P2P refers to computer networks using a distributed architecture. In other words, all the computers included in the network jointly perform necessary computing functions. The devices that are part of the system are called peers. This means that all of them are equal in terms of their authority and there is no central administrative device in the network. Hence the name, «peer-to-peer».
In a way, peer-to-peer networks may be said to represent the triumph of socialism in the computer world, as each node has the same rights and duties as all other ones. Each member of the system is a client and server at the same time. Moreover, all information available in the network is shared among the peers.
What are the advantages of P2P networks?
- Arguably the main distinctive feature of P2P networks is their incredible robustness. Even if you take down one of the peers, the others continue to operate. They are by far more reliable than traditional networks that can be shut down, for instance, by hacking a server.
- Furthermore, P2P networks are extremely scalable. Adding a new peer is a piece of cake as you do not need to do any central configuration on a central computer.
- The file sharing speed depends on the network size: the larger the network is, the faster it is. This is because if you need to download a file, it is downloaded from may nodes simultaneously. The more nodes a network has, the faster it is.
Scope of application
One of the most popular applications of P2P networks in 2018 is peer-to-peer payment systems, or, in layman’s terms, cryptocurrencies. In fact, blockchain operation principle is based on the use of peer-to-peer networks. The introduction of this technology has made it possible to exchange cryptocurrencies (or other data) without the involvement of third parties and having to worry about transactions security.
However, one should not think that it is all limited to blockchain: peer-to-peer networks emerged long before Bitcoin and are successfully used to this day in various file hosting services, as well as many Windows and Linux programs.
To conclude, peer-to-peer represents a complex system based on a simple principle: decentralization. Some people argue that P2P should be banned as it remains the main means of distributing pirated materials. But such calls are: a) infeasible; b) unfair, since P2P has a good underlying idea and is essentially very democratic. By the same token, should paints be prohibited from sale, as there are bad artists? Crazy, isn’t it?