Uprizer, a start-up co-founded by one of peer-to-peer's chief ideologues, plans to release its first product Wednesday, aiming at businesses that want to broadcast video and other presentations in-house.
That's a far cry from the radical anticensorship drive of co-founder Ian Clarke, who's Freenet project which first brought him and Uprizer into the public eye. But it's also one of the first examples of the underground file-swapping technology being retooled into a product.
Uprizer is focused on using file-swapping technology to efficiently distribute content, tapping unused personal computer hard drive space and Net connections to host streaming video and other presentations. Other companies, including Kontiki and Red Swoosh, are also pursuing this goal.
"We really enable companies to take advantage of unused assets at the edge of the network that they've already paid for," said Uprizer CEO Dave Scantling.
The company is part of a growing move to tap the resources of ordinary personal computers in the service of corporate or collective computing tasks. Drawing from the technical momentum built by the file-swapping community in the wake of Napster's meteoric success, the lower-profile drive has pushed for peer-to-peer technology to supplement basic Net functions such as file downloads and streaming video.
None of the companies has made substantial progress into the market. Kontiki is the most advanced of the companies, with venture funding exceeding $18 million and customers that include AOL Time Warner, Amazon.com and Palm.
The technology concept has also been adopted, albeit with a different business model, by a company called Brilliant Digital Entertainment, which is distributing its own peer-to-peer content distribution software called Altnet along with the popular Kazaa file-swapping software. The beginnings of that network have already been installed on millions of personal computers, but they have caused some controversy as consumers slowly learned what Brilliant's software would do.
The Uprizer technology is based loosely on Freenet's system of distributing content. A video file would be put in a central server and would migrate around a network of other computers as different people needed to use it. If many people wanted to stream a CEO's video message at the same time, some people would be watching it as it was stored on other employee's personal computers, for example.
Clarke, chief technology officer of Uprizer, and Scantling say they are initially targeting corporations who want to show this kind of executive video message or want to give their employees video training sessions. They said they are providing big companies with a free 30-day trial to test their claims of cost savings.
Although analysts have applauded the notion of storing content as close to individual users as possible, some say going so far as to use employees' or personal computers isn't necessary. Hard drive space and processors are cheap enough that a company could simply buy a few extra computers and use those to hold and distribute video or other content, according to Peter Christy, founder of Nets Edge Research Group.