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What is peer-to-peer computing? [Ask Dr. Know]
  What is peer-to-peer
  computing?
  --- Akash Mallik

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Peer-to-peer (or P2P as it is called) computing , Akash, is simply the sharing of files and resources between computer systems through direct exchange. This means that a central server is not required to carry out a transfer or a download between two computers. An introduction to P2P is available here.

It was with the growth information- and file-sharing technologies like Gnutella, Napster and Freenet, that peer-to-peer computing really came into its own.

A guide to global file sharing along with selected links on this topic will help you better understand the architecture and the advantages of this concept. Additional resources are available here .

Smart decentralisation through these networks and resources on modern file sharing over the Internet is available here.

Developments in this technology are tracked by the Peer-to-Peer working group that facilitates the "advancement of the peer-to-peer community at-large by creating best practices that enable interoperability among computing and networking systems".

Napster and ICQ are some of the applications that started taking advantage of this technology and this article from HowStuffWorks lets you into the intricacies of Napster's working.

Most technologies are however, still incomplete or are in various phases of development. The O'Reilly Peer to Peer Web Services Conference in November this year will also be a forum for discussion on this topic.

ADDITIONAL LINKS
P2P networking terminology
Some writings on peer to peer

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