Just when people began to talk about the “end of the PC era,” at the begin-ning of 2000, peer-to-peer (P2P) computing burst onto the scene.
The concept isn’t new. What’s new is the enthusiasm with which devel-opers and users are embracing peer computing. Napster, a music file-sharing application, brought P2P to the forefront by attracting millions of users, satu-rating colleges’ networks, and raising some fundamental questions about copyrights and digital distribution of content.
Exchanging files, which is what the Napster application enables, is just one way of sharing resources among networked computers. Sharing and col-laborating via the Internet today can happen in many other ways as well:
■ Dividing the load of performing large computations
■ Collaborating in creating media or software
■ Conversing online and directly
■ Organizing into online communities
Peer-to-peer computing is evolving into a phenomenon whose impact will be no less than that which we experienced when the graphical-interface browser and, again, when the client-server computing model were introduced.