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31 May 2012, 17:23

Tribler: a better society with P2P

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Tribler logo In a lecture at the Computer Systems Colloquium at Stanford University, developer Johan Pouwelse has announced the impending release of version 6.0 of the open source Tribler peer-to-peer (P2P) client. Developed at Delft University of Technology, Tribler is a fourth generation P2P system (4G P2P), which enables BitTorrent-compatible downloads, video on demand, and live streaming over a zero-server self-organising platform. Compared to BitTorrent, which is used by millions of people each day, the Tribler community of around 25,000 monthly active users is relatively small.

Originally launched as a pure BitTorrent client with its own social networking extensions in 2006, Tribler now relies on a dual stack implementation. This enables the P2P engine to use both the TCP-based BitTorrent protocol and the more video-streaming-friendly UDP-based Swift protocol. At IETF 83, held in Paris in late March, the Internet Engineering Task Force's peer-to-peer streaming protocol (PPSP) workgroup proposed making Swift the P2P standard.

The latest development is Swift for Android, a lean implementation of the protocol as a P2P app for Android-based smartphones. Experiments of this type with the BitTorrent protocol have been carried out in the past, one of the first being SymTorrent, released three years ago after being developed by Nokia for its Symbian OS. It, however, was limited to file downloads. Swift4Android, by contrast, should allow CPU- and memory-saving live streaming on smartphones.

The Delft-based team are part of a growing trend. In April, Chinese P2P broadcasting system SopCast, which also offers live streaming of many foreign channels, released a pre-release version of video streaming app SopCast for Android for smartphones, tablets, set-top boxes and other devices running Android 2.2 and later. In contrast to the LGPL-licensed Swift for Android, however, SopCast is proprietary.

The Delft P2P developers' vision goes further. Pouwelse, assistant professor in the Parallel and Distributed Systems Group and scientific director of the EU project P2P-Next, envisions a kind of microblogging tool to strengthen democracy. Pouwelse says that it will "enable people to create a better society, by joining together into non-hierarchical groups based on cooperation and the principles of direct democracy," and be "completely independent of the influence of business and governments". However, to many this may seem too good to be true as mobile phone network operators usually throttle data or block peer-to-peer applications and services altogether.

Tribler is licensed under the terms of the LGPLv2.1; the current stable release is version 5.9.11, which is available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.

(Richard Sietmann / crve)

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