Application vs Web. That is the question. Last week I threw out the concept of an online object exchange versus a Napster like, distributed application exchange program (based on some suggestions from people in the forum). The results have been very close in the polls and lately the Napster like solution is inching ahead in popularity. While this is not to say I’m heading off to write such a program and the poll will continue to see if public opinion sways (being so close by the time I finish writing this it could be the other way around) I won’t discard either idea right now.
I am investigating both courses of action and learning a lot about how distributed file sharing works. With an application solution, there are two approaches. First there’s Napster. Basically I run off and setup a server that your client connects to and you get information from the server about who’s out there and what do they have to offer (as far as Simstuff goes). This is fine until the server comes crashing down or what little bandwidth there is available gets choked up. The other approach was a Napster alternative called Gnutella (created by the guys who made Winamp) that proposes that everyone is a client and a server. You basically have knowledge of other client/servers (a buddy list if you will) and they know a few friends and so on. If I was to search for an object with “Giger” in the description, I could ask my neighbors if they had such a beast and barring that they would ask their neighbors and the cycle would continue until hits came back to me. In either case, you would then connect from machine to machine to download the goodies directly.
Either way, there are always issues and some people have brought up concerns about not using it even it were available because you’re basically sharing part of your machine with others and some people are uncomfortable with this concept (myself included). I’m continuing the investigation and looking at web based solutions making some headway on that so we’ll have an answer shortly on what happens there.