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Peer-to-Peer Streaming Finds Friends

Joseph Rozenfeld, senior vice president of engineering and CTO of Chaincast (www.chaincast.com) called CenterSpan's announcement a "well-crafted message" that was purposely confusing people. He said CenterSpan was neither doing live nor on-demand streaming, calling it "time-shifted" content. "With time-shifted content delivery you need to express your intent well in advance, almost like a subscription," said Rozenfeld.

Rozenfeld compared it to "striping," a technique used by hard drives to duplicate content across disks. Striping splits files into multiple chunks, which is delivered from multiple places, at the same time.

"In a pure streaming system, like Chaincast, the hard disk is not involved at all — the only resource is the uplink connection." The main reason, said Rozenfeld, was to increase reliability. "The less you task the end users' machine, the more reliable node it is on the network."

But Hudson at CenterSpan said that end users don't even know that the stream is hosted on a peer-to-peer network, since it allows them to stop, rewind and fast forward, just like a regular server.

Allcast's Software Approach

Although CenterSpan claimed it was the first company with a P2P streaming system, there are others that beat it to the punch. Allcast (www.allcast.com) CEO Jacky Benmoha said that his was the first company to have a peer-to-peer streaming system available for download. "We've had it available for download for 6 to 7 months," he said. Allcast has working beta software, which allows anyone to stream a live event using its peer-to-peer system. Benmoha said that Allcast's new version will be released in a few weeks, and this will include support for video.

Benmoha said that from what he could see, CenterSpan has a good system. "It's not a bad system, but it's not for live." He said comparisons between CenterSpan and Allcast aren't similar because CenterSpan is offering a service. "We give you software, and you do your own distribution."

Because of its do-it-yourself attitude, Allcast lets anyone become a webcaster. The other peer-to-peer systems are closed, so end-users cannot inject any new content without going through a publishing process. With CenterSpan, commercial content owners inject content into the system while adding encryption, licensing rules and fingerprinting.

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