Wikipedia Deploys P2P to Serve Video

Nate Anderson at Ars Technica has the details of a new technology experiment at Wikipedia.

“One potential problem with increased video usage on the Wikimedia sites is that video is many times more costly to distribute than text and images that make up Wikipedia articles today,” said today’s announcement. “Eventually bandwidth costs could saturate the foundation budget or leave less resources for other projects and programs.”

The Wikimedia Foundation is partnering with a European research group, the P2P-Next consortium, for this rollout.

Accessing video over P2P is entirely optional, the web site will detect whether a visitor has installed the Swarmplayer plugin. As Anderson explains, Swarmplayer uses BitTorrent to distribute the bandwidth demand and even is smart enough to fall back on fetching the video over HTTP if there aren’t enough peers to make the torrent more efficient.

The innovation doesn’t stop there. P2P isn’t terribly well suited to streaming media. BitTorrent doesn’t enforce any kind of ordering on the chunks of a file being downloaded. Swarmplayer uses HTTP to get the next bits of a file needed to keep feeding a stream while the torrent activity gets the pieces farther away from the playback spot on the stream.

Given how WikiMedia is working to make sure its media assets are clearly and openly licensed, this is not just a key, high profile test of P2P-Next’s technology. In this instance, it is a use that should sidestep one of the larger legal snarls of P2P, that is inadvertently making available of illicit digital copies.

Peer-to-peer tech now powers Wikipedia’s videos, Ars Technica

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