Netflix Considers P2P-Powered Streaming Technology

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Video streaming giant Netflix is considering a move to peer-to-peer assisted streaming. The company has put up a job posting for a Senior Software Engineer tasked with integrating P2P technology into its streaming services. Could a BitTorrent-powered Netflix be coming soon?

netflix-logoWith over 33 million streaming subscribers in the U.S. alone, Netflix is one the major providers of online video entertainment.

The company claims to be a piracy killer, and previously noted that unauthorized P2P traffic reduced in countries where their services were rolled out.

Interestingly enough, the streaming service also has a lot to gain from file-sharing technologies. A recent Netflix job ad spotted by Ars Technica, reveals that they are considering using P2P technology to improve their streaming services.

“Netflix seeks a seasoned Senior Software Engineer with a special focus in peer-to-peer networks,” the company writes. The description of the new position has a clear focus on researching the possibility to allow users to stream videos via peer-to-peer technology.

- Research and architecture of large-scale peer-to-peer network technology as applicable to Netflix streaming.
- Liaise with internal client and toolkit teams to integrate P2P as an additional delivery mechanism.
- Design and develop tools for the operation of peer-to-peer enabled clients in a production environment.

Netflix mentions that the company is currently responsible for over 30% of all downstream traffic. Should it move towards P2P streaming, Netflix will also be the number one in terms of upstream bandwidth, a position currently dominated by BitTorrent traffic.

Netflix’ job ad

netflix-job

The option of P2P-assisted streaming became of interest again this year, after Netflix signed a deal with Comcast to pay for direct access to its network. With P2P technology, Netflix has the option to increase its streaming capabilities without additional bandwidth costs.

In fact, not only could the company achieve superior streaming quality by using P2P technology, its bandwidth bills could even decrease.

Bram Cohen, the inventor of BitTorrent, would welcome a P2P-powered Netflix. He previously said that video delivery via P2P is far superior to the systems currently used by Netflix and other video services.

“The fact is that by using BitTorrent it’s possible to give customers a much better experience with much less cost than has ever been possible before. It’s really not being utilized properly and that’s really unfortunate,” Cohen said.

According to Cohen, Netflix’s video streaming quality is currently less than acceptable. “I actually don’t have a TV at home myself, but I do watch stuff on Netflix and I find it very frustrating because the video quality is really terrible,” he noted.

With P2P-assisted streaming it will be possible to stream videos in a higher quality than is currently possible, but whether Netflix will use a BitTorrent-inspired technology or something different is unknown at this point.

In any case, it’s an interesting development to watch.

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