Bittorrent and the future of the web…

The web is many things to many people. For some it is email or chat, for others it is surfing all day, but for approximately 10% of internet users it is all about bittorrent. Bittorrent is file sharing technology that is amazing! It allows the distribution of small or often very large files to be divided among all the participating users.

This technology works better with more users participating. Where most technologies break down with an increase in user base bittorrent thrives. This technology works so well that many legit businesses use it as a means of content distribution. It also means that it is WIDELY abused for the distribution of illegal content such as movies, copyrighted music, and other media files.

Copyright issues aside I only have one big problem with bittorrent and similar technologies. They consume ENORMOUS amounts of bandwidth. When I say enormous let me explain – 5-10% of cable modem users consume more than 60% of the TOTAL bandwidth available from cable providers for Bittorrent and similar P2P file sharing technologies. Bittorrent is a pig!

This is what will happen in my opinion. First bittorrent will be ignored (Already happened), then ISPs will begin to de-prioritze bittorrent traffic in favor of more general protocols (HTTP,POP,IMAP,FTP, etc). Comcast and other ISPs are starting to do this now. Next, ISPs will try and block bittorrent all together which will fail miserably. Users will complain, content distribution companies will complain and push even more in favor of general net neutrality for all tcp protocols. Next, I believe some ISPs will try and offer internet service to customers at a discounted rate if their upload stream can’t be used with bittorrent and other p2p protocols. This will also fail miserably, but invariably some suit will sit in an office with a bunch of other suits and decide it makes sense not understanding that most internet users don’t know or care what bittorrent is, they just want their internet experience to be the same as its always been.

Finally, when everyone comes to their senses (ISPs) they will simply charge the customers for the bandwidth that they consume. If a user wants to participate in the bittorrent network they will use a lot of bandwidth and their internet bill goes up. If they don’t want to participate then they don’t have to and their base rate stays the same. This also will take away the free ride that so many companies get right now by distributing their content using bittorrent and having all the ISPs pay for their software to be distributed.

Pay for what you use? What a novel concept! I wish we could skip all the steps in between and just get to this point, but I have been around long enough to know that it simply won’t happen.

Matt Heaton / Bluehost.com / Hostmonster.com

12 Responses to “Bittorrent and the future of the web…”

  1. Dan says:

    Pay by bandwidth. Good idea? What about the users in the world that get viruses and spyware because they do not know any better, or because of flaws in software and even because they can’t afford updates to thier already to expensive virus protection. Those can and will eat up bandwidth in a thousand different ways, and when that surprise bill for $1000 comes in the mail, how is the consumer going to figure out why? I doubt the money grubbing ISP will be there to help, they want their money. I can see this leading to more hacking as I’d rather be using someone elses bandwidth somewhere in the world then my own if it’s costing me.

    Not that I would do that…

  2. Mark says:

    Considering that almost all broadband connections are already handicapped by a small upload speed (ex. RoadRunner here is 5Mbps down, 384Kbps up), I dont think BitTorrent is a huge problem that everyone makes it out to be.

    Yes, it uses a lot of bandwidth compared to normal web surfing and email. But when you consider that most people are uploading with a fraction of 1Mbps, and that users are PAYING for that bandwidth, whats the problem? Providers are selling Internet access and customers are buying it. The providers are choking when they have to deliver on what they sold, but thats just the name of the game.

  3. Axel says:

    Hi CEO,

    If one can admit p2p is taking up 60% of total bandwidth, then how is “normal surfing” taking the 40 % left ? Today normal surfing increasingly includes watching streaming video, music, VOD, internet TV, podcasts, vodcasts, etc. Youtube alone is said to currently take up to 25% of worldwide bandwidth, with a growth rate that should clog worldwide bandwidth by 2010 if no more investments are made in infrastructures. Don’t you think even if you take bittorrent down, other protocols will rise and overall p2p traffic will stay the same ? Big G players will certainly bite hard at anyone who tries billing their users on their bandwidth usage. Finally, I believe Time Warner is already at least testing this form of billing, so maybe ISPs are not as stupid, but the fight hasn’t begun yet either…

  4. Ed Byrne says:

    Pay for what you use? Oh god all shared hosting companies would collapse !! :)

  5. Juan Ortiz says:

    To be honest, if an ISP ever tell me they will limit my internet to a specific amount of mb’s/gb’s per month, as if it was a cellphone contract, I would just cancel the service. Not such a hot thing for a business, is it?

    I am pretty sure there are plenty of other people like me out there.

    Even cellphone companies are now offering services with no contracts, unlimited calls, sms, mms or web access. You can imagine that what customers want is a company that will offer freedom.

    The mere fact to have the CEO of a successful company considering that idea is bizarre. With all due respect, I am sure that implementing your idea would just be another example of a miserable failure.

    I do not believe that there is a way to go back to the past. The only way to solve our current problems will be to create a new way to deliver more bandwidth instead of limiting it. Otherwise, it would not be a solution, it would just as useless as fixing a dam with bubble gum.

