Freshmeat: Client As Server: The New Model

A new model is emerging from the Internet. It represents
the culmination of years of incremental evolution in the structure
of the network and the clients that feed upon it. It is based upon
the same principles upon which the Internet was founded. It is
this: the client is the server….

“Napster is one of the first and best examples of end-users
acting as distributed servers. When you install Napster, it asks
you where your MP3 files are. You tell it, and it makes a list of
what MP3 files you have, how long each song is, and of what quality
the recording is. It then uploads this list (but not the songs) to
a central server. In this way, the central server has a whole bunch
of lists. It knows who has what music, and you can ask the server
who has songs by Nirvana and then contact those other users (while
your Beck tunes are possibly getting served to some Scandinavian
with a predilection for American music). This model allows
information (in this case, MP3 files) to be rapidly and efficiently
served to thousands of users.”

“The problem with it is both technical and legal. There is a
single point of failure: Napster’s servers. While there is more
than one server (the client asks a “meta-server” what server it
should connect to), they are all owned by Napster. These servers,
unfortunately, do not share their file lists between themselves,
and as a result, you can only share files (and see the files of)
others connected to the same server that you happen to have
connected to. Napster is currently being sued by the RIAA for
acting as a medium for distributing illegal MP3 files. While it is
true that Napster can be easily used for illegally distributing MP3
files, they themselves don’t actually copy the bits for users; it’s
more like acting as a Kinko’s that happens to be used by
subversives than actually distributing copies of MP3.”