This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.

Monday, September 15, 2003

My take on Skype, the new P2P VoIP app from the creators of Kazaa, is that it is using P2P technologies for the "white pages" portion of the VoIP network, not just in peers communicating directly. Super-peers store portions of these white-pages. Just as super-peers in Kazaa store indexes to music files stored on other peer machines, these super-peers store indexes to the phone numbers of other peers. They aren't clear if they are using this approach, but it's my take when they say "the network works just like Kazaa". This is also an unsecure approach, which is probably why they aren't publicizing it in detail. These super-peers could "lie" and reroute calls to the wrong peer, just as super-peers in Kazaa can "lie" about what music files are stored where. When you tell the system to find the phone number for 510-938-2222, it probably actually initiates a "search" on the network of super-peers to resolve to the actual peer that has this number, just as it would "search" for madonna.mp3.

This is an important approach, by the way, because if we don't need to maintain massive white pages servers then we can significantly reduce the capital needed to build such a network. In fact, we can reduce it down to such a marginal cost that businesses aren't needed to build these networks at all. The network, including the white pages, self-organizes out of the peers themselves. This network can then be used to build VoIP apps, virtual hard-drives, etc. I have been working on an open-source project named P2P Sockets that is attempting to achieve this; check it out at p2psockets.jxta.org. One significant issue that needs to be solved before this approach is tenable is that these white pages need to be secure even though they are also decentralized and human-friendly.


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