Napsterizing Telecom

Niklas Zennstrom, a founder of Kazaa, is taking the same business model to the telecom industry.

On the face of it, file-swapping and telephony have little in common. But both, it turns out, can be implemented using "peer-to-peer" technology, in which PCs connected to the internet via broadband connections organise themselves into a network. It is then possible to send data, whether media files or phone calls, from one PC to another efficiently. Many of the lessons that Mr Zennstrom and Mr Friis learned from building the file-sharing system behind KaZaA—in particular, the idea that some computers should act as "supernodes" to speed the transfer of data—could thus be applied to internet telephony through Skype. The supernodes, for instance, help to eliminate the delays and drop-outs that can plague internet telephony.

Whether or not this will take off remains to be seen, but either way it is a step in the right direction.

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