Whatever Happened to Red Swoosh?

Remember Red Swoosh, the P2P company that was bought by Akamai for $18.7 million in April 2007? Red Swoosh used to be a competitor to Akamai, albeit on a much smaller scale, offering P2P-powered content delivery services to corporate customers. Shortly before the Akamai acquisition, the company reinvented itself, rolling out products for amateur videographers and file-swapping consumers.

This new direction opened up a lot of possibilities for Akamai. In particular, it offered a way for Akamai to extend its business model to blogs and other platforms for user-generated content. Call it the CDN solution for the long tail, if you will, complete with options to enter the advertising market. But none of that materialized. Instead, it looks like most Red Swoosh products have been discontinued or taken down.

Take FoxTorrent for example. That’s Red Swoosh’s own Firefox BitTorrent extension. The service made a lot of noise when it first got released back in March of 2007, with one developer even predicting that one year down the road, FoxTorrent would be “…the most popular torrent client on the planet. The fastest. The easiest. Hands down.”

Red Swoosh later stated on its blog that these were the words of a “part-time employee…who got a wee bit too excited,” but the company continued to release updates and hint at big plans for FoxTorrent’s future. Until September, that is. FoxTorrent’s blog hasn’t been updated since, the long-promised client version 2.0 hasn’t been released and the forum — and Wiki — of the project are essentially dead.

Then there is Red Swoosh’s Edge Delivery Network (EDN), also dubbed Red Swoosh 2.0. The idea was to supplement the company’s existing corporate customer base with folks who can’t pay for professional CDN services, like bloggers and video podcasters. Users could deliver any content hosted on their web sites through Red Swoosh’s P2P technology. It was free and dead-simple: All you had to do was add a string to your links, and content would automatically be delivered via P2P, provided your users would install the Red Swoosh client.

Red Swoosh in return got a chance to grow its client install base as well as a chance to place ads on download splash pages. The service was launched in the summer of 2006, and while it’s still up and running, is almost impossible to find. Red Swoosh’s EDN home page now redirects to an Akamai.com page that makes no mention of the service. Red Swoosh’s forum as well as its developer site are also down.

And finally, there was Red Swoosh’s brief foray into the area of one-click hosting. The company quietly launched an anonymous, P2P-powered file hosting service at Upload.redswoosh.net some time last year that promised “unlimited uploads, unlimited downloads, no waiting, no ads, no spyware ” and even came with streaming video support.

One-click hosting is a highly popular, but also very controversial market. Market leader Rapidshare.com is listed as the 12th most popular web site by Alexa.com, and by its own account offers a total of 4.5 petabyte of storage to its millions of users, but has also been also the target of entertainment industry lawsuits — a risk that Akamai apparently wasn’t willing to take.

NewTeeVee discovered the Red Swoosh hosting service earlier this week and asked Akamai for a statement, only to watch the site get taken down just minutes later. Red Swoosh founder Travis Kalanick explained to us that the service was “an experimental site that the Red Swoosh team created prior to the acquisition,” and that the company decided to shut it down “to avoid any confusion on the matter.”

All of this obviously doesn’t mean that Akamai is ignoring P2P. For all we know, the company could be offering a P2P-powered CDN solution any day now. A company spokesperson told us he couldn’t get into specifics at this time, but that Akamai regards “client-side distribution as a natural evolution of our strategy and edge architecture.” He continued: “Our focus is always on enabling our customers to do more.”

The problem is that P2P isn’t just about corporate customers, but about end users. The key to gain traction in the P2P CDN market is to have a huge client install base, and for that you need consumer-related offerings, especially since it’s getting harder and harder to get consumers to install a plug-in just to access a certain site in the age of Flash-based platforms like YouTube and Hulu.

BitTorrent Inc. knows this and plans to leverage the huge and still growing popularity of uTorrent to power its BitTorrent DNA CDN. Pando became the most popular personal file-sharing service before it started to enter the CDN world. Akamai, on the other hand, has completely ignored the consumer side of P2P ever since it acquired Red Swoosh. As a result, they might just have missed the boat on P2P content delivery.