Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Alternative Digital Media Landscape

Blogs, Podcasts, BitTorrent and Peer-to-Peer (P2P) technologies, are taking on traditional media (such as: newspaper, radio, and TV) and at least making them pay attention to the potential of the technology. Blogs now allow the average person a forum to express their views and opinions. Podcasts allow the average person the ability to create and host their own radio show without a log of expensive hardware. BitTorrent and other P2P technologies allows the distribution of large files without the need for a central server to host and distribute them.

All these technologies empower people, and all these technologies have good and bad purposes. They empower the people by giving them an equal voice in the world of electronic publishing. They also, can and will be abused by performing tasks they were not intentionally created for.

For example, a hammer is a good demonstration of a technology that can be used for good or bad purposes. The hammer can be used to build houses, or kill if misused. P2P technologies is a great technology for distributing large files at a low cost, but it can be used to share copyrighted content as well. If the MPAA and RIAA had their way, this technology would be taken off the Internet and destroyed forever.

The problem here is just because a technology can be used for wrong, doesn't mean that the whole technology is evil. So you don't need to throw the baby out with the bath water, but this is what the RIAA and MPAA want. If they can't control how the content is used, then they don't want anyone too.

Problems with the Status Quo
Here is the problem, all of these technologies exist as separate software application that have to be installed and configured separately only to somewhat work together. Personally, I would like to have one application that does it all for me.

I also believe a lot of people miss out on these technologies because they don't understand how to install, configure, or use them. If you want something to succeed, then it has to be simple to use, non-proprietary and open so that anyone can expand it. I believe that most new consumer products fail because they use proprietary technologies, this formula doesn't work any more (maybe with the exception of the iPod).

All of these technologies could grow by leaps and bounds if they were all integrated together, because it would open them up to more people. Personally I would like to see the cable industry go obsolete, and I would like to watch and record all my audio and video content on my desktop or laptop computer.

Internet Digital Media Browser
Personally what I would like to see is a new type of digital media become available, that is solely based on existing concepts and technologies. For lack of a better name, I will call it the 'Internet Digital Media Browser' (IDMB). I envision this as an application that integrates the best of all technologies, such as: web browsing; watching, listening, and recording (time-shifting) digital media off the Internet; P2P file sharing, and an RSS reader.

Imagine only to have to launch one application to perform all these tasks. I would personally like to see IDMB, as a decentralized P2P client for hosting of audio/video media that can be watched live or recorded for later viewing. All without the need to have one organization, or company controlling the technology or the media that is available. IDMB could use a BitTorrent infrastructure, to make this live media available to everyone.

This would open up a new market for independent media producers to distribute their content. Imagine all the content that people could distribute, but have no medium to distribute it. By utilizing the P2P client file sharing abilities, these media producers will not have to pay for expensive file hosting infrastructure for people to see their content. People watching the media in the IDMB will make it available to others by sharing their bandwidth.

Although, there will still be the problem of different formats for handling all the different types of audio/video digital media that is available. There eventually will be a need for Digital Rights Management (DRM). But all these issues can be addressed by plug-in technologies.
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