Peer-to-peer (P-to-P) technology, the type of system that Napster uses, is moving into the e-business and business-to-business world, trying to shake the stigma associated with the Napster copyright controversy.
Because P-to-P links multiple data sites into one network and can search all those sources, no matter where they may be located, customers can quickly find exactly what they're looking for, thus eliminating some of the frustration involved in tracking down the content or products they need.
"At a high level, this is a reflection of the move of power out to the buyer and the consumer away from centralised control," said Neil MacDonald, vice president and research director at Gartner Group. "Instead of having these large trading exchanges, why not do this stuff P-to-P? I show you what I have, you tell me what you need - direct interaction."
For Provo, a US-based content delivery solutions provider, P-to-P is a "strong solution" to expand corporate portal frameworks and link several content sources through NextPage's distributed content management technology, giving employees, suppliers, business partners and customers access to the information they need through access rights and policies.
"This whole Napster thing described [P-to-P's] capability for consumers, but it really pays off in business: I can syndicate the content from my suppliers, my business partners, get it down to my customers, and it's all live, always available," said Brad Pelo, CEO of NextPage. "That model plays out for the enterprise, it plays out for big exchanges on the Internet, it plays very well in industry portal frameworks, and we're finding a broad interest from health care, insurance companies, big banks, all adopting this notion of keeping the content where it is."
Pelo said NextPage's P-to-P solutions can be e-business-enabled so that users would need to pay for content before they can see it. Future applications of the P-to-P technology could include linking supply companies to create P-to-P-type marketplaces.
According to Clarence Kwan, CEO of Lightshare, the association of P-to-P with Napster-like companies masks its potential e-business use.
"The whole world of P-to-P technology has gotten a really bad rap lately because people say, It's all about piracy,' and it shouldn't be that way," Kwan said.
Lightshare is aiming to become "the eBay of P-to-P," Kwan said. The company's technology will allow users to buy and sell digital content directly from each other through P-to-P networks, but adds copyright filters and digital rights management solutions to ensure that users comply with copyright laws.
Kwan said Lightshare will also track the movement of content being bought and sold throughout its network so that content owners can make sure their wares are being distributed legitimately.
"[Peer-to-peer] puts the power in the buyer's hands, whether they be everyday Joes or big businesses," Kwan said.