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Microsoft launches Avalanche, rivaling BitTorrent


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Microsoft is developing a peer-to-peer software application that will provide an alternative to the controversial BitTorrent systems.

Code-named Avalanche, the software uses a new technique called "network coding," which breaks data into small, easily transferable packets to accelerate downloading, but includes details on all the other data in the file.

This allows the file to be reconstructed from all available packets in any order, not just sequentially as with current systems.

BitTorrent systems have come under attack in the past year, as organizations like the Motion Picture Association of America have called for more legislation to shut them down.

The MPAA, as well as the recording industry and other groups, have pointed to the amount of copyrighted work being traded as an indication of widespread online piracy.

Microsoft's Avalanche could provide an alternative that works well with users and copyright holders. The researchers noted that users will be unable to redistribute content without approval by the publisher.

This type of digital rights management (DRM) system might lessen illegal distribution and boost the amount of legitimately obtained content that users choose to download.


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yeah, i read about this at FST. think about this tho, how do you SHARE a file if it's DRM protected? impossible or they're leaving a hole for cracking. just need the 'master key' which the application uses to read the protected files, strip it with the key, and shareable :D

meaning, they have to setup a central server for copyrighted downloads. which defeats the purpose of calling it a P2P app. microsoft just being their stupid selves. someone need to setup a network where files are FLAGGED as copyrighted then set with a SERVER-SIDE pricing system. that would be TRUE legal filesharing :huh:

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Would love to see wen M$ sees their own supposedly P2P software is used for all kinds of illegal stuff :huh:

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Guest tensegg

possibly m$ want us to host all of ther files, updates etc, and share em out on our bandwidth BT stylee, while they sit back and count the cash they saved by having a billion or so customers move off their bandwidth and on to ours, good thinking. same with the music and movie copanies who'll prolly buy in, they still get the same money, and basically just seed a few files for a week or so :D :huh:

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I think they certainly will save a lot and reduce the burden on their servers by unloading all the updates, drivers, direct, windows media player...MSN... all the free stuff on p2p......

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If Microsoft really wants to push Avalanche on the market it should focus more on costs and less on technicalities. And if we have to choose between being targeted by RIAA and paying a small amount of money, it’s obvious we will go with the second option.

The main question is not how will the service work, but how much the access and the right to download a certain file will cost? I’m afraid that Avalanche will confirm the famous statement of General Motors’s director who said that if cars had developed in the same way as Windows did, we would have required special roadways. The same goes for Avalanche, who knows what hides behind a P2P concept signed by Microsoft.

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Yesterday, BitTorrent creator Bram Cohen called Microsoft Research's attempt to create its own version of the person-to-person application "vaporware" and "complete garbage."

In Cohen's blog, he said Microsoft Corp.'s boast that the new P2P protocol, codenamed Avalanche, would fix transfer rate problems and disconnections was unfounded.

Cohen added that since the Microsoft experiments were done via "simulations," the results were flawed—the tests do not take varying transfer rates into consideration, nor the limitations of all the users' computers.

"Particularly worrisome for their proposed scheme is disk access," Bram said in his blog. "If the size of the file being transferred is greater than the size of memory, their entire system could easily get bogged down doing disk seeks and reads, since it needs to do constant recombinations of the entire file to build the pieces to be sent over the wire."

Despite the criticism, Avalanche still seems to be holding its own in the word-of-mouth department. While the Microsoft P2P protocol has a few different elements than BitTorrent, the premise remains the same: If someone needs to transfer a huge file, such as a video or a form of software, to many people, a server usually cannot handle the workload. Instead, the file "swarms" across the Web, and can be downloaded in bits and pieces from many destinations, each containing small pieces of the entire file.

The main problem with this system is that downloading a file can take a long time, because at the end of the process, users usually have to wait to find and download a last bit of information, called the "rarest bit." Sometimes waiting for the rarest bit can take 12 hours or more, depending on the popularity and size of the downloading file in question.

Microsoft, much to Cohen's disapproval, says it's found a way to avoid the waiting game by recoding all of the pieces of a file so that each one shared is a linear combination of the pieces. After a user has downloaded a few of these, the user can generate new combinations from the pieces and send those on to other peers.

At that point, instead of having to wait for more important pieces of the puzzle, any piece can be used to complete the entire picture. And, since the same information will no longer have to travel back and forth, overall network traffic will decrease as well. In fact, Avalanche researchers said this new transfer method made download times 20 to 30 percent faster.

Keeping in mind that this research is just that—research—David Card, an analyst at JupiterResearch of Jupitermedia Corp., said it's hard not to wonder why Microsoft would want to create its own P2P services, especially as Microsoft is actively involved in regaining and maintaining the trust of entertainment companies by taking an active role in digital rights management.

Joe Laslow, another Jupiter analyst, approaches the development from another angle, saying that anyone who looks at Microsoft's tech developments will see that the company isn't against P2P sharing, just illegal P2P sharing.

"Microsoft has a lot of technologies, such as SharePoint, that encourage the sharing of information and collaboration," Laslow said. "And now see Microsoft getting more aggressive in the online community space—for example, with 'The Hive,' a community Web site for people that run news groups, and one of the things those people do is post files—so Microsoft has lots of reasons to be looking at ways to make the distribution of files easier among legitimate communities."

Speaking of legitimacy, a Microsoft spokesperson said that no illegal activities would be tolerated on Avalanche: "It includes strong security to ensure content providers are uniquely identifiable and to prevent unauthorized parties from offering content for download," the spokesperson said.

Sources have started to speculate that the "security" will be embedded DRM, driving the belief that Microsoft wants to develop this software to deliver video and TV on demand and as a way to allow users to buy or rent films over the Internet.

Laslow said this theory may also explain why Microsoft hasn't tried to acquire BitTorrent or a version of the P2P programming—because it needs to maintain an air of legitimacy.

"Microsoft, as a provider of rights management technologies, has to be mindful of the reaction it gets from content providers and broadcast studios that want to present [its products] online," Laslow said. "Microsoft will get more from developing its own technology than it's going to with other acquisitions."

Despite the hubbub, BitTorrent chief operating officer Ashin Navin said there's no reason for the company to concern itself with Avalanche, thanks to a supportive programming community and a longstanding track record.

"On the Web, new technologies have to be leaps and bounds superior on a technical level or the users will ignore it," Navin said. "Obviously, Microsoft has significant marketing and financial resources, but their history in writing Internet protocols is very limited."


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