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The Buzz on Swarmcast

by Richard Koman

The public beta release of Swarmcast marks a radical change in the economics -- to say nothing of irritation -- of distributing large media files over the Net. The OpenCola project promises to dramatically speed file downloads -- early testers found effective download rates as high as 500 K/second.

Swarmcast works by breaking a file into lots of little packets, distributing those packets around to computers that have downloaded the file, and randomly requesting those packets from whoever has them. The result is a mesh of packets, which, with a large number of users, can be downloaded in parallel for superfast downloads.

Early reports are extremely encouraging. One early beta tester wrote: "We were seeing on average between 20 and 60 people in the mesh of the files at all times (and at one time above 80). That means 20 to 60 computers available to serve the next download request -- simultaneously. In a three day period, we helped serve up over ... 130 GB of data."

We talked to Justin and OpenCola CEO Cory Doctorow to get an understanding of what Swarmcast is and how it may change the world wide wait into "speedy delivery." In this package:

  • "The Swarmcast Solution." OpenP2P Editor Richard Koman talks to Swarmcast inventor Justin Chapweske about the technology and the underlying math, forward error correction encoding.
  • "OpenCola: Swarming Folders." In his P2P Profiles column, Andy Oram takes a look at both Swarmcast and Folders, OpenCola's soon-to-be-released P2P collaborative filtering program.

  • "What's Up at Uprizer?" An interview with Freenet creator Ian Clarke about Uprizer's approach to speeding downloads with Freenet concepts.

  • "The Transient Web." In the Clip2 Report, Kelly Truelove describes the webby nature of the Gnutella file-sharing network.

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