Early examples of P2P technology

Peer to Peer rEvolution and Histories

Napster, Limewire, Bittorrent, IPFS, Freenet, Open Bazaar etc.

IPFS, CoinList, and the Filecoin ICO with Juan Benet and Dalton Caldwell

my first company, imeem that I started, was a peer-to-peer. It was distributed social networking. A lot of these ideas keep recycling every few years. One thing that we noticed is how hard it was for users to get the negative side effects; having something that is peer-to-peer. BitTorrent worked pretty well, but even Skype. Skype kept it really, you didn’t know that it was peer-to-peer. Unless your upstream bandwidth was saturating and you got a nasty letter from your ISP or something, you had no knowledge as a user. Sort of my takeaway during that era was that usability always trumped the elegance of peer-to-peer models.


1st Generation


  • @varun_mathur on RSS history’s compared to Bitcoin

    “Crypto’s RSS Era About 10 yrs ago, before the advent of bitcoin, the tech world was coming to grips with how RSS failed to take off as a consumer tech. I spent 2 yrs of my life building the best (?)feed reader UX, but I was solving for local maxima, not global maximum (industry)”


  • The Napster Story with Jordan Ritter
  • wired: The Short History of Napster 1.0
  • LimeWire, Napster, The Pirate Bay: A Brief History of File Sharing
  • historyofdomainnames.com/napster/
  • Napster is Finally Dead, here’s a look back at what happened
  • Early History of Napster - Legal Timeline

    While finishing his freshman year at Northeastern University, Shawn Fanning decided to create a piece of software that would allow people to search for and share MP3 files they had trouble finding. He then founded a company, Napster, Inc. in May of 1999, dropped out of school, and moved to northern California. Napster quickly became the world’s largest community for sharing music files because it allowed easy searching, had a user-friendly interface, let users communicate with each other in various ways (i.e. chat), and to share each others’ bookmarks.

    Due to the recording industry’s efforts to close Napster down, many of the music sharing enthusiasts who had made it such a popular phenomenon moved on to use other services, such as Gnutella, AudioGalaxy, and Freenet. This was even more problematic for those concerned with copyright issues because these new services didn’t have centralized servers or organizational structures to shut down.

  • June 1, 1999, Napster

    Napster had a very different face when it first came into existence in 1999. The developers of the original Napster (brothers Shawn and John Fanning, along with Sean Parker) launched the service as a peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing network. The software application was easy to use with a free account, and it was specifically designed for sharing digital music files (in the MP3 format) across a Web-connected network.

  • Dec. 7, 1999: RIAA Sues Napster
  • John Backus (@backus)
    • Interested in decentralization today? Learn what worked in the 2000s for p2p file sharing:
    • Decentralization is a legal tactic used alongside activism
    • Decentralizing the wrong things is a waste of time
    • Decentralizing everything is suicide by bad UX Threa…
  • Resistant protocols: How decentralization evolves

    Decentralization is tough: Too little? You’re dead. Too much? Unusable. We can learn a lot from the evolution of p2p file sharing

  • John Backus (@backus)

    p2p file sharing history is littered w/ predictions that a new unstoppable and totally decentralized protocol will takeover. It never happened. Users always flocked to the least decentralized system possible. Big lesson for today’s blockchain and decentralization eco…

    I’ve been diving deep on the history of file sharing. If you listen to early news reports about Napster, it sounds a lot like fear around blockchain today https://t.co/pggGtmdGFE

  • John Backus (@backus)

    If you’re interested in the connections between p2p file sharing history and blockchain, I’ve written about a bunch of connections in this article: https://t.co/AoE2WvYHga

  • [Fat protocols aren’t new: What blockchain can learn from p2p filesharing]CryptoQuikRead_141

    “People have speculated on what a future with fat protocols will look like. File sharing protocols aren’t exactly the same, but they have a lot of similarities we can learn from.”

  • John Backus (@backus)

    Fear of file sharing tech in 2000 even sounds like crypto today. “If they think Napster is bad … there is a lot worse coming. Software that is untraceable” “The soon to come Freenet will offer completely anonymous and untraceable file trading”


  • Sep 6, 2000, eDonkey2000 - Sued for copyright infringement.

  • wiki.debian.org/eDonkey

    aMule -aMule is a peer to peer file sharing application that works with the eDonkey computer network, but offers more features than the standard eDonkey client. It is based on the eMule sourcecode, and evolved from ?LMule and xMule. It is now the Linux client on the eMule links section on their webpage. As eMule, aMule is open source software released under the GNU ?GeneralPublicLicense.

  • emule-project eMule project - or eMule on Sourceforge
  • Freemule.net - Website with the latest news on eMule’s legal actions
  • amule.org aMule’s homepage - or aMule on ?BerliOS
  • wiki.amule.org aMule Wiki- Wiki of the aMule Project

2nd Generation


medium.com - Why BitTorrent Mattered: Lessons for Crypto [1 of 4]


The new documentary TPB AFK is now available in almost every online format from YouTube to, yes, The Pirate Bay.

3rd Generation


After Bitcoin

  • 2009 - Bitcoin
  • 2011 - Namecoin
  • 2012 - Diaspora

Decentralised Storage Networks

  • Filecoin
  • Swarm
  • Sia
  • Storj
  • Maidsafe


Caught Between the Intranet and the Decentralized Web - 2017


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