Peer-to-peer is a communications model in which each party has the same capabilities and either party can initiate a communication session.

1) Peer-to-peer is a communications model in which each party has the same capabilities and either party can initiate a communication session. Other models with which it might be contrasted include the client/server model and the master/slave model. In some cases, peer-to-peer communications is implemented by giving each communication node both server and client capabilities. In recent usage, peer-to-peer has come to describe applications in which users can use the Internet to exchange files with each other directly or through a mediating server.

IBM's Advanced Peer-to-Peer Networking (APPN) is an example of a product that supports the peer-to-peer communication model.

2) On the Internet, peer-to-peer (referred to as P2P) is a type of transient Internet network that allows a group of computer users with the same networking program to connect with each other and directly access files from one another's hard drives. Napster and Gnutella are examples of this kind of peer-to-peer software. Major producers of content, including record companies, have shown their concern about what they consider illegal sharing of copyrighted content by suing some P2P users.

Meanwhile, corporations are looking at the advantages of using P2P as a way for employees to share files without the expense involved in maintaining a centralized server and as a way for businesses to exchange information with each other directly.

How Does Internet P2P Work?

The user must first download and execute a peer-to-peer networking program. (Gnutellanet is currently one of the most popular of these decentralized P2P programs because it allows users to exchange all types of files.) After launching the program, the user enters the IP address of another computer belonging to the network. (Typically, the Web page where the user got the download will list several IP addresses as places to begin). Once the computer finds another network member on-line, it will connect to that user's connection (who has gotten their IP address from another user's connection and so on).

Users can choose how many member connections to seek at one time and determine which files they wish to share or password protect.

This was first published in September 2005

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