BitTorrent for RSS content distribution

Steve Gillmor: BitTorrent and RSS Create Disruptive Revolution.

My first reaction: a good idea.

On second thought, it’s all a question of balance and tradeoffs.

  • Most RSS publishers are low volume and the cost of supporting a small number of RSS pollers is insignificant.
  • Since BitTorrent’s intended application is content distribution of large files, for small sites the cost of supporting BitTorrent downloads of tiny RSS files may exceed the cost of HTTP polling.
  • At some point in the subscription curve, the multitude-of-pollers model becomes too costly and the publisher wishes they had figured out a content distribution mechanism instead.
  • Sites transitioning from low-traffic to high-traffic HTTP slam their foreheads in just the same way. So it’s not a new issue.
  • The solution for HTTP has been to wait until you need it, then build or buy high-end content distribution. Replicate. Akamize. This works, except when it doesn’t. (Most web servers are small and are subject to the SlashDot effect.)
  • There is currently no trivial smooth transition from small to large.
  • A low-overhead automatic ad-hoc content distribution network would be great for both RSS and HTML distribution. Maybe BitTorrent fits that bill, maybe something else. Further research is called for.

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