsing, etc. The ecosystem is built on the decentralization and peer-to-peer technology. Registration and use are absolutely anonymous.
Read more about Utopia P2P here.
- ED2K (eDonkey2000). To exchange files over the MFTP protocol, the eMule client or the more outdated Edonkey is used. Support for this project was discontinued by the developers in 2005, although the network itself continues to function.
- BitTorrent is the most popular file sharing network, with a high data transfer rate. The main clients include uTorrent, BitComet, BitSpirit, Azureus and others.
- Direct Connect – interconnected small hubs (servers) used to search for information on the computers of the participants of these networks. It is used to organize file exchange in large district or city local networks. The main client is DC++.
- Gnutella and Gnutella2 are pure peer-to-peer networks that use their own protocol developed by Nullsoft for data transmission. Main clients: Shareaza, LimeWire, Phex, Mogrhea and others.
Conclusion and P2P’s future
What is P2P in simple words? The concept of P2P refers to a network architecture where computers or devices communicate directly with each other without the need for a central server. In simple terms, P2P is a way to exchange information or resources between users without the mediation of third parties.
This technology has become especially popular due to the ability to share files such as music, photos, videos and documents. P2P allows users to upload and download these files directly from other network participants, providing faster and more convenient information transfer.
P2P also finds application in the financial sector. In recent years, P2P lending platforms have appeared that allow individuals to borrow or invest money directly into each other, bypassing banks and other financial intermediaries. This provides an opportunity to obtain more favorable conditions for loans and investments, as well as simplifies the process of obtaining and issuing loans.
However, despite all the advantages of P2P technologies, they are not without some risks. Due to the lack of centralized infrastructure, vulnerabilities and security threats are possible in P2P networks. It should also be noted that the use of P2P networks for the illegal exchange of copyrighted materials may entail legal consequences.
In general, P2P is an innovative technology that changes the usual ways of exchanging information and financial resources. It gives users the opportunity to interact directly, providing fast and convenient data transfer. However, to ensure safety and prevent negative consequences, it is important to be careful and comply with the laws and regulations on the use of P2P technologies.