The History of Peer-to-Peer Content Delivery

8 mins read

The History of Peer-to-Peer Content Delivery

As the number of internet users constantly grows, so do their requirements. Technological innovations offered by content providers must also grow to meet demand and expectations.

2020 has been especially fruitful for online streaming platforms. Many companies and their customers have switched to the online format of communication while staying at home amidst the COVID-19 lockdown. This, in turn, led to new problems associated with personal data security, copyright, and monopoly of just a few market players.

How have the content delivery networks (CDN) evolved over the years, what key features did they possess and which of them are now incorporated into modern systems? In this article, we are going to look back into the history of CDNs and showcase why POP Network stays abreast of all the innovations that have been developed so far.

Important milestones in CDN evolution


3945-1 Image via axessnet

Advanced Research Projects Agency Network was the first one to implement the TCP/IP protocol suite laying the foundation of the future Internet.

If you think that network architecture based upon a peer-to-peer approach is a new invention of the past couple of decades, you are wrong. The first P2P network was created back in 1960’s and was bearing the name of Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET in short). It was also the first one to implement the TCP/IP protocol suite laying the foundation of the future Internet.

ARPANET had been successfully evolving over the next 3 decades adding new features and expanding further. It was officially closed in 1990, but its general approach served as the base of the World Wide Web.


Usenet was the next key development

introduced in 1979.


This was a distributed discussion system available on different computers worldwide. Based on the Unix-to-Unix Copy Protocol, it allowed users to discuss news and became a predecessor of modern forums.

Other technologies invented and popularized in this decade were FTP (File Transfer Protocol) and Telnet. The latter was changed to SSH for better security, but is still commonly used for system administration of routers, switches, and remote servers. As for FTP, it continues to endure in many modern storage transfer applications.


This decade gave birth to two new technologies:

  • Internet Relay Chat (IRC). This is an application-layer protocol based on the Direct-Client-to-Client mechanism enabling the exchange of private messages, including files. Its usage has been in a steady decline since 2003, however, it’s not dead yet and has its audience among techies.
  • DNS (Domain Name System). This distributed directory service now lies at the basis of the whole Internet and is an essential component giving names to all the directories located on the World Wide Web.


Napster_running_on_an_original_iBook_(2001-03-11)Napster running under Mac OS 9 in March 2001, image via historyandheadlines

Perhaps, Napster can be named one of the most significant inventions of the 90's.

While previous decades were heavily dependent on the client-server model due to the low capabilities of CPUs available for end-users, Napster brought the internet back to the peer-to-peer approach.

Introduced in 1999, it focused on sharing digital audio files bearing the MP3 format. However, it still heavily relied on central indexing servers, and that’s what brought it to its doom. Two years after its launch, the company faced legal problems associated with copyright and had to cease operations.


bitcoin-symbolThe first Bitcoin client with Satoshi’s BC logo depicted in the upper left, image via

The turn of the new century has been really fruitful for peer-to-peer systems. Among the key file-sharing innovations invented in this period are:

  • Gnutella. To avoid Napster’s mistakes, this new file-sharing technology implemented a query flooding model which made it possible to by-pass a central server and broadcast your search query to other machines in the network. Introduced in 2000, Gnutella is still up and running to this day with a multi-million user-base.
  • Freenet. This peer-to-peer platform enabling anonymous communication between its users became a predecessor to the Darknet. Its key innovation was the decentralized distributed data storage structure making it possible to exchange files in an encrypted way.
  • BitTorrent. A new protocol designed by Bram Cohen created a revolution in file-sharing technology. BitTorrent resolved the problem of transferring large files by allowing users to join a set of hosts and download small pieces of this file from each other rather than a central server.
  • Bitcoin. Invented by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008 and introduced to the broad public a year later, Bitcoin laid the foundation for decentralized peer-to-peer payment systems. The blockchain technology at its core now has much wider application as it can be implemented not only in the financial sector but to many other areas including the file-sharing systems.


The last decade has provided us with much more advanced technologies that have combined all the best features created so far.

  • Namecoin. Launched as a fork of Bitcoin in 2011, Namecoin is based upon the same principles. What makes it different is the possibility to register data on the blockchain. One of its most popular use cases is the top-level domain ‘.bit’ outside DNS (discussed above) which made it censorship-resistant to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
  • Storj, Filecoin, Maidsafe, Swarm, Sia. The main idea behind all these blockchain-based projects is to enable users to make money from sharing excessive storage. 
  • BitTorrent (BTT), SingularDTV (SNGLS), LBRY Credit. These are other blockchain-based projects rewarding creators for introducing new content into the network and their followers for sharing this content.

Where does POP Network fit?

Out of all the projects discussed in this article, the last pack is most similar to what we strive to achieve here at POP Network. We focus on bringing more decentralization and thus security to the streaming economy by implementing the benefits of blockchain.

Although the popularity of streaming services has dramatically spiked in the past year, this niche is still heavily centralized and ruled by centralized giants like YouTube and Spotify. We’ve already discussed the problems associated with this approach in one of the previous articles. We are here to resolve these problems and make the streaming industry more transparent and fair.

Want to learn more? Visit our website:


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