No surprise that most people on the web just want to watch

Anybody who has ever spent time observing the ad hoc warez or music download networks—be they FTP, Hotline, Napster, Gnutella, or anything similar—would not find the story that a sliver of a percent of people who visit user-driven web sites upload content to be a surprise. They already know most people are observers or takers.

It’s one of the reasons why BitTorrent works like it does: to participate, it forces everyone to upload. Don’t have anything to upload? Well, whatever you’re downloading quickly becomes an upload. It’s better than the “no leeches!” policies from the old days, in which you had to prove your l33tness by uploading a few files first, and then, maybe, if the admin wasn’t a worthless toe rag, you’d get some sort of limited access.

There are still remnants of misunderstanding in all the P2P apps, where users and penalized for having insufficient upload speeds or an insufficient number of files available for download. My take is that you have to let the poorly provisioned into the tent and let the well-provisioned carry the extra load. Same for content: let those who have the content deliver it, and don’t penalize anyone else. In fact, do like YouTube and reward those users who bring content, which should make less leech and more l33t as more users become producers instead of consumers.

Posted May 4, 2007

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