  6. Alexander says:

    Why don’t you think it’s already so??
    After all the ISP’s charge the custumer more monney for a bigger bandwith.

    And i think that VideoOnDemand in HDTV will at least reverse the 60% Bittorent has now as the “normal” user starts watching Films in his Browser (as we already see stupid YouTube as an early example).

    It makes no sense for me to punish user that only use what they HAVE PAID for.

    Also why is it a free ride for you when the ISP are paid by the custumer?

    But i agree on the above steps this will take ;-)

    Greetings

  7. Anthony says:

    I’m not opposed to the idea of pay for what you use in theory, as long as it was realistically tied to the bottom line cost. If some general internet use could be had for about $10 a month, it might be a huge success. But if prices start at the ridiculous level the are now, and go up, it would be a huge failure.

    Personally, I don’t think that bit torrent is the problem. I think it only exposes the fact that our internet infrastructure is limited, and is not being developed at a rate that will keep us competitive with the rest of the world.

  8. Rob Worth says:

    Pay for what you use? That concept only works with fuel, food, and tires. Why do I say that? Simply that for the good of all, bandwidth is a shared commodity to be divided equally amongst all. Example – property taxes, health insurance, life insurance, and the like. What if you had to pay for the full burden of the property tax for schools only IF your kids attend that school? Many people would either go bankrupt of do home schooling, period. A good example are the religion based schools vs the public school system. The same with universities and other institutions of higher learning. Your taxes help to make it a reasonable expense even if you do not take advantage of the learning process.

    OK, what about health insurance. Do the math, no one would have health insurance if only the ill were forced to pay their share based on their illnesses. Sure, health insurance is expensive but what would it be if the ill and infirmed were required to fork over an amount equal to what they use plus a small profit for the health insurance carrier? Yea, no one would carry it.

    What about life insurance? You will never be able to use it any way – you do that to protect your family should you pass on earlier then expected. So why should you pay more based on your family’s life history rather then on the averages for everyone in your age group?

  9. I’d be very happy to pay a small monthly fee to have ubuntu and fedora and OpenOffice.org torrents up. I’d like to think that I’m willing to kick $5 to $10/month to give back to the linux community that I’ve profited so handsomely from.

    I’d already have set up a seperate hosting account for that, but I’d consider it morally an abuse of the system if my fees didn’t cover bandwidth. I want to GIVE not STEAL for the community.

    Possibly Bluehost could have a system set up so people can donate bandwidth to their favorite open source torrents, and throttle the system so the bandwidth fees last for the entire month (so no 10Gb for 3 days, then dead for 28 days). Then Blueshost runs the torrents, and can vary available bandwidth depending on system load.

    I don’t know if you are paying by the gigabit, or if you pay a flat rate for your pipes. If it’s a flat rate, then from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. the bandwidth would be very cheap.

    If we can reward torrent users with higher bandwidth in the wee hours, that might help with load leveling too.

    I’m all in favor of bittorrent getting a very low priority. Legally, it would probably be best if you guys just grabbed the latest distro yourselves, so you knew that Ubuntu 19.1 Sexy Smurf wasn’t actually “Avatar.mp4″ in disguise.

    I would figure that automating the distro updating would be easy for you guys. Probably just rsync with Xmission.com if nothing else.

    Thank you for reading this. If you start this, or are already doing it, please drop me an email at the address entered.

    Thanks again, Matt.

  10. i was home schooled too but i would still prefer regular schools.;**

  11. Matt, I see your point, but I just don’t know that it will ever work out that way with the Internet. Pay for what you use — well that’s pretty much the way old skool landline phone companies work — or used to — and how cell phone providers work — sort of: you pay for the call you make, which roughly translates to paying for what you use. But you now see Internet phone services moving to one month flat rates, and cell phone providers starting hybrid programs that move in that direction. Why? Because people prefer to know what they’re going to spend on rather than be surprised at the end of the month with whopper phone bills like we all experienced in the early days of cell phones. And how can phone companies and ISP’s do this? Because bandwidth and hardware are getting cheaper and cheaper and faster and faster, and it’s easier to market a program with a one month flat fee and average out their costs into the fee than try and meter everybody. You’re talking about making bandwidth the same kind of commodity as electric usage, gas or gasoline, or gold, or pork rinds, or bushels of corn, etc., which can be doled out and paid for by the quantity because they are physical items we can recognize as having that kind of add-it-up value. Bandwidth does not translate to the consumer mind in that way –as you say most people have NO idea what it means– and thus the question might not be what is right or wrong or fair or real (int terms of quantitative value), but what in the mind of the consumer can be marketed to them. Bandwidth may just be the kind of abstraction you can’t slice that way.

  12. Dang… I would have never guessed that 10% of web users use bittorents. At least from my circle of friends (who aren’t THAT technologically challenged) only 2 of them even know what they are.

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