Flash P2P: Now That’s Disruptive

Don’t blame me for getting caught up in the whole hoopla around media-buying-media…we media types are known for being narcissists. Blame me for not being able to blog about the new beta of Adobe Flash Player 10, which has built-in P2P features and is able to save files to the local drives. I was reminded by Hank Williams about the new release, and its big impact on the world of video in particular and other web apps in general.As some of you might remember, I wrote about Adobe’s P2P ambitions that revolved around buying a company called Amicima.

Through LinkedIn, we were able to find that amicima co-founder Mathew Kaufman has been working as Senior Computer Scientist for Adobe since October 2006. His co-founder, Michael Thornburgh, is also said to be at Adobe. Both of them have vast experience in networking and P2P technologies. The two of them worked at Tycho Networks, and later at DSL.net, after that company acquired Tycho.

I have been following this closely, and my sources say that this is a solid technology with the potential to seriously disrupt the CDN market, especially those companies that rely on clients. I wonder, for example, what will happen to RedSwoosh, which is owned by Akamai, or to other, similar providers of P2P-based client services. I think one shouldn’t get caught up in the CDN-killer aspect of this technology.

From what I have learnt, there are some elements of this technology that make it necessary to have a server infrastructure for situations where traversing NAT’s/Firewalls isn’t possible. It also needs a centralized registrar is also needed that maintains the ID’s of all the P2P clients (nodes) connected to a service. In other words, a CDN operator work with Adobe, charging for traffic that goes through their proxies as and when needed by the Flash 10. By the way Adobe has an arrangement with Kontiki, a CDN operator of sorts.

Williams’ post digs deeper into this in a thoughtful, intelligent way. “[I]s the innovation that will be unleashed by making P2P technology an assumed part of the web protocol stack?” he wonders. (I think that’s why it’s important that we start harping about upload speeds on our broadband connections.)

The reason we should pay attention to this product is Adobe’s distribution strength. The company can easily upgrade its Flash clients and instantly become owner of one of the largest P2P services. What that means is that now anyone can contemplate a Joost-like service that works within a browser. Using AIR to extend those P2P abilities to the desktop would be fairly easy as well. Ironically, both Joost and Jaman have spent considerable time, money and attention doing this.

The early version of Flash is rather simple, but it does offer a way to lower bandwidth costs while still delivering high-quality video. In addition, companies like Tokbox (our story) and Woome (NTV story) can add more functionality, such as cheaper, live video-voice service, without spending too much money.

It’s clear that Adobe is not going to become a huge P2P service overnight. But this release does portend to an interesting future.

PS: If anyone wants to share their thoughts, please leave a comment or drop me an email.