Peer-to-peer networks are frowned upon because torrenting is usually linked to malware and copyright theft. But that says nothing about the underlying technology or its intended use. Here’s a simple example. Guns can be used for crime or protection. That doesn’t mean they are necessarily good or bad. It’s all about how people use them.
P2P networks started off badly with the likes of eDonkey2000, LimeWire, and Napster. They were built with the intent to share copyrighted videos and music. That’s how Napster got 80 million people on board and granted access to any album. A few lawsuits and millions of dollars in fines later, these services were halted.
It was a win for justice but a loss for technology. Since then, P2P sharing has the aura of cybercrime, theft, and piracy.
Are P2P Networks Legal?
With such a negative connotation, the first question that comes to mind is whether the technology is legal. The answer is yes. P2P networks are completely legal.
You can build, use, and share non-copyrighted content on a P2P network. The problem arises when you share copyrighted movies and music. That’s when it becomes illegal.
Legitimate Uses of P2P Networks
Here are five legitimate uses of P2P networks:
1.Better Software Updates
Imagine you are the CEO of a massive company like Google, Meta, or Amazon. It’s always important to be on the brink of innovation, which calls for updates. But in such a large company, pushing a regular update will halt all processes for a few days. Everyone would download from a central server, which will slow down the network, and productivity will be at an all-time low.
Decentralizing updates is a great way to optimize software updates and make them better. The perfect example is Microsoft, which has BranchCache and Delivery Optimization for Windows devices. Thanks to P2P network technology, PCs can download and request updates from an in-house business network. This makes the process quicker and ensures cybersecurity weaknesses get handled faster.
Peer-to-peer networks were primarily invented for downloads. Normally, you’d use your browser to open a page and then download a file. That way, the website functions as a server, and your device works as a client that receives the file. You can look at the data transfer as a one-way road. The file goes from the server to your device.
Through P2P networks, you’re torrenting, and the download process functions differently. You need a torrent or a magnet link, and the file will get on your device in bits and pieces from multiple computers connected to the same network. The other devices can have the entire file or parts of it. In this situation, the download process works like numerous two-way roads directed towards and from your device.
There are major benefits to P2P networks for downloading:
- The more computers connect to it, the faster it becomes.
- The network itself is highly scalable. You don’t need to configure anything; new peers can join instantly.
- It’s hard to take them down.
If one computer disconnects, the others will keep communicating. For a P2P network to cease working, all peers must be closed down.
It makes P2P networks ideal for downloading huge files, such as open-source software or Linux distros. As long as you have the right to download the material (or it’s free to download), it’s legitimate to use P2P.
3.Better Video Calls
There’s a high chance that you’ve used P2P technology recently on your smartphone. If you’re constantly on Google Hangouts or FaceTime, you should know that P2P technology is partly powering the communication in the background.
When you FaceTime with someone, your phone sends a request to one of Apple’s servers. The server looks for your friend’s phone and connects both devices through a link. As soon as the call starts, the video gets encrypted and passes through your devices, over the internet, and creates a small P2P network. It improves call quality, performance, and privacy.
Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer electronic cash system. It’s called digital gold for a reason. It’s scarce, has programmed inflation, and it’s hard to come by. There’s a reason blockchain technology blossomed and many other projects emerged.
Instead of banks owning all the money, Bitcoin is open source. Everyone can participate in the network. The design is public, and nobody controls and owns it. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies work anytime and anywhere, and you can send money internationally in minutes. You have more security because of cryptographic functions, and you protect your identity.
5.Better Cloud Backups
Cloud backups on P2P networks work similarly to downloads. Before getting sent over the network, files get encrypted and split. This way, even if a hacker compromises a file and breaks the encryption, they will only have a part of the file, which is useless without the whole. That increases availability resilience and improves security.
Instead of the popular notion that peer-to-peer networks are for piracy, these examples prove the total opposite.