What’s really going on in cyberspace?

One of the most interesting companies around is Cachelogic. They’ve developed some technology for doing deep analysis of the data traffic passing through ISPs’ servers. Last year, they revealed the extent to which P2P traffic has come to dominate the Net.

Now comes a new presentation by company co-founder Andrew Parker on “Peer-to-Peer in 2005”. It makes for riveting reading. Some highlights:

  • The 2004 study showed that BitTorrent was the biggest P2P service, and revealed a shift away from music sharing towards video. By the end of 2004, BitTorrent was accounting for as much as a third of all Internet traffic. But then came a legal crackdown on major BitTorrent sites, and the Supreme Court’s decision in the Grokster case.
  • The Supremes’ verdict, however, did not result in a rapid decline in P2P usage. In fact, at the end of 2004, P2P accounted for 60% of all Internet traffic. Parker says: “P2P outstrips every other communication and distribution protocol and is still growing”.
  • In many regions of the world, the traffic has shifted away from BitTorrent towards an alternative — eDonkey. And although BitTorrent traffic levels have been dramatically affected by the closure of the key tracker sites (which made it easy to find torrents), a fully-decentralised version of BT called eXeem is spreading.
  • 61% of P2P-shared files are video. Only 12% are audio.
  • Of the audio files, 65% are MP3 format, 23% are Windows media files — and a surprising 12% are in Ogg format.
  • Shared video is overwhelmingly (76%) in Windows media format (only 15% are MPEGs)
  • All of this is putting terrific pressure on ISPs. P2P is THE dominant protocol now, so ISPs cannot afford to block or restrict it. Furthermore, “P2P is driving consumer broadband uptake — and broadband is driving P2P uptake”.
  • P2P will become the distribution medium for most information goods. This will have significant downsides for ISPs — essentially relegating them to the role of mere conduits. The consumer relates directly to the service providing the content, not to the conduit.
  • Lots more. If you’re intrigued, it’s well worth viewing the whole presentation. Ed Felten has some interesting comments on all this.