Interoperable P2P


 News.com reports on Streamcast’s new interoperability with non-Gnutella networks.  The article mentions some negatives – I wonder how they could be avoided with some clever programming and cooperation between various services.  Also: would those problems be more avoidable if we actually let centralized P2P survive? (As I’ve said before, I agree to an extent with the Napster decision, but I believe that the result should have better protected the technology such that it could be used in legal ways.  No one can create a centralized P2P system right now because it would be (near?) impossible to filter perfectly.  For that reason, centralized P2P development was significantly curtailed.)

Communicast

Todd Larsen sketches out a peer-produced webcasting service.  The basic idea is that the song selections would be chosen by user votes and ranked like Slashdot ranks commenters and comments.  The community would be the radio station.  According to Larsen, such a service could qualify for the compulsory license because it would still technically be a non-interactive service.  It’s a very interesting paper and a great idea.

Because Fingerprinting Worked So Well The First Time

Shawn Fanning’s at it again.  I highly doubt that the system would work such that, once songs are identified, downloads are blocked.  It’s more likely that until a song is identified by its fingerprint, it wil not be available on the system. Otherwise, you’re still allowing the infringing downloads of unlicensed content, and, under Napster, you’d be responsible for blocking it.  Of course, this is assuming that this system will ever come to fruition.


BTW, note this quote at the end of the story: “We had a very similar idea run past us,” said LimeWire Chief Technology Officer Greg Bildson. “We basically ended up not following up on it. It is interesting, but we’re not interested in building filtering and any centralization into our client.


One way to look at that statement is that they didn’t want to run the legal risk of centralization.  But Limewire has promoted decentralization for technical, business, and philosophical reasons.  By being open source, they allow for a decentralized development effort, and they have rewarded volunteer programmers.  I dig it.

Cory: Buy Open

As Frank notes, this is a must read from Cory.  Check out the original Scoble post and his follow-up.


What amazes me about Scoble’s follow-up comments is that he doesn’t address any of Cory’s criticisms.  Though I haven’t read every blog that responded to Scoble (and obviously cannot read the emails he received), I’m willing to bet that Cory’s points are among the most meaningful and important about DRM – they certainly are to me.  SethS said it in a slightly different way a few months ago: “Interoperability isn’t a popularity contest. It’s about the answer to this question: What does a prospective implementer have to do in order to make the implementation work? ‘Read the public specification’ is the right answer.  Answers involving signing contracts and paying money are the wrong answer.”  The closest Scoble comes to addressing these points is his repeating that if you want to buy music legitimately, you’re going to have to accept DRM, so get over it.


One response is simply to point back to Cory’s sentiment: do you mean we should get over a future where media products are by definition going to be less usable?  Another layer to this is that people cannot simply get over this because it is a confusing mess.  I’d say the average person finds the format wars incomprehensible – why a Napster song doesn’t work on an iPod and an iTunes song doesn’t work on a Dell player doesn’t make sense.  Not only is it just plain difficult to understand, but people are already accustomed to an interoperable, MP3-saturated world.


So you say they will become accustomed over time.  When? Why?  How will consumers become accustomed to a world of fractured formats, where licensors control both the record and the record player?  How will people become accustomed to a digital world in which you have to rebuy all of your software players and music catalog whenever a better format, player, or service comes out? Say, five years from now, Apple comes out with a better codec, hardware player, software player, all the WMA compatible products that Scoble relishes.  You’re stuck with what you’ve got. If you’re gonna tell me that that’s Apple’s fault and not also MS’s, I think you’re dead wrong.  Would MS be able to let people migrate to someone else’s players, so that people would become accustomed to them and probably their competing codec?  Possibly – but we won’t know in advance.  It’s up to MS and Apple.


And here’s another thing: what about those who are calling for an end to this format war? Those who speak of “open DRM” that is not used as a “competitive weapon.”  It remains to be seen what “open” will mean, but theoretically anyone will be able to create compatible players.  Why does Scoble not point to these as superior even to MS’s DRM?  They seem like the least likely to lock someone in.  So why isn’t that an improvement?