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Free Riding on Gnutella

By Dacta in MLP
Mon Oct 23, 2000 at 07:43:00 AM EST
Tags: Software (all tags)

FirstMonday is carrying an interesting research paper called Free Riding on Gnutella.

In it, the authors discuss research they have carried out into the number of people sharing files on Gnutella compared to the number of people downloading files.

They conclude:

By sampling messages on the Gnutella network over a 24-hour period, we established that almost 70% of Gnutella users share no files, and nearly 50% of all responses are returned by the top 1% of sharing hosts.

This has interesting implications with regards to other resource sharing projects (for instance FreeNet). As the authors point out, it may be impossible to shut down a system like Gnutella, but an organisation could severly limit its utility simply by going after the top 1% of users.

If only a few individuals contribute to the public good, these few peers effectively act as centralized servers. Users in such an environment thus become vulnerable to lawsuits, denial of service attacks, and potential loss of privacy.


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Free Riding on Gnutella | 8 comments (7 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
Free riding... (4.16 / 6) (#1)
by skim123 on Mon Oct 23, 2000 at 03:34:12 AM EST

Since files on Gnutella are treated like a public good and the users are not charged in proportion to their use, it appears rational for people to download music files without contributing by making their own files accessible to other users. Because every individual can reason this way and free ride on the efforts of others, the whole system's performance can degrade considerably, which makes everyone worse off - the tragedy of the digital commons

This phenomenon was shown in a neat experiment where psychologists blindfolded subjects and asked them to tug on a rope as hard as they could. If the subject thought there were other subjects helping in tugging the rope, they pulled it with less strength than if they thought they were the only one tugging the rope.

BTW, a great article/read, thanks for submitting the MLP...

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum

Distributed file sharing system problematics. (4.25 / 8) (#3)
by Chakotay on Mon Oct 23, 2000 at 06:00:33 AM EST

I've never used gnutella, but I do sometimes (actually, pretty rarely) toy around with gnapster. Since I have a juicy 100Mbit connection (the joys of living on campus) and just over a thousand MP3s, I become a prime target for people who want MP3s from a fast source. I see a lot of people who are freeloading. Sure, I could hide my MP3s from napster really easily by simply not creating or submitting an MP3 list, but something called a "conscience" is barring me from doing that.

What I do see is that most freeloaders have slow connections. They download from me at anywhere between 0.0 and 5.0kB/s - ordinary modem folk. Sometimes I'd see my network load shoot up, to find somebody downloading multiple files at 50-100kB/s each, and generally, upon checking out what they had in store, I saw quite an impressive collection of MP3s, and usually I'll download a few MP3s from there aswell. At one point sharing MP3s like that between me and some Swede, my network load topped 1.5MB/s - limited by the mere 10Mbit connetion of my peer...

Anyway, freeloading does seem to be at least partly bandwidth related, and that top 1% that shares most files are most likely those people with connections that make the rest of the world drool. To them it doesn't matter that 20 people are downloading from them. Most of those downloaders will have slow connections anyway. And what would be the point of people with slow connections sharing lots and lots of files? They can't cater many downloaders anyway, and people will always prefer to download from the fastest source available. So even if everybody did share their fair share, everybody would still be downloading from that same 1%.

Linux like wigwam. No windows, no gates, Apache inside.

My first thought. (3.66 / 3) (#4)
by IoaPetraka on Mon Oct 23, 2000 at 06:35:39 AM EST

When I was reading this, I came to the same conclusion half-way through the article. Until the entire world is hooked up with decent high speed internet access *cough* these numbers are always going to look this way. I admit it, I'm a freeloader, why? Because I have a modem! I can't even sustain one upload without a severe penalty on all other internet functions. Web browsing is slowed, forget downloading a file while uploading. I'd love to share my collection, but unless I'm going to sacrifice my connection (essentially) I can't do that.

I don't see a justification for spending money every month to keep the computer running on electricity, the ISP expenses, ect, just to let some person slowly download my files, one at a time.

So why the alarmist attitude of this article? I think some folks forget just how many people out there either can not afford a higher speed connection or simply are in an area where it is not offered (more often the case.) That is how it is for me. If I had DSL I'd be on it in a jiffy. Problem is I live a good 30 minute drive along a 55 mph highway away from any resemblence of civilization. We don't even have cable services out here.

Ioa Aqualine Petra'ka
[ Parent ]

Communism (3.33 / 3) (#6)
by kraant on Mon Oct 23, 2000 at 09:19:39 AM EST

No seriously...

That's the first thing I thought about... From each according to his abillities, for each according to his needs (No sorry I can't remember who said that)

I wonder whether it's possible to justify that kind of attitude for a resource that requires little to no active effort to share.

Obviously the tragedy of the commons is if not inevitable, very likely.

But do the same arguments against giving what you can and taking what you need apply in a situation where your participation in the system of exchange is purely voluntary?

And should freewheeling systems such as Napster Gnutella or freenet be encourages VS. more organised credit based systems such as Mojo Nation?

Ethicaly which is better? What about technologicaly? What about the long term effects on peoples attitudes?
"kraant, open source guru" -- tumeric
Never In Our Names...
[ Parent ]

Re: Communism (none / 0) (#8)
by Captain Derivative on Mon Oct 23, 2000 at 09:37:10 PM EST

That's the first thing I thought about... From each according to his abillities, for each according to his needs (No sorry I can't remember who said that)

None other than Karl Marx in his Communist Manifesto, I believe.

Hey! Why aren't you all dead yet?! Oh, that's right, it's only Tuesday. -- Zorak

[ Parent ]
Amazingly poor reasoning skills (3.57 / 7) (#5)
by DesiredUsername on Mon Oct 23, 2000 at 09:14:55 AM EST

"If only a few individuals contribute to the public good, these few peers effectively act as centralized servers."

No, they don't. A centralized server is more than just a central place that acts as a server. It is also a non-reproducible entity (runs special software, on special hardware, with special permissions or dozens of other properties). The top 1% of gnutella sharers are not non-reproducible. The top 1% are there because they have a) bandwidth and b) a lot of files. If those people cease to exist, the gnutella network gets slower and has a poorer selection--but it still works just fine. Furthermore, someone will step in and take the place of the missing people, probably within days. Especially so if the top 1% are being "gone after".

Play 囲碁
Not sharing: a self-fulfilling prophecy? (3.75 / 4) (#7)
by whatnotever on Mon Oct 23, 2000 at 06:46:23 PM EST

Why don't people like to share files?
One reason is that if they do, people will come take those files and place a strain on the resources (most likely bandwidth).

So they don't share, and those who do are forced to serve to the majority of the population.

Ah, but if everyone *did* share, then the traffic would be spread out, and, on average, you would have exactly as many uploads as downloads per host... which would generally tax the resources very little (especially if the system were setup to limit bandwidth, which would require patience on the part of the users).

Of course, there's also pure, mindless greed. That doesn't help the situation...

It's sad, because it really could work beautifully. I love the ideal of "popular content is mirrored automatically because people want it" - it's similar to the beautiful truism of survival of the fittest, "Those that are most fit to survive, do."

Free Riding on Gnutella | 8 comments (7 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
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