This story was written by Keith Dawson for the Industry Standard's Media Grok email newsletter. It is archived here for informational purposes only because The Standard's site is no more. This material is Copyright 1999-2001 by Standard Media.

Peering Into the Future

Feb 16 2001 12:00 AM PST

In one little corner of the wired world, people are still giddy about the days to come.

The future of peer-to-peer computing was much discussed in the press this week in the aftermath of Monday's Napster (dossier) ruling. While everyone's talking about p-to-p, Tim O'Reilly, publisher of technical books and pot-stirrer in the tech world, is hosting a conference on the p-to-p meme. Pretty much everybody who's working on a p-to-p project is there.

The tech-leaning press has been writing about the conference. Few mainstream outlets are doing so to date, despite the reported presence of 150 journalists among the 850 attendees.

Wired's Farhad Manjoo caught the feel and smell of the conference, observing that the assembled techies were in "an immutable state of awe over their emerging technology." Manjoo may be counted as a skeptic over the p-to-p buzz and hype: "There are many hundreds of companies now entering the industry, few of which have any chance of success," he wrote.

Slashdot opened a discussion on the conference and the future of p-to-p and drew several postings from the show floor. One correspondent titled his submission "Taking P2P Too Far" and said he might be considered "a little bit strange posting ... such a subject line from the conference hall."

The Merc's Dan Gillmor, posting in his Weblog, focused on one high-buzz young company - KnowNow - to highlight the conflicts inherent in this new-old technology. Gillmor wrote, "No one doubts the potential of p-to-p, but anyone who thinks it's going to flower sufficiently in today's copyright regime is deluded."

CNET was the first mainstream outlet to pick up the news from yesterday's keynote speech by Bill Joy of Sun Microsystems (SUNW). Sun is launching an open-source project to build peer-to-peer infrastructure and is inviting the tech community to pitch in and help. CNET's Stephen Shankland and John Borland characterized Sun's move as one "designed to undermine Microsoft (MSFT)'s power and make its own software the center of one of the Net's most dynamic new movements." Sun's p-to-p enabler project goes by the euphonious name of Jxta, pronounced "juxta" - demonstrating how hard it is to name a new product in these times of domain-name scarcity.

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P2P's Promise, and Peril
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Sun Enlists Peer-to-Peer in War Against Microsoft