Why PRISM May Herald a New Golden Age for P2P

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Over the past 15 years, we’ve seen a wholesale migration of software development on the web towards cloud away from client/server models. The cloud offers many benefits: seamless upgrades, synchronization of data across different devices and lesser hardware requirements.

But the cloud centralizes all the data. All of our Dropbox files, Google documents, and emails are held within one or few companies' servers - which provides easy access for hackers and government.

It’s unclear whether or not the PRISM affair will dramatically change the American public’s view of cloud software. But should a large wave of privacy sentiment sweep the country, the natural response to cloud software would be an evolution towards peer-to-peer.

Peer-to-peer communication fragments data storage amongst clients without the need for storage on a central server. Instead, data is stored within one computer or across many different computers in a network, most-often encrypted.

A huge wave in the early 2000s, peer-to-peer communication has become less visible of late. But that doesn’t mean its use hasn’t grown. The same technology that Napster brought to the masses for music file sharing is also powers Bitcoin payments, Skype chats and privacy centric storage companies like AeroFS, Wuala and many others.

After a decade’s worth of investment in cloud technology, one might argue that a wholesale reversal from cloud to rich applications and peer-to-peer communication is unrealistic. But the rise of the mobile application actually makes this transition easier.

Many mobile applications are thick clients that use cloud services for synchronization but otherwise provide all their functionality locally. Swapping out cloud synchronization for peer-to-peer synchronization could provide a similar service to users while offering additional privacy. These rich clients could provide a huge installed base for peer-to-peer networks to bloom.

Popular opinion is a fickle creature and if the millions of Internet users in the US suddenly decide to prioritize data security, peer-to-peer consumer services will experience a tremendous revival.

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